Tonto Natural Bridge State Park, establishing as a Arizona state park in 1990, is a perfect place for a family picnic and getting out in nature on any of the three hiking trails. Each trail is of different lengths and difficulty. Good shoes and water are recommended for all the hiking trails.
The Gowan Trail is only 1/2 mile long and quickly leads down 183 feet to Pine Creek and the large, cave opening that creates the natural bridge. Cave swallows fill the air as cave visitors explore the natural environment.
Tonto Natural Bridge is thought to be the largest natural travertine bridge in the world. Tucked away in a small tree-covered valley along Pine Creek, the bridge stands 183 feet high over a 400-foot long tunnel that measures 150 feet at its widest point. The year-round flow of Pine Creek has, over the ages, eroded a passageway through the calcium carbonate travertine resulting in the rocks above standing as a natural bridge.
The natural bridge was first documented in 1877 when a Scotsman, David Gowan was fleeing from a group of Apaches. In his flight, he discovered the large cave under the natural bridge and there he safely hid for 3 days. When the danger had passed, he left the safety of the cave to explore the tunnel and green valley that he had accidentally stumbled upon. He claimed the valley including the natural bridge with squatter’s rights.
The Pine Creek Trail is the most primitive of trails and is recommended only for serious hikers. Then there is the Waterfall Trail, 100 steps down to the paradise of a fern covered grotto with yellow columbine flowers that gives you the illusion of being in Hawaii, when in reality, you are at Tonto Natural Bridge State Park in the Rim Country of Arizona.
After you are finished your hike, go to Pinewood Tavern in Pine and have their PB&J Burger - creamy peanut butter, smoked chile jam, cherrywood smoked bacon on a natural Angus beef burger. Believe me, you will NOT regret it.
Traveller, chief taste-tester and food finder and retired expat living in Lisbon, Portugal.