PINE-STRAWBERRY, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -- Looking to escape the excessive heat in Phoenix? Drive north past Payson 20 minutes and you'll find the quaint towns of Pine and Strawberry. The area was originally settled during the Gold Rush and now it's turned into an underrated Arizona escape, no matter what time of year!
Here's 10 things to do while you're visiting the area:
1) Tonto Natural Bridge
One the way up from Phoenix, you'll definitely wan to check out the Tonto Natural Bridge. It's believed to be the largest natural travertine bridge in the world. Wear your hiking shoes, there is some short but steep uneven terrain to get to the bridge and dogs are not allowed on the trails. The park is open 7 days a week from 9am-5pm, with last entry at 4pm.
2) That Brewery
The first landmark you'll hit in Pine is That Brewery. Here you can enjoy the large outdoor patio and grab a meal or a few drinks. The owners are very active in the community so if they're there, be sure to say hi. [Oh, and they have gluten free bread for their bruschetta and sandwiches!]
3) Explore on electric bikes
The Rusty Pine Cone in Pine is an eclectic mix of shops and souvenirs and now they've added electric bikes to their repertoire. There are two types of bikes, one for paved roads and one for off road trails. Bikes rent for $20 per hour and come with a helmet and vest.
4) The Honey Stand
This adorable roadside market with local honey and products is worth a quick visit. The father-son business occupies one of the oldest buildings in Pine and they offer more than 60 varieties of pure fruit jams, jellies, butters and salsas.
5) Pine Creek Lavender Farm
Right in the heart of Pine you'll find a full blown lavender farm on the site of a historic homestead. The new owners planted 5,000 lavender plants after realizing it's one crop that elk won't eat! Now you can buy (and smell!) edible and oil-friendly lavender along with other products. They're open from 10 to 4pm Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
6) Stay in Strawberry
Right up the road from Pine, you'll find the even smaller town of Strawberry. The newly renovated Strawberry Inn is a popular place to stay. With only 8 rooms, they tend to book out a few weeks ahead of time. Another option is the Cabins on Strawberry Hill. These A-frame one and two bedroom cabins are great for families or big groups.
7) Pine Creek Fudge
After closing for a few months, Pine Creek Fudge has a new owner and is officially back open again. It's a cute place to stop for coffee, ice cream or something sweet.
8) The Randall House
Historic home turned charming coffee house and restaurant, The Randall House offers breakfast, teas and homemade desserts. It's a fun property to explore with different vintage rooms just like Grandma's house. They're open Wednesday through Sunday.
9) Antique Shopping
The town of Pine may only have about 2,300 people, but it has more than 10 antique and vintage shops that offer a wide variety of items for sale. Check out the full list at Explore Pine.
10) Get Outdoors!
Pine-Strawberry is located near the "backbone of Arizona" or the Mogollon Rim. You can find trails, campsites, lakes and more in the area. The Pine Trailhead is accessible from the heart of Pine. Woods Canyon Lake is an hour drive east. Visit the Forest Service's site for more info about the surrounding area.
For more information about travel and gluten free dining, visit GlutenFreeTravelGirl.com.