Tonto Natural Bridge
The Tonto Natural Bridge in Arizona is an amazing site.
Arizona is full of natural wonders and some of these are not very well known. Have you ever heard of Tonto Natural Bridge? It is easy to get to and quite a spectacular site to visit.
Near Payson, Arizona, Tonto Natural Bridge is a spot your family will enjoy. Short, but steep hiking trails, make it almost accesible for everyone in the family. The parking lots are close and there are several viewpoints. This is one natural site that goes almost unnoticed. Arizona is most asscoiated with The Grand Canyon, Painted Desert, and Petrified Forest, among other places. But this cool site is one you will not want to miss. If you are driving between Phoenix and Flagstaff, it is a short detour. You will not be disappointed.
The photo was taken by me, looking up from the bottom. Yes, that is a waterfall! Over 180 feet high!
Gettting to Tonto Natural Bridge
We decided to take a trip to Arizona from our home in Corona, CA in July 2013. Kind of crazy. We first visited the Arizona Mills Mall to stay cool and see the Sea Life Aquarium. Next morning we drove from Phoenix to the bridge, which is near Payson, AZ. You take highway 87. You cna actually get here from Flagstaff going south as well. Perhaps if you are going to the Grand Canyon, make a side trip here. It's less than a 2 hour drive from Phoenix. Eventually the scenery changes from desert to mountain.
The photo is mine taken along 87 on the way up the mountains.
Once you are there
Once you have made it to Tonto Natural Bridge, you can park really close. They only have primitive restrooms, so be prepared. They have a museum and gift shop. You would never know that there is a marvelous natural wonder right over the trees. There are various observation decks to view it. But nothing beats hiking down inside the cave. Because it is higher elevation, it is not as hot as Phoenix. Probably a good 20 degrees cooler.
The photo is my wife Martha at one of the observation points.
There are 2 ways of hiking down. One on each side of the opening of the cave. The one on the opposite side of the waterfall is shorter, but has more obstacles. The one on the side of the waterfall is longer, steeper, but actually easier. You can make a loop if you wish and hike down oneside, go through the cave, then hike up the other side. The boulders and trail is very treacherous in the cave, so my wife and I just hiked up and down both trails. Most people seemed to be able to make the whole loop. Plenty of places to stop and rest, but the rocks are slippery when wet. Be sure and take lots of water!
The photo is me on the trail.
There are many caves
On the north side of the cave, there are actually quite a few other caves to explore. We took a little break for a snack in one of the larger ones.
The photo is me in that larger cave.
Rock climbing in the Tonto Bridge cave
I could have went higher, but the rocks are slippery. This is what you encounter as you try to make it all the way through the cave. That's why my wife and I decided to just go back up and down the trail on the other side. Both hikes are very nice. We took it slow coming up.
At the bottom of the natural bridge
This is my wife sitting beneath the cave on the opposite side of the waterfall.
Hiking to the waterfall
At the bottom of the trail on the waterfall side, there is an observation deck. You look straight up at the falls.
Right under Tonto Natural Bridge
This video gives a good shot of the observation deck and waterfall above. You can keep hiking past the deck and go all the way through the cave. It is nice and cool down here!
View through the cave.
The cave is roughly 150 feet high and 400 feet long. This is looking towards the waterfall.
Larger view of the top picture.
This view is roughly the same as the smaller intro picture. The waterfall is over 180 feet from the bottom where I was standing.
Arizona is a great family vacation state
The summer can be hot, but the Grand Canyon is at a higher elevation. There is so much to see in Arizona, you could plan a month here.