The Trek to Tonto Natural Bridge
This is Arizona destination is not to be missed! If you have visitors coming to see you in the Valley, you have got to take the two hour drive up to this spot and show off your scenic state!
Tonto Natural Bridge is an incredible natural display of beauty in Payson, AZ. It is believed to be the world’s largest natural travertine bridge. It’s beautifully formed by erosion and you can even walk beneath the bridge to explore the stunning scenery within. The bridge is 400 feet long, 183 feet high and 150 feet wide.
Underneath the bridge, you’ll experience the erosion in action as water drips down the sides and ceiling of the bridge. It actually seems like it’s raining. There are green plants breaking through the rock and thriving. It is truly magical.
I recommend taking the Pine Creek Trail which is a ½ mile scenic route to get under the bridge. If you like an adventurous trek this is for you! You’ll be climbing big boulders, stepping through river rock, and hearing the sound of a waterfall as you get closer and closer to the bridge.
You do not have to hike to the bridge. What I love is that a whole family could enjoy this scenery whether they are a little one in a stroller or an adult with limited mobility. This state park provides viewing areas that are just a short distance from the parking lot and have ramps. You can go to one of those areas and look down at the bridge!
Adult (14+): $7.00
Youth (7–13): $4.00
Child (0–6): FREE
To get here from Phoenix you can take Highway 87 all the way to USFS Road 583 and you’ll see the signs to enter the park. Stop in at the gift shop to buy your permits on site (you can’t get them online) and then you’re all set.
The parks opens at 9:00 a.m. and closes at 4:00 p.m. HOLIDAY HOURS: 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve and CLOSED on Christmas.
Things to keep in mind:
- Dogs are allowed at the park but not on hiking trails.
- The gift shop does accept credit/ debit cards
- Travertine is very slippery so be careful underneath the bridge
Checking In: The Strawberry Inn
When you see ‘Checking In’ before one of my blog entries, that’s mean this post will give you details on accommodations.
This time we’re talking about The Strawberry Inn in Strawberry, AZ. This boutique hotel is located near tons of hikes including the trails to Tonto Natural Bridge. It’s right off Highway 87 which is the main road through Strawberry-Pine.
The Strawberry Inn is unique in so many ways. It’s a non-hosted hotel meaning it’s a lot like an Air BnB. The day you are checking in, you will get a code to a lockbox emailed to you. That code will allow you to access the key to your room. You don’t have to talk to anyone at check in ,however, if something goes wrong there is a phone number in that email and in the rooms for a person to call if anything goes wrong.
Now let’s talk about the fun stuff. Each of the eight rooms at the Inn is decorated differently so each room has it’s own vibe. We’re talking farmhouse chic meets boho beauty. You’ll find comforting hues of grey, navy, white and beige and unique artwork in each room.
The beds are unbelievably comfortable and the comforter feels like you’re pulling a cloud over yourself. The sheets are so soft. It felt so good to get in this bad after a long day of driving of hiking.
The place is perfect for a romantic getaway and all rooms have one big bed, however, some rooms have pullout couches so you can bring the kids. Plus, the four bottom rooms are dog friendly.
When you make your reservation you can see each room and pick the one you want to stay in! You’ll also notice rates are surprisingly low for a boutique hotel. You get a lot of bang for your buck!
I enjoyed my stay so much and this hotel enhanced my experience in Rim Country. I loved that my stay had an authentic mountain feel…. But I had a comfy bed, a hot shower, a flat screen TV and wifi!
The entire Inn looks like it was made to be instagrammed. From the red barn doors, to the historic windmill and the lovable swings on the porch, you’ll find endless spots to snap a pic.
I absolutely loved The Strawberry Inn and I know you will too.
Finding Fossil Creek Waterfall
Not too far from Phoenix is a majestic place that looks like a scene straight out of a dream.
It’s called Fossil Creek. This is where you’ll find cool water, foliage and a waterfall within three hours of the Valley.
THIS IS IMPORTANT: You must have a permit to park and go to the trail BEFORE you get to the region if you are going between April 1st and October 1st. You have to reserve a parking spot and print two copies of your pass. You’ll keep one pass on you at all times and keep the other on your dashboard. Make your reservation here. On the left side of the page under location select “01 waterfall trailhead parking”. You must book in advance!!!
