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Monday, January 5, 2009

GOWAN TRAIL

GOWAN TRAIL Tonto Natural Bridge State Park Payson Several short trails within Tonto Natural Bridge Park lead to scenic lookout areas but it’s the Gowan trail that gets you to the really good stuff. A short but steep descent down a well-maintained dirt trail leads into a ravine where the world’s largest natural travertine bridge is tucked into a tiny canyon. Millions of years in the making, the 400-foot-long tunnel’s walls display the errie calcite formations: dripping like stretched hardened taffy/frosting hanging in ozzing layers from the ceiling that’s nearly 200-feet high. Thick spilled paint. Spring water drips from the ceiling and over the rim into Pine creek vivid green mosses and water plants forming ponds and puddles in the echoing sound of dripping water….humid and moist. The passage through the tunnel is marked by tiny brown trail arrows on the boulders. Worn to a slippery sheen by thousands of visitors scrambling over them, the boulders under the bridge create a tricky maze. Sturdy hiking boots with non-slip soles are needed to keep on balance. Park rangers are on duty to answer questions and help hikers negotiate the quirky trail. Signs advise explores in the tunnel to stay out of the water and off the vegetation. The beauty of this natural wonder is no secret and when visiting on the weekends, you can expect to encounter crowds. LENGTH: 1 mile round-trip RATING: moderate ELEVATION GAIN: 200 feet GETTING THERE: From Phoenix, take Highway 87 (Beeline Highway) north for 90 mile sto the town of Payson. From the intersection of Highways 87 and 260, continue on 87 north toward the town of Pine for another 10 miles to the signed turn off for the Tonto Natural Bridge State Park. Turn left and follow the paved winding byway downhill to the park. There’s a $3 entry fee per person and you’ll find restrooms and a small lodge and gift shop. Roads are paved all the way. The park is open during the summer months from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. INFORMATION: (928) 476-4202 www.pr.stste.az.us/Parks/parkhtml/tonto.html

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