Saturday was going to be a good day for a drive, and the cooler temperatures at higher elevation were calling to us. We were on the road by 10am, headed through Scottsdale toward the Four Peaks .
We picked up Highway 87 to take us into the mountains.
It was a beautiful day, traffic was light, and the scenery was amazing.
After a quick stop at Subway in Payson, we continued north out of town,
until we reached Tonto Natural Bridge State Park.
From the Arizona State Park website:
Tucked away in a tiny valley surrounded by a forest of pine trees, Tonto Natural Bridge State Park has been in the making for thousands of years. It is believed to be the largest natural travertine bridge in the world. The bridge stands 183 feet high over a 400-foot long tunnel that measures 150 feet at its widest point.
There are several viewpoints where the bridge can be seen from the parking lot level, and a few trails that take hikers down under the bridge and along Pine Creek.
We stopped at the viewpoints first,
and checked out the various trails. The Gowan Trail was described as steep and rough, but it didn’t look too bad from above, and it led right down to the creek that ran under the bridge. We decided to give it a shot.
We got a couple bottles of water from the car, and started down the trail.
It was a narrow trail, with quite a few switchbacks and steps on the way down, but overall not too bad.
We reached the bottom, and walked out to the observation platform in front of the bridge.
There was water running down from the top of the bridge, and the rocks where the water was falling were covered with moss and grass.
The boys climbed out on the rocks under the bridge to check out the view from underneath.
Our plan was to go back up the Gowan Trail the way we had come down, but talking to the volunteer on the observation deck, we found out that it was possible to go through the bridge, across some wet boulders, and pick up the Pine Creek Trail on the other side. Nicolas was up for it, and convinced Bryce to go with him . . . but Tom and I decided not to risk climbing over the slippery rocks.
While they headed out over the rocks, Tom and I made our way back up to the top, crossed over the top of the bridge,
and made our way down the other side on the Anna Mae Trail. I think Tom and I got the tougher end of the deal!
Nicolas was there to meet us at the bottom,
as we made our way back down to Pine Creek and viewed the natural bridge from the other side.
We thought the “trail” along the creek was going to be an easy hike until we got to the other end and had to climb back up . . . . but the climb ended up being the easy part!!
It turned out that we had to climb over boulders, cross over the creek several times, and make our way across loose rocks.
It was tricky in places, but with Nicolas as my guide,
even I managed to make it without falling or breaking an ankle!
We stayed on the trail by following the arrows . . . some more helpful than others . . . and Bryce, as usual, was full of encouragement!
Finally, we emerged from the boulders and made our way up an actual trail to the parking lot.
Yeah, we made it!
Then we read the sign . . . “Access to the natural bridge is by jumping boulder to boulder.”
OK, well we made it, anyway!
Having thoroughly exhausted the trails . . . and ourselves . . . it was time to continue our drive. We left the state park and continued north and west toward Camp Verde.
As we drove through the little town of Pine, we couldn’t resist a stop at the Honey Stand,
where we picked up a couple pints of honey – desert clover and pecan.
We arrived in Camp Verde a little early for 5:30 mass, so we stopped in the business district to see what was there. The only shop open was the Cowboy Corner, but it was pretty fun. Lots of cool, old stuff in there.
They were getting ready to close, or else we would have spent some more time looking around. Instead, we walked around outside, and then made our way to church.
By the time we got out of mass, we were all starving. We didn’t see anywhere in Camp Verde to eat, so we continued south on 17 until we reached Black Canyon City. We stopped at the first place we saw, Chileen’s on 17, where the food was actually really good.
On the way out of town, we saw the Rock Springs Café,
and just had to pick up a pie to take home for dessert! It was a really full day when we finally got back home at 8:30pm . . . Casey was wondering where we had been all day!! Good thing we didn’t have anything on the agenda for Sunday – we needed a day to rest!!