Tonto National Monument Things to Do

  • The Lower Cliff Dwellings
    The Lower Cliff Dwellings
    by xoxoxenophile
  • View from the trail
    View from the trail
    by xoxoxenophile
  • The Lower Cliff Dwellings from the trail
    The Lower Cliff Dwellings from the trail
    by xoxoxenophile

Most Recent Things to Do in Tonto National Monument

  • xoxoxenophile's Profile Photo

    Hike up to the Lower Cliff Dwellings

    by xoxoxenophile Written Feb 19, 2013

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    The Lower Cliff Dwellings
    4 more images

    The hike is short but steep and could be tiring if you're not used to long walks or hikes, but you'll want to stop along the way anyways to soak up the beautiful views and take pictures. We were there on a perfect day and the hike wasn't too strenuous. At the top it's really interesting to see a Salado dwelling place and imagine what the rooms were for, and how people lived there. We also met a really nice forest ranger on the way up, and so it was interesting to hear her stories and to learn even more history of the place from her. I definitely recommend this if you're in the area--the drive from Mesa is absolutely beautiful as well!

    Related to:
    • Archeology
    • National/State Park
    • Hiking and Walking

    Was this review helpful?

  • Basaic's Profile Photo

    The Trail

    by Basaic Updated Sep 22, 2008

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Trail to the Dwellings
    1 more image

    The trail to the Lower Cliff Dwelling is relatively short (.57 miles) but you gain over 350 feet in elevation in that distance. The trail is steep and can be tiring. It is paved. Along the way you will have several nice spots to take pictures of the dwellings, the Tonto Basin and the surrounding mountains. There are a few benches along the way if you need to stop and rest. There are also some interpretive signs to tell you about the dwellings, the Salado People and their culture, and the area.

    There is also an Upper Cliff Dwelling which is only accessible on a guided tour. You can arrange for tours November through April only.

    Related to:
    • National/State Park
    • Historical Travel
    • Family Travel

    Was this review helpful?

  • Basaic's Profile Photo

    Interpretive Signs

    by Basaic Written Sep 22, 2008

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Lichen
    2 more images

    The interpretive signs are nice and educational. They mentioned: Lichen (photo 1) are the green, grey and orange splotches you see on rocks. They are a plant which burrows its roots into the rock breaking it into smaller pieces which become soils for growing the food; the Foothill Palo Verde Plant (photo 2) is so called because of the green color of the bark. During dry periods photosynthesis is carried on by the bark and the leaves fall off. The plant also produces seeds which were an important food source for animals and the Salado; the Saguaro Cactus (photo 3) was also very important to the Salado.

    Related to:
    • Eco-Tourism
    • Desert
    • National/State Park

    Was this review helpful?

  • Basaic's Profile Photo

    The View of the Tonto Basin

    by Basaic Written Sep 22, 2008

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    View of the Tonto Basin
    3 more images

    The view from the cliff dwellings is very different today than it was in the 1200s. Back then the valley was full of irrigation canals and farmland, dotted by occasional villages. Today the view is dominated by Roosevelt Lake and the small town of Roosevelt.

    Related to:
    • National/State Park
    • Eco-Tourism
    • Historical Travel

    Was this review helpful?

  • Basaic's Profile Photo

    Other Sites

    by Basaic Updated Sep 22, 2008

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Another Site

    There were pueblos and pithouse villages built all throughout the Tonto Basin. There is one on the ridge across from the Tonto National Monument (I could not spot it). Many of the villages were detroyed by the building of the Roosevelt Dam. The dam formed Roosevelt Lake and many of the villages are now under water.

    Related to:
    • Historical Travel
    • National/State Park
    • Road Trip

    Was this review helpful?