To get to the trail that takes you to the waterfall from Phoenix, plan for a 2 ½ hour ride if traffic is normal. You’ll want to head north on the I-17 until you get to the 260 East through Camp Verde. Once you’re on the 260 East you’ll look for Fossil Creek Road between Mile Marker 228 and 229. Turn right onto Fossil Creek. There will be a fork in the road. Select the path on the right.
Warning: once you are on Fossil Creek Road you have a 14 mile drive on a dirt road that is VERY bumpy. I highly recommend doing this drive in a truck or SUV. Bring snacks and don’t rely on cell service for music streaming because you will not have any reception. This ride feels like it lasts FOREVER.
Once you’ve driven almost the full 14 miles, you will have to stop for the ranger to sign off on you permit. Then, keep going to the end of the path and you’ll be at the parking lot for the trailhead.
The trail is only about ½ a mile in and ½ mile out and it’s a pretty simple path. The kids should be able to handle it and the waterfall is really a great family experience.
Keep in mind: you can swim in fossil creek so wear your swimsuit! Doggos are welcome on this trail as long as they are on a leash. Flash flooding is a concern especially during the Monsoon so check the forecast! There are restrooms for you to use in the parking lot for the waterfall trailhead.
- Recommended items to pack:
- Plastic baggy to protect your phone near the water
- Snacks and drinks to enjoy while at the waterfall
Let it Glow!
I always look forward to going to the zoo and seeing millions of glowing lights during the holidays. Zoo Lights is one of my favorite traditions. Phoenix Zoo’s Let it Glow is at it’s very best this year!
As an adult, it’s tough to have a holiday experience that truly makes you feel like a kid again. At the zoo, I found myself dancing along with the music-themed light show. I took silly photos and did not care what strangers thought. I found myself truly in the moment staring at the details of the lighted displays.
That’s exactly why I like this event for the whole family. Everyone in your crew is going to feel entertained. The little ones will be mesmerized by the three-story lighted tree and the chance to meet Santa! Teens will love taking selfies and Snapchatting the whole experience. The whole family will genuinely enjoy the musical light show. Plus, you get to experience a nightly snowfall at 7:30pm. Let’s be honest, every Arizonan at any age is ecstatic of snow!
Fun fact: Phoenix Zoo created and were the first to use net lighting on plants!
Zoo lights is a great spot for date night and since you’re leaving the kids at home go ahead and grab a beer or glass of wine. YES, the zoo serves beer and wine! The most convenient spot I found to grab a drink it the concession stand just west of the carousel at the base of The Neely Center. If this appeals to you, you’ll be eager to learn more about Roars & Pours happening in March. I’ll keep you posted on that.
I highly recommend paying a few bucks more and upgrading your tickets to include the Dinosaurs in the Desert experience. This is a self-guided adventure through incredibly lifelike animatronic dinos! I’m not really a huge dinosaur person, but I love science and this exhibit taught me facts about our planet/ animals I did not know. Seriously, I’m still thinking about the fact dinosaurs had feathers and that their was a dino with a 30+ foot wingspan flying over the Southwest once! Little kids were squealing in amazement all around me and I chatted with a grandpa who couldn’t believe how real the dinos looked… so there ya go, entertainment for anyone of any age.
I think this experience is worth every penny because there are so many forms of entertainment packed into the experience. However, you know I found you some ways to save! There are value nights or you can even find tickets on Groupon!
ZooLights Value Tickets are valid on the following dates: Dec 12, 13, Jan 2, 3, 4, 8 – 14, 2018
- ZooLights Value Ticket with Dinos in the Desert | $16.95
- ZooLights Value Ticket | $12.95
- Children 2 and under are free for ZooLights
Any night tickets are valid for single admission Nov 22, 2017thru Jan 14, 2018
- ZooLights Any Night Ticket with Dinos in the Desert | $21.95
- ZooLights Any Night Ticket | $17.95
- Children 2 and under are free for ZooLights
Here’s an interesting tidbit from the Zoo’s website about how important raising money through events like this is: “It’s also the Zoo’s largest special event fundraiser which is vital to our success as a private non-profit zoological park. We receive no outside funding and rely on revenue from events, admission, donations, private events, educational programs, camps and memberships, food and gift shop sales.”
