A must see in Arizona is the Tonto Natural Bridge! The first picture is taken from on top, and the photo next to it is taken from below. Hard to get the whole bridge in one picture! A creek not only runs under the bridge, but over it as well.
This State Park is approximately 2 hours north of Phoenix via AZ-87 North towards Payson. The Tonto Natural Bridge is believed to be the largest natural travertine bridge in the world. The Bridge is over a 400 foot long tunnel that is about 150 feet at its widest point with a height of 183 at it’s tallest point. The bridge was formed by a small stream. The bridge is in the foothills of the Mogollon Rim.
There are several trails in this park, and the Gowan Trail takes you down under the bridge. It is a fairly short trail (about 1 mile round trip), but very steep. Don’t let this short trail fool you! In any amount of Arizona heat, it takes some effort to get back up. Do wear athletic or hiking shoes. I witnessed several wearing flip flops down…they were holding on to people to get down.Once you get under the bridge, if you want to walk around and under the bridge, it is very slippery!
The hike down is along dirt switchbacks of sorts. There are some beautiful places along the creek once you are down at the bottom. Along the way down/up there are many rest spots where you can take a break as you hike. Even though you are at an elevation of 4,530 feet, there are a few cacti along the trail! If you slip, watch out…you don’t want to accidentally grab for a cactus as you catch yourself!
Once you are down, you will cross a small bridge and go up some wooden stairs to a wooden landing where you can sit and observe.
From the landing, it is a physical climb over rocks and boulders and around water to get in. There really is no trail at this point. Some climbed all the way through. With little kids (ages 4 and 7) I do not recommend that. We did climb in part way, holding on to rocks and me assisting the kids each step of the way. Climbing in is worth it even if part way!
Once you are in, there is only one way back, and that is the way you came. If you venture all the way to the other side, you will need to venture back the way you just came. After the long hike down, we ventured to the trail at the top to look down on the Gowan trail. Also stopped for a little break from the steep hike on the way back up!