  • Basaic's Profile Photo

    Tour the Lower Cliff Dwelling

    by Basaic Updated Sep 22, 2008

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Room Showing Roof Cross Beams
    4 more images

    Unlike the Montezuma's Castle Cliff Dwelling, you can climb right up to the dwelling and actually walk through them. It is interesting to try and guess what the rooms were used for and try to picture the inhabitants.

    Related to:
    • Family Travel
    • National/State Park
    • Historical Travel

    Was this review helpful?

  • Basaic's Profile Photo

    Stop at the Visitor's Center

    by Basaic Written Sep 22, 2008

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Visitor's Center

    Your first stop at the Tonto National Monument will be the Visitor's Center where you will pay the entrance fee of $3 (if you did not pay at the entrance station). You can also get a nice brochure telling you about the park and the Lower Cliff Dwelling here. They recommend you use a walking stick on the trail and insist you carry water. They have water available if you have forgotten your own. There is also a small museum with exhibits about the Salado people and their culture, and a gift shop available on site. The park is open daily except Christmas Day from 8 AM to 5 PM.

    Related to:
    • Historical Travel
    • Family Travel
    • National/State Park

    Was this review helpful?

  • Basaic's Profile Photo

    See the Lower Cliff Dwellings

    by Basaic Written Sep 22, 2008

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Lower Cliff Dwellings
    4 more images

    People first established permanent settlements in the Tonto Basin between 100 and 600 AD. One of these settlements, now called Eagle Ridge, appears to be the first farming settlement established by these hunter gatherers. They left around 600. In 750, a group of settlers related to the Hohokam moved into the area and built villages with pithouses. Around the 1100s, environmental and economic problems caused them to leave the area. After this migration, other people moved into the area and farmed the fertile soil. Around 1250, the valley was well populated and some of the Salado (named after the Rio Salado or Salt River) began building homes on the higher ground to include in these naturally occuring caves.

    The Lower Cliff Dwellings consists of the remains of two story structures built by the Salado in the 1200s. The dwellings, about 20 rooms, were living quarters, cooking areas and communal rooms for an estimated 60 to 70 people. The structure was built using unshaped rocks of quartzite held in place with a mixture of clay and caliche soil. The structurs is relatively primitive compared to the architecture of Montezuma's Castle near Sedona; but it probably served the Salado's purpose just fine.

    Related to:
    • Historical Travel
    • Arts and Culture
    • National/State Park

    Was this review helpful?

  • Stephen-KarenConn's Profile Photo

    Saldado Architecture

    by Stephen-KarenConn Updated Jan 5, 2006

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    4 more images

    Salado masonry was crude by 14th century pueblo standards. Walls were built of unshaped quartzite stones held in place by a mortar of clay and calcite soil. Unlike the finely crafted manonry of the Anasazi to the north, the Salado showed no special attempt at fine rock work. Instead plastering the walls with a thick layer of mud.

    Once the walls reached a height of six feet, a large main roof beam was placed across the room lengthwise, with smaller cross-beams of pinyon pine or jupiter placed on top. Saguarro ribs, river reeds, or grasses formed the next layer. A layer of mud, deep enough to allow a hollow firepit in the upstairs floor, capped the roof. Arizona's dry climate and the protection afforded by the cave have preserved some sections of these roofs for almost 700 years.

    A parapet, 1 to 3 feet high, usually enclosed the roof, providing a safe place in the open air to work or play. The residents spent most of their time on the roofs or outdoors. Houses served mainly for sleeping, storage, cooking and winter shelter.

    (Information taken from exhibit on site)

    Related to:
    • National/State Park
    • Archeology
    • Historical Travel

    Was this review helpful?

  • Stephen-KarenConn's Profile Photo

    Lower Cliff Dwellings

    by Stephen-KarenConn Updated Jan 3, 2006

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    The Lower Dwellings
    3 more images

    The most accessible of the Cliff Dwelllings at Tonto, and the main attraction of the National Monument, is the Lower Cliff Dwellings. They may be reached by a one mile (round trip) hike from the Visitor Center. The walkway ascends 350 feet, but it is paved and well graded. Allow one hour for the trip. The trail closes at 4 p.m.

