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Salt River canyon drive vs Tonto Natural Bridge state park?

Not sure how to pick more narrow forum, but decided to pick Globe.

We'll be heading this Sun (May 5th) from Holbrook to Phoenix after spending Sat in Petrified Forest NP. We'll need to arrive to Phoenix in the evening and I can't decide on which route to take.

Last year I drove via Salt River canyon almost by accident - just picked the road marked as scenic on AAA maps, and was very impressed - unfortunately I didn't have any time to stop on my way last time, and I've decided to visit it again, and driving this route is one of the alternatives I have now.

On the other hand - I came accross a small state park Tonto Natural Bridge near Payson, which looks lovely on pictures, and I could head that direction, hike a bit in the state park and then continue to Mesa Verde and possibly catch 3 pm feeding tour in safari park (some friends mentioned it was really cool), but it means I won't be driving via that salt River canyon I liked so much last year.

Which route would you pick? We prefer outdoor and great scenery to more crowded places.

If we choose to drive via Salt River canyon (from Show Low to Globe) can we do some short hikes on our way? I noticed there was some impressive look out with some structure which looked almost like a castle (before descent to Salt River), and I can see there are some hiking trails in the canyon, but haven't researched further.

Is this time a year a good season to drive that rout and do some hikes alone the way?

Or do you think Tonto Natural Bridge state park and safari park should be more interesting? Is it right time to visit that park? Are there any waterfalls now?