Tonto National Monument Travel Guide

  • Rock formations near the Roosevelt Dam
    Rock formations near the Roosevelt Dam
    by xoxoxenophile
  • The Roosevelt Dam
    The Roosevelt Dam
    by xoxoxenophile
  • The Lower Cliff Dwellings
    The Lower Cliff Dwellings
    by xoxoxenophile

Tonto National Monument Things to Do

  • Hike up to the Lower Cliff Dwellings

    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...

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  • The Trail

    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...

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  • Have a Picnic

    Between the entrance and the visitor center is a small area with several picnic tables if you want to eat lunch here. Please pack out your trash or put it in the trash containers.

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  • Interpretive Signs

    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...

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  • The View of the Tonto Basin

    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.

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  • Other Sites

    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.

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  • Tour the Lower Cliff Dwelling

    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.

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  • Stop at the 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...

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  • See the Lower Cliff Dwellings

    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....

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  • Saldado Architecture

    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...

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  • Lower Cliff Dwellings

    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...

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  • 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....

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  • Upper Cliff Dwellings

    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...

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  • LAKE ROOSEVELT

    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...

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  • THE LOWER RUIN

    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.

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Tonto National Monument Local Customs

  • Stephen-KarenConn's Profile Photo

    by Stephen-KarenConn Updated Apr 4, 2011

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    The mano (Spanish for hand) and metate (the larger stone surface) were stone grinding tools used by the Salado people. Primitive hand powered mills, such as this one on the floor of the Lower Cliff Dwelling, were commonplace in Southwestern agricultural societies. They were used to crush corn, beans, seeds and nuts, turning them into meal before cooking.

    Mano and Metate

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Tonto National Monument Warnings and Dangers

  • Help Preserve the Past

    Please help preserve the past, and stay safe, by staying on the trails, not leaning on or sitting on the walls, and obeying all warning signs.

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  • CENTIPEDE

    This is one of the little desert creatures to watch out for and leave alone. Rattlesnakes like the Park, too. Summer temperatures are well over 100F - come in March-April for the wildflower show. The Park is close enough to Phoenix to make weekends busier, too.

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Tonto National Monument Off The Beaten Path

  • Roosevelt Dam & Bridge

    For those of you visiting Tonto National Monument, the Roosevelt Dam and Inspiration point are only a ten-minute drive away. If you enjoy viewing feats of engineering, the history of the Theodore Roosevelt era, or you just want to see the beautiful area from a different perspective, why not give it a try? At the time it was built it was the world's...

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  • Few Facilities at Tonto National...

    There are few services at Tonto National Monument. A picnic area is near the visitor center, but no food can be purchased in the park. The tiny village of Roosevelt is 8 miles away. There is one restaurant there, but on the day of our visit it was closed, without explanation. The next closest facilities are at Globe, about 35 miles to the...

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Tonto National Monument Sports & Outdoors

  • Stephen-KarenConn's Profile Photo

    by Stephen-KarenConn Updated Jan 5, 2006

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Tonto National Mounment is not the best place to go for serious hiking. However, there are three short trails which offer absolutely awesome scenery. The trail leading to the upper ruins, 3 miles round trip, can only be taken in the cooler months with a guided tour. The trail to the lower ruins, 1 mile round trip, climbs 350 feet, but it is graded and paved making it a relatively easy walk. Views of the Tonto Basin and the Salt River Valley with Theodore Roosevelt Lake make this hike very rewarding even it there were no Indian ruins.

    A shorter path, at lower elevations near the Visitor Center, is the "Cactus Trail." This is a place to take your time and study the living exhibits along the way. We found the cacti and other dessert plants extremely interesting, and I have profiled several of them in our general tips.

    Stephen Ascending the Lower Ruins Trail Karen Starting up the Trail Karen on the Trail Another View of the Lower Ruins Trail
    Related to:
    • National/State Park
    • Desert
    • Hiking and Walking

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Tonto National Monument Favorites

  • Honey Mesquite

    Honey Mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa)Mesquite trees are rich with interdependent life, a protected place with shade, moisture and nutrients. The trees line dry washes, exist as individual trees or grow together to form small forests. The trees and the area around them are alive with many plants and animals. The tree canopy provides shelter for...

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  • Catclaw Acacia

    Catclaw Acacia (Acacia greggii)Living at elevations from sea level to 5000 feet, catclaw acacia trees often form thorny thickets along washes and streams. Deciduous, this large shrub or small tree can reach heights of 20 feet and ages to 130 years old. The scaly gray to brown trunks may be as thick as one foot in diameter. The branch and trunk...

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  • ain-Fruit Cholla

    Chain-Fruit Cholla (Opuntia fulgida)Pronounced "choya," this tree-type cholla is also known as the jumping cactus. Ranging from south central Arizona into most of Sonora, Mexico, these cacti prefer the finer soils of the valleys and lower bajadas. With their many trunks and branches, these cacti can reach heights of eight feet or more. In good...

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TRAIL TO THE LOWER RUINS
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Tonto National Monument
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