    These dwellings, in shallow caves overlooking the Tonto Basin, were built and occupied by the Salado (people of the Salt River) beginning in around 1300 A.D. The dwellings were abandoned, for unknown reasons, sometime between 1400 and 1450. The Salado left no written records. While archeology has revealed a few aspects of their culture, much remains a mystery.

    Related to:
    • Historical Travel
    • National/State Park
    • Archeology

    Was this review helpful?

  • Stephen-KarenConn's Profile Photo

    Visitor Center

    by Stephen-KarenConn Updated Jan 3, 2006

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Tonto National Monument Visitor Center

    The Visitor Center is the obvious place to begin your tour of Tonto National Monument. Here you will see exhibits on the culture and crafts of the Salado people and an audiovisual program. There are also restrooms and a small gift shop. The Visitor Center is wheelchair accessible, and there is ample free parking.

    Hours: Open Daily 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. except Christmas

    Entrance Fee: $3.00 for 7 days

    Was this review helpful?

  • Stephen-KarenConn's Profile Photo

    Upper Cliff Dwellings

    by Stephen-KarenConn Updated Jan 2, 2006

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    The Upper Cliff Dwelling

    As we approached Tonto National Monument one of the first sights we saw was the Upper Cliff Dwelling, although it would be easy to miss. From a roadside rest area just south of the Monument entrance we were able to pull the Upper Cliff Dwelling in with our telephoto lens for this shot. This dwelling can only be visited on guided tours, which are offered by reservation from November through March. Although we visited the monument in late December, we did not have a reservation and no tours were being offered on that day.

    Related to:
    • Historical Travel
    • National/State Park
    • Archeology

    Was this review helpful?

  • mtncorg's Profile Photo

    LAKE ROOSEVELT

    by mtncorg Written Nov 22, 2003

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    View of Lake Roosevelt from the Lower Ruins

    Hohokam and, later, Salado peoples lived in the Tonto basin along the Salt River farming irrigated fields of corn, beans and cotton. Irrigation canals - something the Hohokam were especially known for, see the nearby Casa Grande Ruins Nat Mon for more evidence on that score - were still visible until the Roosevelt Dam was constructed - started in 1906. Today, the lake covers the old farmlands serving water for irrigation, recreation and power.

    Related to:
    • National/State Park
    • Archeology
    • Water Sports

    Was this review helpful?

  • mtncorg's Profile Photo

    THE LOWER RUIN

    by mtncorg Written Nov 22, 2003

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    the Lower Ruin at Tonto

    This pueblo is made up of 16 ground floor room - 3 having second stories. Next to this was a 12 room annex. Experts think people up here wove and made pots to trade for food grown below in the valley. People lived in this rooms for over 100 years but left by 1450.

    Related to:
    • Archeology
    • Desert
    • National/State Park

    Was this review helpful?

  • mtncorg's Profile Photo

    TRAIL TO THE LOWER RUINS

    by mtncorg Written Nov 22, 2003

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Saguaros and other cactuses along the trail

    350 feet/106 meters up and a half mile will take you from the visitor center up to the Lower ruins set inside a large shallow cave. The trail passes through a perfusion of cactuses and serves as a primer for the botany of the Sonoran desert. Come early in Spring and witness the beauty that can take place in the desert. Giant saguaro, barrel cactus, chainfruit cholla are but a few of the plants that you walk past.

    Related to:
    • Desert
    • National/State Park
    • Archeology

    Was this review helpful?

Instant Answers: Tonto National Monument

Get an instant answer from local experts and frequent travelers

74 travelers online now

Comments

Tonto National Monument Things to Do

Reviews and photos of Tonto National Monument things to do posted by real travelers and locals. The best tips for Tonto National Monument sightseeing.

View all Tonto National Monument hotels