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Tonto Natural Bridge, Payson, Arizona

Updated on January 30, 2016

How are Natural Bridges Formed?

It took, literally, billions of years. In fact, 1.73 billion years ago, Payson, Arizona was "ocean front" property! For the next several billions of years, it alternated between sea life and volcanic eruptions. While millions of years of geologic study are missing, it is known that new continents moved in and dinosaurs roamed the area. Cut to only a few million years ago and see how the bridge was formed in this great pictorial explanation. Check out The Arizona State Park website, Geology of the Bridge.

What is the Natural Bridge?

It is a natural bridge that has been thousands of years in the making. It is believed to be the largest travertine bridge in the world standing at 183 feet high over a 400 foot tunnel that is 150 feet at its widest. It is an overwhelmingly awesome sight, incredible to imagine how it came to be!

Award Winning Park!

The Tonto Natural Bridge State Park has won three "Best of Rim Country" awards. They are:

  • Best Historic Site
  • Best Place to Visit
  • Best Day Trip

A view of the bridge from above.
A view of the bridge from above. | Source

Location, location, location.

The Tonto Natural Bridge is located between the towns of Payson and Pine. It is a little under two hours from Phoenix and the same distance from Flagstaff. It is on Highway 87. If you happen to be following the Historic Route 66 trail, it is only a couple of hours away and a very worthy stop!

A markertonto natural bridge, Payson Az -
Tonto Natural Bridge State Park, Tonto National Forest, Hwy 87 North of Payson, Payson, AZ 85547, US
get directions

To read about more this and other Natural Rock Formations

Park amenities

The park can easily be done in a couple of hours or you can spend the day there with beautiful picnic areas and various scenic views of the bridge and waterfall. There are several different trails. Most of the trails are rated moderate to difficult because of the steepness. They can be tricky to maneuver. The park is open year round with fairly mild weather. If you are not up to the hike, you should still go for a visit. There are many viewing spots on a flat level with paved paths that are stroller, walker and wheelchair friendly.

Average Daily Tempurature and Precipitation

Daily Averages
Winter
Spring
Summer
Fall
Temp. High
60
80
91
85
Low
30
42
58
51
Precipitation
2 inches
.66 inches
2 inches
1.8 inches
While I missed the descent to the bridge, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to see the waterfall up close and personal!
While I missed the descent to the bridge, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to see the waterfall up close and personal! | Source

The Tonto Natural Bridge State Park is opened 7 days a week from 9 am to 5 pm. The last hikes down to the bridge are at 4. This gives ample time to hike down, look around, get some pictures and climb back up again, There is a 2200 foot descent, so be prepared. It is also important to wear the right shoes because the trails can be slick and the steps uneven.

The spectacular waterfall.
The spectacular waterfall. | Source
There are beautiful sights no matter which direction you look!
There are beautiful sights no matter which direction you look! | Source

Hiking Trails.

There are four different trails at the Tonto Natural Bridge State Park:

  • The Gowan Trail is about 2200 feet long. It takes you down to an observation deck on the creek bottom. It takes about an hour.
  • The Pine Creek Trail is about 1/2 mile long in the undeveloped creek bottom. It takes about an hour.
  • The Anna Mae Trail is about 500 feet long and leads to the Pine Creek Trail and the Natural Bridge. It takes about an hour.
  • The Waterfall Trail is about 300 feet long ending at waterfall cave. It takes about 20 minutes.

All the trails are strenuous and proper hiking shoes are recommended.


Park Fees and Amenities

In addition to the trails and viewing areas, the park boasts a visitors center that houses a museum and gift shop. It is a warm and lovely building, rich in history with friendly volunteers who can give you tips on the area. The gift shop also sells drinks, snacks and walking sticks.

The park is open seven days a week. The entrance fee is $5 for adults, $2 for children 7-13 and free for children 6 years and under.

There is an ample parking lot with spectacular views.

