Hiking to the Cliff Dwellings of Arizona’s Tonto National Monument

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Hiking to the cliff dwellings in Tonto National Monument turned out to be an unexpected delight.

Last week I spent the better part of a day driving and exploring a few hours to the east of Phoenix, Arizona. Via Twitter a couple of days earlier, I had been told about Tortilla Flats and The Apache Trail – a not to be missed because it’s an oh-my-God-Grand-Canyon-kind-of-beautiful-drive.  My focus had been getting there and it wasn’t until I was about 45 minutes away from Tonto National Monument that I even noticed a highway sign.

And when I saw the sign, I figured why not; I have all day, and so off I went to check out the room with a view aka the cliff dwellings at Tonto National Monument.

"The lower cliff dwelling at Tonto National Monument"

The lower cliff dwelling at Tonto National Monument

"Note blackened ceilings from cooking fires"

Note blackened ceilings from cooking fires

"View of Theodore Roosevelt Lake from Tonto National Monument"

View of Theodore Roosevelt Lake from the Monument

"Some of the stone grinding tools found in the cliff dwelling

Some of the stone grinding tools found in the cliff dwelling

"The Gila conglomerate - a colourful section of the rock close to the cliff dwelling"

The Gila conglomerate – a colourful section of the rock close to the cliff dwelling

Tonto National Monument overlooks Theodore Roosevelt Lake. To get there from the parking lot you must ascend 350 feet over a half mile on paved trails. The trail up to the cliffs has lots of informative signs explaining the history of the Salado people, the types of plants you see along the way as well as information about the rock types and how they were formed.

"Hedgehog cactus - I learned that you can eat the juicy fruit once the spines are removed"

Hedgehog cactus – I learned that you can eat the juicy fruit once the spines are removed

It’s only $3 to get in – good value in my mind. I had the place to myself for the first 15 minutes as the monument doesn’t see a lot of visitors according to the park ranger. I also think the hike up puts some people off, especially in the 100F summertime heat.

If you’re looking for a day trip from Phoenix or Scottsdale I highly recommend combining a tour to Tonto National Monument with a drive on the Apache Trail. Just remember to bring lots of water and sunscreen.

Here is this week’s submission to Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox - a website where Nanci offers a chance every Thursday for fellow travelers to post their favourite photos.

Have you ever been hiking to any of the cliff dwellings found in the Lower 48? Have you ever heard of Tonto National Monument?

Leigh McAdam
HikeBikeTravel

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