When the summer weather becomes dangerously hot to hike in the valley, head north! A family favorite hiking destination is Tonto Natural Bridge just north of Payson. Tonto Natural Bridge is believed to be the largest natural travertine bridge in the world. It creates a tunnel that is 400 feet long, 183 feet high and 150 feet wide. Making it even more dramatic is tiny Pine Creek, which flows over the top of the bridge then cascades down its south side, over the tunnel opening and into green pools below. Swimming in the pools of water under the bridge is prohibited, but you can stand under the water falling from Pine Creek and enjoy a cool mist of water fall on you!
There are four trails to enjoy:
Pine Creek Trail- about ½ mile long (400 feet developed – undeveloped in the creek bottom), leads to the Pine Creek natural area. Hiking shoes are recommended for this trail as most of the trail is climing over boulders.
Waterfall Trail- about 300 feet long and ends at waterfall cave.
Gowan Trail- about 2,200 feet long, down and back leading to an observation deck in the creek bottom. The trail is steep and rough. (As of Summer 2019, the observation deck is currently closed.)
Anna Mae Trail- about 500 feet long and leads to Pine Creek Trail and the Natural Bridge.
After you have completed your hike, enjoy a well deserved picnic at one of the many designated spots found on the beautiful grass lawn adjacent to the parking lot.
Cost: $7 per adult (age 14+), $4 per youth (age 7-13), FREE for children (6 and under)
Hours: The park is open from 8am-5pm in summer and 9am-4pm in winter.
Direction from Phoenix: travel north on AZ87 to Payson, at the AZ260/87 junction in Payson, continue 10 miles north on 87 to milepost 260 and turn left at the park sign. Follow the winding road 5 miles downhill to the entrance. Park in the 15 minute area, go into the gift shop to purchase your pass and then move your vehicle to any of the signed trailheads.