Camping at Houston Mesa Campground/Day at Tonto Natural Bridge

Our last camping trip was at the beautiful Houston Mesa Campground just north of Payson, AZ.



My idea of a great camping trip is one that is:

about two hours from Phoenix–look what was nearby when I tried to check in (yes, I even had cellular/internet access) that was kind of bad because then I looked at my phone.


  • secluded campsite for the boys to play freely in the woods
  • flush toilets/running water (not a dealbreaker for the boys, but I sure love it!)
  • easy access to a premier Arizona natural paradise

We traveled the weekend of March 30, on the cusp of the season. I think the timing had everything to do with why we had a great time.I bet this area is busy in warmer months. We selected campsite number 13, paid $20.00 for one night and the boys played, built forts and read.


At night it was very cold, but we expected that and packed appropriately. I could see the Big Dipper perfectly through the window in our tent. So beautiful. Payson has a dark sky ordinance. As a busy mom, I find it magical to sleep under a black night sky with sharp white stars.



Houston Mesas is a ten minute drive from Tonto Natural Bridge


After a good breakfast outside in the fresh air we packed up and drove to Tonto Natural Bridge. I barely had time to charge my phone.


This was our second visit to this spectacular park. We hiked down to the moss waterfall (super short/easy hike for kids, it’s a set of stairs (so no strollers) but an easy walk if you don’t mind stairs. 


takes less than ten minutes and at the bottom is a nifty moss covered wall with water running down it.


Even in the summer, we visited in August and the same path had the same steady trickle of water.


I was intimidated to walk the 1/2 mile to the walkway leading to the base of the natural bridge.


I was afraid I was not in shape enough to do it. I am glad I tried, it was just fine.



Not only did I hike down with the boys, but I scrambled all over the rocks and explored the area below the bridge.


I can’t speak to your fitness level but I read all the time and only move if you poke me with a stick, so I’m a little out of shape.

It was outrageously beautiful. 


travertine bridge, cool and beautiful

And Fun! By lucky coincidence, Brady and Max are all about climbing right now. When they saw the giant rocks, they were elated.


climbing like a goat

We will come back many times! I know this cool and beautiful spot must be very busy in the summer but the weekend of March 30, the weather was warm and the park was uncrowded. Have you been? What was it like for you?


If you camp at Houston Mesa, maybe our spiral will still be there at number 13. or maybe you will make your own.

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