#16 Montezuma Castle National Monument & Tonto Natural Bridge State Park

Rach and I woke up on our second day in Phoenix itching for an adventure. We had finally caught up on the sleep we missed out during our 14.5 hour drive from Austin and it was time to see what the Grand Canyon State had to offer. We have a list of about 30 things we want to see and do in Arizona and after looking at all of our options we settled on two attractionsΒ to check out a little north of Phoenix: Montezuma Castle National Monument and Tonto Natural Bridge State Park.Β We packed our lunches and typed Montezuma Castle into google maps and began the two our trek north. Initially, we were a little bummed about having to drive so far to catch this site but we quickly got over that as we drove past snow covered mountain ranges, saguaro cacti, and forests of evergreen trees. It’s one of the prettiest drives we’ve ever been on!

Upon our arrival, we parked the car and made our way to the visitor center. Montezuma Castle is a national monument so we decided to splurge and buy the $80 America the Beautiful: National Parks and Federal Recreation Lands Pass since we have plans to check out a handful of national parks this year (like the Grand Canyon). Β This gives us unlimited free access to all national parks and federal recreation lands like national parks, national forests, wildlife refuges, and national monuments. Cha-ching!

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After a short walk on a paved walkway Rach and I both stopped and looked at each other in excitement. Imbedded in the rock face about 150 feet above us was a multiple story cliff dwelling. The coolest part of the clay home was the native Americans safety feature. They used ladders to get from level to level of the dwelling and at night they pulled the ladders up from the ground so no wildlife or person could get into the living quarters. It was really fun to imagine what day to day life was like for the Native Americans who lived there and how it must have been impossible to live there and be afraid of heights!

After walking around the premises and viewing the Castle from numerous angles we jumped back in the car and headed an hour east to Tonto Natural Bridge State Park. Unfortunately, this park closes at 5:00 p.m. and all of the hiking trails close at 4:00 p.m. We showed up at 3:45 p.m. and were only able to cram in one short waterfall trail before the gates were closed to all of the hiking paths.

Although we weren’t able to hike down under the bridge we were able to get some beautiful views from above. Tonto Natural Bridge is the largest natural travertine bridge in the world. A travertine bridge is formed from calcium carbonate that is deposited in rocks from natural springs. The bridge is about 180 feet high and 150 feet wide and offers a beautiful display of the power of water and how it helps shape the face of the earth. After snapping a few photos we slowly meandered back to the car and enjoyed the most scenic sunset on the drive back to Phoenix.

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