Payson, Az

The town of Payson is nestled between two majestic mountain ranges in the Mogollon Rim. It is a quiet, naturally beautiful town, lined with trademark, Arizonan saguaro cacti. Payson is a friendly community. Residents like to brag that they are one of only three pure air ozone belts in the world! The proximity to the Tonto National Forest is one of its major attractions and the mild weather allows for many outdoor activities, including:

Hunting, fishing, camping and hiking, as well as cross country skiing in the winter.

The town hosts the world's oldest continuous rodeo along with many other museums, events and attractions. And at an elevation of 5000 feet, you can imagine how amazing the star gazing can be!

There are first rate, modern accommodations and the town is convenient to the Natural Bridge!

Exploring the Back Roads

For more articles like this, please check out the following link. This is a series initiated by Billybuc and contributed to by many hub authors!

Exploring the Back Roads of Washington State

and, please check out sallybea and read her amazing hub:

Exploring the Back Roads of Paris and a French Market: Marche Pyrenees.

And don't forget to see Tillsontitan with Exploring the Back Roads of New York State: A Quick Visit to Rosendale

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    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Very cool place and great information. If I'm ever down there this will be on my must-see list. Thanks for writing for our series, Randi. I'll link it on my hubs.

    • profile image

      Valleypoet 3 years ago

      This looks like an awesome place to visit, and I have never seen a natural bridge as big as that Btrbell, it must be an incredible sight...great hub, voted up and shared:-))

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 3 years ago from California

      What a beautiful place! Thank you so much!

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 3 years ago from The Beautiful South

      Ah that is sooo beautiful. I have trouble dragging myself away from such beauty, I just want to snap and capture every sight and angle to take it all home with me to enjoy over and over again. Thank you so much for sharing! ^

    • thumbi7 profile image

      JR Krishna 3 years ago from India

      Beautiful and exciting.

      The place looks so very untouched by humans and calm...

      Thanks for sharing this...

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      looks like a bestiful place to explore with friends

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 3 years ago from southern USA

      Awesome Randi! Thank you for taking us along to Tonto Natural Bridge, Payson, Arizona. Wow, what a beautiful place indeed. Your photos are phenomenal.

      Up and more and sharing (well I tried to pin it and it keeps saying "whoops", so I will return)

      Blessings, Faith Reaper

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 3 years ago from New York

      Another hub that makes HP the interesting and great place it is! I'd never heard of Payson, Arizona before so obviously knew nothing about this marvelous, natural bridge! What a beautiful and interesting place.

      You've shared such great information about it, even including hours and prices! Of course I can't leave out your pictures, they are the perfect addition to a perfect hub.

      Voted up, useful, awesome, interesting, and shared.

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you, Bill. It was fun!

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you, Valleypoet! It was an awesome sight! Although I didn't go down to experience walking under the bridge, I did catch a glimpse of my kids as they did it. It really put things in perpespective! Thank you for the vote and share!

    • kidscrafts profile image

      kidscrafts 3 years ago from Ottawa, Canada

      What a beautiful place, Randi! I love those place that nature creates :-) I find it quite unique and it shows the power of nature! I have to keep this one in mind for the next time I go to Arizona! Thank you also for sharing your pictures!

      Have a great day!

    • Kimberly Turner profile image

      Kimberly Quevedo 3 years ago from New Jersey

      What a great hub! Definitely have to visit someday!

    • profile image

      sheilamyers 3 years ago

      A very beautiful place. Thanks for the short tour and the great information. I definitely need to make another road trip out west so I can visit awesome places like this.

    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 3 years ago from Norfolk

      A stunningly beautiful place from the look and the description of the Tonto Natural Bridge, Payson, Arizona especially from a photographic point of view.

      I would very much appreciate it if you would link this one to my own in the back road series Exploring the Back Roads of Paris and a French Market - Marché Pyrenees and I will do the same for yours.

      Thank you

      Sally

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you, Audrey! :)

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Jackie, the view was phenominal! A photographers dream! Thank you !

