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The Best State Parks to Visit in Arizona

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Tonto Natural Bridge State Park

Tonto Natural Bridge State Park is tucked away in a tiny valley surrounded by a forest of pine trees. The natural Travertine Bridge has been thousands of years in the making. It is 183 feet-high with a 400-foot long tunnel and is believed to be the largest in the world. Prospector, David Gowen, first discovered it in 1877, and first used the area as a hideout from Apaches. Later, after exploring the green valley surrounding the bridge, Gowen claimed squatter's rights. Today, visitors can stand on top of the bridge or hike down below to capture the true size and beauty of this geologic wonder. In addition, there is a swimming/wading are north of the bridge, in Pine Creek. Visitors can also enjoy park facilities, including trails, picnic areas, a historic lodge, and a gift shop. Tonto Natural Bridge State Park is located in Payson, Arizona. Additional scenic attractions in the area include the Mogollon Rim in Tonto National Forest, seven Rim lakes, Shoo-Fly Indian Ruin, and numerous trout streams.

Red Rock State Park

Located in Sedona, Red Rock State Park is one of the most recognizably beautiful spots in the state. Centuries ago, the area was home to Sinagua and Yavapai Indians. It was revered as a place of abundant riches. Today, Arizona State Parks, continues the reverence with gentle use guidelines and through its protection.

The views alone are enough to keep you busy, but the 286-acre park also includes winding trails through Manzanita and Juniper to the rich banks of Oak Creek. Green meadows framed by native vegetation and the hills of red rock also provide the ideal location for nature study, hiking, picnicking, and bird watching. In addition, Red Rock State Park offers special educational programs on the resident wildlife and the habitat. Park facilities include a Visitor Center, a classroom, theater, developed trails, picnic tables, and group-use area. Other scenic attractions in the Sedona area include, Slide Rock State Park, Oak Creek Canyon, Coconino National Forest, and Cathedral Rock.

Kartchner Caverns State Park

One of the newest parks in the Arizona state park system, 550-acre Kartchner Caverns State Park features a stunning limestone cave in southeastern Arizona. The cave at Kartchner Caverns SP features many world-class formations that have been carefully protected since its discovery in 1974. These features include a 58-foot tall column, the largest in Arizona, and a 21-foot soda straw formation that is the second longest in the world. Most of the most spectacular formations are contained within two football field-size rooms that are both part of the tour. The cave is a "living" wet cave that is a stark contrast to the aboveground terrain.

Arizona State Parks is committed to providing visitors with an exciting experience, as well as protecting the environmental integrity of the cave. To enhance your experience, Kartchner Caverns State Park also features a 23,000 square-foot Discovery Center that houses world-class exhibits, cave replica, and interactive displays. In addition, the Discovery Center contains a gift shop and an auditorium that features a video about the cave's history. There are shaded picnic areas and more than two-miles of hiking trails, with access to the Coronado National Forest.

Additional scenic attractions in Southeastern Arizona include Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park, Chiricahua National Monument, Ramsey Canyon Preserve, and the Coronado National Forest. To make tour reservations at Kartchner Caverns State Park, call (520) 586-2283. For more information about Arizona State Parks visit their web site or call the main office at 602-542-4174.

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