Tonto Natural Bridge


Today Hal and I rode our road motorbikes to Tonto Natural Bridge near Payson, AZ. It is a natural formation that is more like a big travertine-encrusted cave, but it is a natural bridge. We have ridden by the park hundreds of times, but I had no idea it was so spectacular.

First, our day started out with a somewhat cool ride up the Beeline. It was the first time this season that I broke out the heated gear while riding near home. I was glad of it, to be honest. I get cold easily, and the temperatures went down to the 50s F.

Next, we had breakfast at Crosswinds Restaurant in Payson, our favorite. While we were there, we watched this beautiful little plane doing “touch and go” for practice. It looked like a cross between a regular airplane and a glider. This is Hal’s photo:

Soon we were back on the road, but not for long. Tonto Natural Bridge state park is only a few miles away. We turned onto the narrow but paved road, and after about a mile, we started to drop into a deep canyon. The road was a 14% grade, but I’m told it is a vast improvement of what it used to be like. It used to be dirt and a much steeper grade! Very challenging.

We parked our bikes in one of the parking lots, and then started to hike down to see the bridge.

It was a steep trail, too, but when I got to the bottom of it, I was amazed! Here are a few photos:

The opening under the bridge, with a curtain of water streaming down from above:

Me, doing what I do:

I was shooting those “skater bugs” that skitter across the water on its surface tension:

There was a way to go through and under the bridge, and I did cross the creek, but the climb and descent looked very slippery to me. The travertine has been scrubbed to smoothness by water flow over the years, and I was hiking in my motorcycle boots. I felt unsafe, so we hiked back up and out, then went back down the other side. Here is what we saw:

This is where the water drops over the edge high above:

This is basically a box canyon, and the ranger told us seven water sources come together here. That means that the water flow can be deep and strong when the snow melts in spring, and unique formations and debris fields occur because of it.

Rock held between two big boulders:

Of course, I had to take an autumn-specific shot.

Golden grasses up on top. You can see the road high above it in the background, to the right (a cut in the rock where the road goes):

I took about 114 photos, and these are just a few. It is an amazing natural place.

Before we left for the day, we visited the lodge that was built in 1927. It is now a gift shop, and is not open for overnight guests yet, but will eventually re-open for groups to rent for special events. It looks lovely and cozy, and I saw a photo of it taken during a snowstorm. I love that. The lodge has been designated a historic destination.

Soon we were back on the bikes, headed back home and the (too warm) Valley. It was again about 90° F. when we got near home. Good thing I had plenty of room on the bike for all the layers that I had to shed! But that is how it is this time of year.

I had a wonderful day of discovering another beautiful place in our state. I hope you have the chance to visit it someday.

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