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Monday, December 12, 2011


Tonto Natural Bridge State Park, Payson
As an avid hiker, one  dilemma that frequently crosses my boots is this---what to do when out-of-state guests arrive from the frozen north.  Although many of my visitors love and appreciate the outdoors (and also want me to take them hiking) few are regular hikers and none have experience in our state's special terrain.  Over the years, I've come up with a list of innocuous trails that are suitable for those equipped only with tennis shoes,  a borrowed walking stick and a bottle of water but still give good exposure to the Arizona wilds.  The Gowan Trail, which leads to the world's largest naturally-sculpted travertine arch at Tonto Natural Bridge State Park, is one of those trails.  Short, engineered with steps to ease the climb  and packed with the WOW factor, this hike is always a crowd pleaser. Other short trails in the park are also “tourist-friendly”. Maps are available in the visitor center.

Suspension Bridge over Pine Creek
LENGTH: 1 mile round trip
RATING: moderate (although the trailhead sign warns of difficult terrain, it just ain't that bad)
ELEVATION:  3,155' - 2,805'
KID FRIENDLY: with supervision
DOGS: pets not allowed on the trails
Adults (age 14+): $5
Youngsters (7-13): $2
Kiddies (0-6): free

Tonto Natural Bridge
HOURS: 9 a.m. To 5 p.m. Park is closed on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thanksgiving & Christmas
FACILITIES: restrooms, visitor center/gift shop, picnic areas, swimming, hiking
DISTANCE FROM PHOENIX: 110 miles one way

Ice hangs from the top of the bridge: Dec. 8, 2011
GETTING THERE: From Phoenix, north on SR87 (Beeline Highway) to Payson.  From the intersection of SR87/260, continue 10 miles north on 87 to the signed turn off on the left. The paved road down to the park is narrow and steep.
INFO: 928-476-4202

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