Tonto National Forest
Ways to visit Tonto National Forest
Most day trips to Tonto National Forest set out from Phoenix and typically include one or more outdoor activities. Explore the wild landscapes of the Sonoran Desert on an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) or buggy tour; tackle the rapids of the Salt River on a white-water rafting excursion; or venture off road and discover the Superstition Mountains by 4WD. There are also many hiking trails, most notably around the Four Peaks Wilderness Area and the Apache Trail, and camping, fishing, and water sports are popular activities at the Canyon, Apache, and Theodore Roosevelt lakes.
Additional highlights include the Tonto National Monument, known for its ancient Salado cliff dwellings; Goldfield Ghost Town, a living museum centered on a former gold mining town; and the Tonto Natural Bridge, one of the largest of its kind in the world.
Things to know before you go to Tonto National Forest
- Tonto National Forest is a must-do for wildlife enthusiasts and outdoors enthusiasts, with hikes and activities to suit all ages and ability levels.
- There are numerous campsites and picnic areas within the Tonto National Forest, but there are few places to purchase food, water, and other necessities, so remember to bring everything you need for the day.
- A visitor pass is required to enter the park; additional permits are required for camping and certain activities such as boating and rafting.
How to get to Tonto National Forest
The Tonto National Forest borders Phoenix to the west, the Mogollon Rim to the north, and the San Carlos and Fort Apache Indian reservations to the east. The easiest access point is from Phoenix and the forest lies less than an hour’s drive from downtown along Route 87. You will need your own transport or to join a tour in order to explore the park.
When to visit Tonto National Forest
Outdoor activities can be enjoyed in the Tonto National Forest all year-round. The milder winter temperatures are ideal for hiking and exploring the Sonoran Desert. In summer, when temperatures can reach 100˚F (38˚C), most travelers head to the lakes or north to the shaded forest trails along the Mogollon Rim.
Wildlife Watching in the Tonto National Forest
The diverse ecosystems of the Tonto National Forest play host to a huge variety of wildlife, including a number of endangered species. Mountain lions, bobcats, elk, and white-tailed deer are all common sightings, and you might even spot a black bear. Over 160 bird species have been documented in the park, including bald eagle, goshawk, and Mexican spotted owl, while herds of wild horses roam freely along the banks of the Salt River.
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