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Tonto National Monument, Arizona
Fast Facts
Historic Interest
Ancient Ruins

Tonto National Monument


Photo by National Park Service

The cliff dwellings found at Tonto National Monument offer kids a chance to learn more about the Salado Culture. Located in the upper sonoran ecosystem, known primarily for its characteristic saguaro cactus, this Arizona archaeology site is perched more than 1000 feet (300 meters) above the Tonto Basin and is reminiscent of the Ancestral Puebloan ruins found in Gila, Mesa Verde, Betatakin and Keet Seel. Explore the upper and lower cliff dwellings. Participate in an interpretive program and become a junior ranger. And should the kids need a break from from history and culture spot wildlife - whitetail deer, mule deer, mountain lion, bobcat, coyote and jackrabbit are native to the Tonto Basin - and birds or check out cactus in bloom.
Getting There
Tonto National Monument is located 115 miles (185 kilometers) east of Phoenix and 5 miles (8 kilometers) east of the Roosevelt Dam. From Globe, take Hwy. 88 west. From Phoenix, take Hwy 60 (Superstition Freeway) east to Globe/Miami; turn left on Hwy 188. Alternatively take Hwy 87 (Beeline Highway) north; turn right on Hwy 188. Motorists in need of an adventure should consider taking Hwy 88 (Apache Trail) between Tonto and Apache Junction. Great views of the Apache Canyon are to be had on this narrow, largely unpaved route. The driving time from Phoenix is 2.5 to 3 hours.
Getting Around
The visitor center has a small museum and an 18-minute video program is shown on request. The trail to the Lower Cliff Dwelling is self-guided and is 1-mile roundtrip. The trail ascends 350 vertical feet making this roughly 1-hour hike moderately strenuous. Guided tours of the Upper Cliff Dwelling, offered daily from November through April, cover 3-miles roundtrip and take 3-4 hours. The trail ascends 600 vertical feet and is graded strenuous. The paved, self-guided Cactus Patch Trail, accessed from the Lower Cliff Dwelling Trail, is 1/4-mile and is all about Sonoran Desert plants. Allow about 20 minutes to complete this trail. Hiking is permitted on marked trails only.
When to Travel
The best time to visit is from October through December or in March and April. Summers can be extremely hot with daytime highs in excess of 100°F (38°C). Expect rain in July, August, January and February. Wildlife viewing is best in the cooler months (November-March).
Health & Safety
Carry plenty of water (4 liters per person per day), wear hats and sunscreen, and bear in mind that desert hazards go beyond the heat and sun. Snakes, spiders, scorpions may be small but they merit the right of way. Cacti and other desert plants are prickly so it is best to avoid touching them. Carry water instead of sugared drinks and avoid wasps and bees.
Hours & Seasons
Tonto National Monument is open daily 8:00-17:00 year around except for December 25. The self-guided Lower Cliff Dwelling Trail closes to uphill travel at 16:00. The Upper Cliff Dwelling Trail is open from November to April only. Access is limited to ranger-guided tours. Reservations are required. Interpretive programs are scheduled from time to time.
Admission & Fees
The entrance fee is per person per day. Families visiting several U.S. National Parks and Monuments each year may want to consider purchasing an annual pass.
Contact Details
Telephone +1 928 467 224. Email TONT_Interpretation@nps.gov.
Things to Keep in Mind
Appropriate footwear is recommended on all hiking trails. Leashed pets are permitted on the Lower Cliff Dwelling Trail. Allow one half-day to view the orientation program and exhibits, hike the Lower Cliff Dwelling trail and participate in the Upper Dwelling tour.
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