Just a couple of hours away Phoenix is one of my favorite places to make a day trip – Tonto Natural Bridge. Most out-of-towners have never heard of it and, surprisingly, there are quite a lot of “Phoenicians” that haven’t as well.
Located a few miles west of Payson, Arizona, your first hint that you are entering something special is the 14% grade road down into the canyon.
You can walk into the “Bridge” from either end, however, I prefer coming in from the larger south side. Be warned that the walk down is relatively steep (and don’t forget, you have to come out as well) and you need a little “mountain goat” in you to traverse the terrain inside and to cross all the way through. From there, I enjoy walking the creek bed to exit out at the far end (also a little “mountain goat” may be required).
There is second smaller trail that, frankly, unless you just want to work on your cardio, is fairly unrewarding.
If at all possible, try and visit during the week. The weekend has many more visitors and if you are lucky, a weekday visit will give you an opportunity to have it all to yourself while inside (the last time there my family had nearly 45 minutes with just us). Time of year matters too! In the spring, the water seeps in through the ceiling like a steady ice cold rain and also makes footing a little more precarious.
Tonto Natural Bridge is the spot that originate my phrase “No Guard Rails” as one my best friends declared while crossing through, that you can “get killed” doing this stuff. My reply was the “we Arizonans are tough bastards and we don’t need guard rails”.
As always, have some fun!.
And you may see something you have never seen before, like a Solar Halo!
All in all, a wonderful thing to see. Expect a few hours to really see everything and though short in distance, it is pretty moderate-plus in effort.