KMOG takes you to the coolest destination around Rim Country. Today its a DAY TRIP TO THE TONTO NATURAL BRIDGE
Tonto Natural Bridge State Park is located approximately ten miles north of Payson, and open daily year round. To get there from Payson simply head north of Payson towards Pine and the entrance to the park is on the left of the highway approximately. The road drops down in elevation and dead ends at the park. There is plenty of parking and picnic area. The park is open 9am to 5pm with last entry at 4pm. Park entrance Fees are $7 for adults, $4 for youth 7 to 13 and under that free. Dogs are not allowed on the trails.
HISTORY: The discovery of Tonto Natural Bridge in Pine Creek Valley was first documented in 1877 by prospector David Gowan. It was not until 1991 that it officially became a State Park. Visitors can view the bridge from atop it at any of four parking lot viewpoints. But, if you are able, hike down to the bottom to gain a fuller appreciation of the majesty and beauty of the bridge. Two trails take you under the bridge from different directions. Four hundred feet of the half-mile-long Pine Creek Trail is developed. You climb your way over rocks in the undeveloped portion in the creek bed while arrows painted on rocks point you in the right direction. The popular Gowan Trail is a bit under a half-mile long and leads to an observation deck in the creek bottom. Whichever trail you choose, wear good shoes with grip. Both trails are steep and the rocks can be wet and slippery, but you’ll be rewarded with amazing views of rock formations around you and of the bridge. The Park suggests allowing an hour for each trail. A third trail, the 300-foot-long Waterfall Trail, takes you down to a waterfall cave instead of
under the bridge. Again the trail is steep with uneven steps, but only fifteen to twenty minutes are needed to hike it. You’ll see more than rocks on these trails. Vegetation includes cacti, oak trees, pinyon pines, juniper, alder trees, silk tassel shrubs and sumac. Picnic tables are located throughout the park.
The Visitor Center and the Park Store sells books about the area, T-shirts, snacks, water, and walking sticks, are located in the historic Goodfellow Lodge. Interpretive exhibits inside the Lodge contain information about the history of the bridge, travertine, prehistoric inhabitants, and the Lodge itself. The three-story, cabin-style, rustic lodge was built in 1927. It has ten bedrooms with communal bathrooms and is available for groups to reserve.