    • btrbell profile image
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      Randi Benlulu 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thumbi17, thank you so much and welcome to my site!

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      It really was, flourishanyway! Thank you for stopping by!

    • btrbell profile image
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      Randi Benlulu 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you, Faith! We had a great day, there! I appreciate the pin!

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you so much, Mary! Woul you belicve I've lived here since 2008 and this was my first trip to Payson?! Thank you so much for your comments and votes! Much appreciated!

    • btrbell profile image
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      Randi Benlulu 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Joelle, thank you! And if you come to Arizona, you better stop here first!

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you, Kimberly! Welcome to my hub!

    • btrbell profile image
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      Randi Benlulu 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you, Kimberly and welcome to my hub! Definitely, come visit!

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you, Sheilamyers! Yes, we are talking about a roadtrip, too. So many places, so little time.....

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you so much, Sally! I just enjoyed reading yours! I am linking us now!

    • Nellieanna profile image

      Nellieanna Hay 3 years ago from TEXAS

      I lived in Tempe, AZ a year while my first husband was getting his masters at ASU. We did a lot of exploring but didn't get to this park. What a shame to have missed it! Sounds incredible, Randi. You've made it come alive!

    • prasetio30 profile image

      prasetio30 3 years ago from malang-indonesia

      What a beautiful place....I love the pictures here. Thanks for writing and sharing with us. Voted up :-)

      Prasetio

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 3 years ago from Wales

      Truly beautiful and so interesting Randi. Loved it and have to vote up.

      Enjoy your day.

      Eddy.

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you so much, Nellianna! Don't feel bad. We've lived here 5 years and have only just begun to explore!

    • btrbell profile image
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      Randi Benlulu 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you so much, Prasetio30! It was an amazing day!

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you so much, Eddy! It was a fun day! You have a good one, too!

    • Nellieanna profile image

      Nellieanna Hay 3 years ago from TEXAS

      Well then, there's much to discover and to look forward to! My ex was getting his masters in Earth Science and did his dissertation on an anomaly in saguaro cacti, so a lot of our exploring was involved in his courses & research, plus I was into rock collecting & jewelry-making. We made it to several of the sights, as well. It was a good year.

    • btrbell profile image
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      Randi Benlulu 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      That is so interesting, Nellieanna. I have truly enjoyed the 5 years we have been here. We have done a lot of local exploring and, of course, the area has become so culturally enriched, there is no lack of "what to do"! Our goal now is to continue to see all of the state. It has so much to offer!

    • Suhail and my dog profile image

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 3 years ago from Mississauga, ON

      An informative article, and just in time for people from my neck of the woods. Arizona has always been on the minds of my wife and me and perhaps this is another site for nature lovers like us to explore in very near future.

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you, Suhail! Welcome to my hub! It really was beautiful. I think you and your wife would enjoy it!

    • kidscrafts profile image

      kidscrafts 3 years ago from Ottawa, Canada

      You can be sure that if I go in Arizona... I will go meet you first.... and then the Tonto Natural Bridge :-) And then after that, I will go to the Grand Canyon. I went there two years ago for a too short time and I want to make sure I can enjoy my visit there!

      Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you so much, Joelle! I know I missed your thanksgiving but I hope it was a good one.

    • Homeplace Series profile image

      William Leverne Smith 3 years ago from Hollister, MO

      Thanks for the memories! We lived in Tucson from 1983 to 1994, and saw many of these sites. Also, in 1961-2, in the Air Force, near Winslow. Saw a few sites then, as well. Neat hub! Keep them coming! ;-)

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you so much, Homeplace Series! Welcome to my site! I appreciate your stopping by and your great comments. You have actually spent more time here in Az than we have so far! We have now been here 6 years!

    • Anne Harrison profile image

      Anne Harrison 2 years ago from Australia

      This is definitely on my list of places to go next time I'm in the States. Thank you

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 2 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      You are very welcome, Anne! Thank you for stopping by my hub! It is a worthwhile visit, just try not to come during the summer months here, it's crazy hot!

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