July 29, 2008

Tonto Natural Bridge State Park

I had the privilege of checking out the Tonto Natural Bridge, near Payson, Arizona this past weekend. It was a really cool experience and I would love to share it with everyone.

If you have never heard of the park, it is a natural bridge that was formed by running water from a small creek. While I was there I also learned that the Tonto bridge was discovered by David Gowan in 1877 , while hiding from Apache Indians. It is a pretty interesting story to read about because he eventually moved his whole family to this location.

My Photographs

I took a lot of pictures, but narrowed them down to a few I would like to share. So check them out (click to enlarge):

View Outside Tonto Natural Bridge

Top of Tonto Natural Bridge


Tonto Natural Bridge Waterfall

Tonto Natural Bridge Waterfall


Pine Creek - Tonto State Park

Believe It or Not, This Is the Creek


Lizard Along Trail

Lizard Along the Trail


Me Inside Tonto Cave

Standing In One of the Caves


Water At Bottom of Tonto Bridge

Look How Small The People Look Inside

The Hiking Trails

When I first arrived at the Tonto State Park, it did not look like anything special. It looked like a grass field with a parking lot and a ton of people picnicking. But I was amazed once I finished all of the hikes.

There are three separate trails to hike, and they all lead to different places. Here is a little information I gathered from the trail guide they had at the park:

Pine Creek Trail – about 1/2 mile long, which leads to the Pine Creek natural area. They recommend wearing hiking shoes and say to allow one hour for the hike.

Waterfall Trail – about 300 feet long, and ends at a waterfall cave.

Gowan Trail – about 1/2 mile long, and it leads to an observation deck at the bottom of the creek. This trail also recommends wearing hiking shoes.

The hiking trails are a little rough, but overall pretty easy to walk along. There are a lot of stairs when heading to the creek bottom, so plan on walking down a ton of wooden steps. Also, plan on getting a little wet if you really want to snoop around in the cave. The water leaks through the rock from the top of the bridge, and makes it feel like a light rain at the bottom.

If you are taking your camera (I highly recommend it), bring along a case to put it in so you don’t have to worry about getting it wet.


The Tonto Natural Bridge is pretty easy to find if you are coming from the Phoenix area. You simply have to head towards Fountain Hills and take the SR 87 north to Payson 80 miles. From there, continue north another 10 miles until you see a sign for the Tonto Natural Bridge State Park.

Just a word of caution, there are some steep roads after you turn left towards the State Park. Some of the roads reach as much as a 14% grade.

An Awesome Trip

Overall, this was an awesome thing to do. It was cool to see this thing in person, because it looks so much different in person than it does in pictures. I highly recommend checking it out if you are ever in Arizona, specifically in the Payson area.

2 thoughts on “Tonto Natural Bridge State Park

  1. William

    Amazing place to hang out on a Phoenix summer day. Just 70 miles north of Phoenix, past Payson. Bring some water if going in the summer time. You can easily hike over 6 miles here.


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