Tonto Natural Bridge State Park – One of Arizona’s Best Kept Secrets
Tonto Natural Bridge State Park is a tiny park, tucked away in a hidden valley obscured by a forest of towering pines. One of Arizona’s little known secrets, it’s an excellent park to visit during your Arizona trip. Here are three reasons to check out Tonto Natural Bridge State Park.
1. A Bridge Built by Nature
The Tonto Natural Bridge State Park gets its name from its most famous and impressive feature – a massive limestone bridge that was formed by rock, wind and time.
The bridge at Tonto Natural Bridge State Park is believed to be the largest natural travertine bridge in the world. “Travertine” means that it’s made of limestone deposited by mineral springs. The bridge, which stands 183 feet over the gently flowing Pine Creek, was thousands of years in the making. It truly makes you feel like a tiny spec in the grand scheme of things.
Under the bridge, in the canyon lined with grottoes and springs, is a 400-foot long tunnel, which is 150 feet wide at its widest point.
2. Beautiful Canyon Hikes
The canyons here are steep and much of the area is inaccessible. But there are hiking trails located throughout the park that allow you to get a closer look. There are trails that take you up to the bridge and offer a scenic look down into the canyon. Other trails take you through its massive tunnel. There’s one trail that takes you to Waterfall Cave, another interesting feature of the park.
The trails at Tonto Natural Bridge State Park offer hours of exploration of the canyon and the bridge.
3. A Look at Arizona History
Another attraction at Tonto Natural Bridge State Park was made by humans, not wind and limestone. This is the Gowan family lodge. The Gowans were the original owners of the land before it became a state park. Their historic lodge is preserved here on a flat, grassy area near the bridge. The lodge, which is accessible by one of the park’s easiest and shortest trails, offers a glimpse into an earlier time in Arizona history. This is also where you’ll find the gift shop.
The Natural Beauty of Tonto Natural Bridge State Park
Whether you’re exploring the trails or checking out the lodge, Tonto Natural Bridge State Park offers stunning desert beauty. There are two sides to the valley and they receive different amounts of sunlight. As a result, each has its own unique vegetation. The valley has a variety of wildlife as well. Many bird species call the park home and birdwatching is a popular activity here.
There is no campground here but there are plenty of places to enjoy the afternoon. There are picnic tables, a recreation area, a dining room at the lodge, and a ramada. There are some places where you can swim in the creek. The park also offers educational programs where you can learn more about the area’s nature and history.
Tonto Natural Bridge State Park is only an hour from Phoenix and close to some of the best camping in Arizona. Click here for unique things to do at Arizona State Parks!