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Tonto National Monument Cliff Dwellings

  • 03 Mar 2019
  • 9:30 AM - 3:00 PM
  • Tonto National Forest
  • 5


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This is a MEMBERS ONLY carpool trip limited to 15. A WaitList is available if this excursion fills up.

Hundreds of once-thriving communities lived in the Tonto Basin area of the Upper Sonoran Desert. Two are at this site, each tailored to fit the alcove they called home—the Lower Dwelling with 14 rooms and the Upper Dwelling with 40 rooms. Both existed at the same time, from about 1300 to 1450 CE.

These well-preserved cliff dwellings hosted Hohokam, Mogollon and Ancestral Puebloan styles in a mixed-cultural phenomenon known as the Salado Culture. These were farming people, with irrigation canals visible until the flooding of Roosevelt Lake. They left a legacy of beautiful artifacts. The site was designated a national monument in 1907 by President Theodore Roosevelt, and expanded by Franklin Roosevelt to include nearly 70 archaeological sites on a 1120 acre preserve.

The Tonto National Monument Visitor Center and Museum offer an introduction to and film about the Salado Culture. You can visit this before or after the hike to the cliff dwellings. We have reserved time with the Ranger for a visit the Upper Cliff dwelling, accessible only with a ranger guide.

The Upper Cliff Dwelling's many rooms showcase partially intact roofs, an ancient spring, and unique architectural features. The tour takes about 4 hours, and is a 3-mile round trip with a steeply graded 600 foot elevation gain. The trail is not handicap-accessible.

Meet no later than 9:30 at the Tonto National Monument Visitor Center. The Ranger will begin the hike to the cliff dwellings PROMPTLY at 10:00 am.

Directions: From Payson, go about 20 miles south on the Beeline Highway/Highway 87 to State Route 188. Turn onto Route 188, and continue past the Roosevelt Dam Bridge, 39 miles to the monument on the right. It’s about 52 miles from Payson. Bring lunch, water/fluids, good shoes, hats, sunscreen, walking sticks. Total estimated driving time from Camp Verde to the Monument is two hours.

NOTE: There is an admission fee for the Tonto National Monument that is NOT included in the excursion fee since many have Senior or National Park passes. Without a pass the fee is $10 per person, but four can enter for FREE with a person with a National Park Pass.

There is a picnic area at the Monument. Bring lunch, water/fluids, good shoes, hats, sunscreen, walking sticks.