Parking is FREE and you can experience zoo lights until January 14th! Have fun!
DIY Christmas Cactus
Happy holidays! Given my love for the outdoors, I am bringing the outdoors in this Christmas! Laurel Stavros, also known as the blogger behind A Bubbly Life, taught me some quick and super cute ways to decorate our state’s signature plant: cactus!
Check out this video to see how to turn desert plants into a perfect centerpiece or gift.
For all of the details on this project and for more inspiration, check out the A Bubbly Life Blog.
Make sure to follow Laurel for more amazing ideas!
Instagram: @abubblylife & Facebook: Facebook.com/abubblylifeblog
All photos by: @abubblylife
Atop Angel’s Landing
I am going to admit something to you. I don’t like planning and I actually enjoy NOT knowing what I’m getting myself into. So when I went to Zion National Park I hardly did any research of the trails. When I have the time, I like to get to a destination and just do what I feel guided to.
Everyone kept talking about Angel’s Landing. They say the summit is so high ‘only an angel could land there’. There are thousand foot drop offs on each side and you have to hold onto chains to safely make it to the top. Well, that sounded terrifying so of course I had to try it.
The view at the beginning of the path is breathtaking. I stopped to take it all in and I recommend you do as well. You’ll never forget this spot.
This is a 4.4 miles hike in and out with a 2073 foot elevation gain. The hike is rated at the difficult level but I felt it was physically not too hard, but mentally it was a challenge because I’m a little afraid of heights!
The first mile or so is very steep but it’s a paved path. The payoff is great too. After the first major climb, you’ll arrive at refrigerator canyon. It’s shady, cooler path in between walls of rock. The incline calms at that point and you can just relax before the next great challenge.
Walter’s Wiggles will rock your world! We’re talking about a series of 21 steep switchbacks that will have you panting. Okay maybe you’re more in shape and you that’s not true for you but I was definitely panting!
Tip: There are restrooms for emergencies right after Walter’s Wiggles. I have a bladder disease called Interstitial Cystitis so these restrooms saved me!
After Walter’s Wiggles, you’ll come to the first set of chains. That stint is short lived before you arrive at a great lookout called Scout’s Landing. Many people stop there trek here. You’re pretty high up, the view is fantastic… but you can get an even better experience if you dare to face the danger that lies past Scout’s Lookout.
The last ¼ of the hike is the tricky part. The path is narrow and if you’re like me you will be holding onto the chains! The path can get crowded so you may need to make room for someone coming down the trail, which was the scariest part for me.
While terrifying at times, this part of the hike is THRILLING! I forgot I was afraid of heights!
The view at the top really is heavenly. There is a lot of space to spread out, snap pics and enjoy snacks. It’s truly astonishing how high up you are and how much beauty surrounds you in every direction.
For me, the scariest part was coming down the trail because I was forced to look into the canyon.
I highly recommend you at least try this hike if you head to Zion. If you’re nervous, make your goal to reach Scout’s Landing and see how you feel before venturing further. It’s worth testing your limits!
Here we go
The inspiration for this blog is simple. I enjoy getting outside, seeing new places and trying new things. I do a lot of fun stuff and I want to take you with me so that you can go do them too!
Those of you who already follow me know we’re going to be doing a lot of hiking! Hiking is my passion. It’s a way for me to connect with nature, unplug and calm my mind. It makes me feel healthy and happy.
You can also expect to find a lot of beer sampling (by sampling I mean drinking). One of my favorite things to do when I visit a new spot on the map is check out the local breweries. So, if you have any suggestions, do tell!
The topics of my posts will not be limited at all. Basically if it’s on my mind, it’s on the blog. So whether it’s a trail to try, a new restaurant opening, an art exhibit, a DIY project or just some thoughts about life, we’re going to talk about it!
I grew up in Surprise and I love all things Arizona so most of what you find here will revolve around this stunning state, however, I do love to travel and I’m going to share those trips with you too!
If there is ever anything particular you want me to discuss, let me know and send me an email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for being here with her!