As we continue to explore the wonderful state of Arizona, we drove to Payson on Saturday, just 80 miles NE from our home in Chandler.
I was happy to get out of the heat, and make the climb to 5,000 feet.
Payson is surrounded by the largest Ponderosa Pine forest in the country, and is famous for their rodeos, hosting the oldest continuous rodeo in the world.
These small towns in Arizona truly are the Wild, Wild, West, with Payson carrying the nickname "Zane Grey Country".
We even saw a signed picture from Garth Brooks at a local restaurant.
One of the other features that is a must see if you are in the Payson area, is a visit to Tonto Natural Bridge State Park.
One of the coolest places I have seen so far in the state of Arizona.
There is a short 1/2 mile hike down to the cave.
The drop is a steep 200 feet, although the park has done an excellent job placing stairs, and benches along the way.
Once you reach the bottom, there is a long bridge that leads you across the stream into the cave.
Tonto Natural Bridge is the largest known natural Travertine bridge in the world
150 feet wide
400 feet long
From the top, the spring waters continuously drop year round to the cave floor 183 feet below.
The mists of the waterfall are a pleasant way to cool down as you head into the cave.
Park rangers are there to greet you and answer any questions.
A beautiful pool of water, and interesting rock formations bring families and school groups from miles around.
The rocks are slippery and quite challenging to climb, but many give it a try.
There were a several families with young children who made the hike down, which made us wish we had our grandchildren with us.
Under the right conditions, Travertine can grow up to 1-inch per year.
It is said "Where the water flows, Travertine grows."
The walls are ribboned with long streams of stalactites.
View from the other side.
"Travertine, which forms the bridge is a composite of plants and minerals carried by the underground springs."
We were pleasantly surprised at the magnificence of this cave, and the well run state park.
There were several nice hiking trails, and the park offers clean picnic grounds and barbeque areas.
We can hardly wait to bring the rest of our family here.