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Tonto National Monument

Tonto National Monument

The National Park Service calls it “Quintessential Arizona.” It is only accessible from November-April, and one needs to make a tour reservation to hike it. In an effort to reduce impact on this sensitive backcountry site, hikers are only permitted on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays. There is one tour a day, and it leaves at 10:00 a.m. No pets are allowed.

Have you guessed this hiking destination yet? It’s the Tonto National Monument’s Upper Cliff Dwelling Trail, and it’s about a two-hour drive northeast of Sun Lakes to just outside Roosevelt, Arizona. Put it on your list for the upcoming hiking season and you won’t be disappointed.

The trail is about three miles long, and the tour takes three to four hours. The tour guide will stop many times to point out highlights regarding the ecosystem and to further offer explanations regarding the origin and abandonment of the cliff dwellings. You will be able to explore the cliff dwelling ruins by actually walking into them, and you will hear about the civilization that called these cliff dwellings home. The accuracy of the geographic and mathematical placement of the cliff dwellings will astound you.

You will want to take the appropriate amount of water with you. A rule of thumb is to take one pint of water for every hour you will be hiking, and more if it’s a hot and/or humid day.

Since this trail has an accumulation gain of 600 feet, you may also want to use hiking poles to ease the climb up and, later, down.

There is also a second trail, the Lower Cliff Dwelling Trail, and it is open to hikers whenever the Tonto National Monument is open, with summer as an exception. The Monument is open from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. every day except December 25. The National Park Service asks that you begin your hike on this trail before 4:00 p.m. In the summer months of June, July and August, however, the Lower Cliff Dwelling Trail is only open to hikers from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., and hikers are asked to begin their hike by noon.

Remember to take your National Parks pass. You know, the one that’s the best deal on the planet. If you’re over 62 and a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, the pass is still only $10 and it gives you and those in your car free admission to all the National Parks, National Monuments, National Historical Sites and Parks, National Historic Trails and National Recreation Areas in the U.S. for the rest of your life. In Arizona alone, there are 28 of these gems.

As for the Sun Lakes Hiking Club, hiking continues unofficially on Monday mornings during the summer months. If you are interested in summer hiking, please contact Stu Frost at 602-332-5676 or email him at [email protected]

The hiking season for the Sun Lakes Hiking Club is November through April. The official scheduled hikes are described on the club website,