One of the great things about Arizona is that when you want a change of weather and scenery, you don’t have to travel far to find it. In the process you’ll find some amazing treasures too! When things start to warm up in the Valley, it’s time to head north to the “cool country”!
About 1 ½ hours north of the Valley is the Tonto Natural Bridge State Park. The park itself is beautifully maintained with picnic tables and plenty of shade trees, but it is the hike down into the valley that is really breathtaking! We started on a very well-maintained trail called Pine Creek. The first 10 minutes was a fairly easy descent, then the trail turned into a maze of huge boulders which must be navigated very carefully (be sure to wear good hiking shoes and perhaps bring a hiking stick). We were lucky because we were with David from My Arizona Guide and he is a very experienced hiker. There were times when we became “mountain goats”! Our half-mile descent took us about an hour and it was exhilarating.
I was totally unprepared for what we experienced once we got to the bridge. Created over thousands of years from two streams, it is believed that this is the largest natural travertine bridge in the world. Not only is the bridge unique in respect to its origin, but it is said to be one of the most beautiful natural bridges in the United States. When the brilliant green of the irrigated, travertine-filled valley above the natural bridge comes into view, it is almost surreal. While the sun is brightly shining, standing under the bridge you are “rained” on from the stream that flows overhead.
Our hike out on the Gowan Trail, which is well groomed but steep and a little rough in spots, was much easier by comparison to our hike in. You can view the bridge from above without hiking to the bottom of the canyon, but you’ll miss a lot. There is a huge a variety of wildlife at the park. We even saw a herd of javelina, which is not uncommon! Be sure to visit this natural wonder.