Tonto National Monument
Well-preserved cliff dwellings were occupied by the Salado culture during the 13th, 14th, and early 15th centuries. The people farmed in the Salt River Valley and supplemented their diet by hunting and gathering native wildlife and plants. The Salado were fine craftsmen, producing some of the most exquisite polychrome pottery and intricately woven textiles to be found in the Southwest. Many of these objects are on display in the Visitor Center museum.
The monument is located in the Upper Sonoran ecosystem, known primarily for its characteristic saguaro cactus. Other common plants include: cholla, prickly pear, hedgehog, and barrel cactus (blooming April through June); yucca, sotol, and agave; creosote bush and ocotillo; palo verde and mesquite trees; an amazing variety of colorful wild flowers (February through March); and a lush riparian area which supports large Arizona black walnut, sycamore, and hackberry trees.
Seasonality / Weather
Winter temperatures at Tonto National Monument are usually pleasant with highs in the 60s (15° - 21°C). The winter rainy season is January/February. Snow, though rare, is not unheard of.
Summers at Tonto National Monument can be extreme, with highs in the 110s (+43° C). Be sure to wear sunscreen and a hat, and to carry (and drink) plenty of water.
Thunderstorms frequently occur during July, August, and early September. Lightning is a real hazard, since hikers are often the tallest object on the hillside.
Spring & Fall
Spring and fall can be the best times to visit. Temperatures are generally mild, and the weather is dry.
Driving time from Phoenix or Scottsdale: 2 hours; from Tucson: 3 hours; from Flagstaff: 3 to 3 ½ hours.
From Phoenix, take State Highway 60 (Superstition Freeway) east to Globe/Miami (75 miles); turn left (northwest) on State Highway 188 and drive 25 miles to Tonto National Monument.
An alternate, shorter route from Phoenix is State Highway 88, also known as the Apache Trail. The trail is 47 miles long, 22 of which is a gravel road. Allow at least 2 ½ hours to complete the drive. It is recommended that you take the Apache Trail if you are coming for the Upper Cliff Dwelling tour.
Many people make a loop drive from Phoenix to Tonto Basin via the Apache Trail and returning to the Valley via either US 60 or US 87.
From Scottsdale, take State Highway 87 (Beeline Highway) north to State Highway 188 (80 miles); turn right (southeast) on 188 and drive 39 miles to Tonto National Monument.
From Tucson, take State Highway 77 north to Globe (100 miles); at intersection of 77 and State Highway 60, follow 60 through Globe to State Highway 188; turn right (northwest) on 188 and drive 25 miles to Tonto National Monument.
From Flagstaff, take Forest Highway 3 (Lake Mary Road) to State Highway 87 (55 miles); turn right (south) on 87 and drive 72 miles to State Highway 188 (17 miles south of Payson); turn left on 188 (southeast) and drive 39 miles to Tonto National Monument.