Length: 1.5 miles
Tonto Natural Bridge State Park was perhaps the perfect spot to begin my hiking adventure. Located in the mountains an hour directly northeast of the Phoenix area, Tonto Natural Bridge is an easy drive that's paved all the way. The park itself is very family friendly, with man-made stairs, multiple viewing decks, and toilet facilities.
The Natural Bridge is actually quite impressive. There are several trails that allow you to travel both over and under the bridge (although the underside is definitely more impressive!) I personally recommend forgetting the established trails in favor of a more exciting trek over the rocks and boulders that line the streams. (Surprisingly, I neither fell or got wet at any point during this excursion!)
Under the Bridge, the trails are a little more difficult due to the smoothing of the rock walls by dripping water. Although it may be more demanding below the bridge, the cooler temperates make the trip below well worth it. In fact, I would guess that during cooler months, one would need a sweater or jacket to comfortably venture through the bridgeway...however, after a couple months of 100+ heat in Phoenix, the cool breeze was quite welcome! Overall, I highly recommend this park. At first I had allowed only an hour (since the trail is only 1.5 miles) however, with all the wonderful hidden places to explore, I would definitely say this park deserves at least 2-3 full hours.
To see pictures of my excursion to Tonto Natural Bridge, click here.