Tonto National Monument - The Wild West

The Salado Phenomena, 700 years ago, blended ideas of neighboring Native American cultures to emerge a unique and vibrant society. Tonto National Monument showcases two Salado-style cliff dwellings. Colorful pottery, woven cotton cloth, and other artifacts tell a story of people living and using resources from the northern Sonoran Desert from 1250 to 1450 CE.

The southeast-facing settlements were built quite high up a steep hillside within well-protected natural caves overlooking the Tonto Basin, which is now flooded forming Theodore Roosevelt Lake, though originally the Salt River flowed through the basin which was therefore well irrigated and fertile. As with many other ancient peoples of the Southwest, the Salado appear to have abandoned their villages suddenly, early in the fifteenth century, for reasons which are not known.


The Tonto National Monument now protects these ancient dwellings and the artifacts found there. The monument can be found just minutes from Tonto Basin where visitors can experience a deeply rooted Native culture in its natural setting.


You will find Salado architecture, potteries, and a number of other artifacts that showcase the breathtaking craftsmanship of the Salado people. These artifacts are perfect examples of the culture of their time and the way they expressed that through these artifacts. This type of connection can lead to views on the life and history of the ancient people of Gila County.


For over the course of nearly 10,000 years the area of Roosevelt, Tonto Basin, and the Tonto National Monument provided and continues to be home to a diverse group of individuals. Ancient people were known to travel through this land. Currently, the land is still called home by many American Indian tribes including, White Mountain & Tonto Apaches, and many more.


Driving Directions


The cliff dwellings at Tonto National Monument are roughly two hours from the Phoenix metro area, located in the Tonto Basin. The monument is off AZ Highway 188 near Roosevelt Lake. The nearest major towns are Globe (30 miles) and Payson (50 miles). See our Directions page for recommendations on the best way to drive here from the larger metro areas of Arizona. Click Here


Hours of Operation


Hours of Operation:

Located off Hwy 87, just 10 miles north of Payson, Payson, AZ 85547 The hours for the National Monument are 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. everyday except December 25 when the Monument is closed. Please arrive before 4:00 p.m. to hike to the Lower Cliff Dwelling. During the months of June, July, and August, the Lower Cliff Dwelling Trail begins reduced summer hours from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., please begin the hike before 12 p.m. (noon).

Standard Hours

  • Sunday 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM

  • Monday 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM

  • Tuesday 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM

  • Wednesday 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM

  • Thursday 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM

  • Friday 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM

  • Saturday 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM

Visitor Center - Visitor Center The Visitor Center and Museum is open 8 am to 5 pm and closed on Christmas Day.

  • Standard Hours

  • Sunday 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM

  • Monday 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM

  • Tuesday 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM

  • Wednesday 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM

Weather Considerations


Weather during the summer can be extremely hot. It is typically 10 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than Phoenix. Winter weather may create hazardous conditions on the roads to Tonto National Monument. Severe thunderstorms may lead to a closure of the hiking trails.


Entrance Fees


Per Person Entrance Fee - $5.00

The entrance fee applies to everyone 16 and older. Children under 16 are free. Tonto National Monument accepts all interagency federal public lands passes in places of the entrance fee. These include the Annual, Senior, Access, Military, and Fourth Grader passes.


Cliff Dwellings


Lower Cliff Dwelling

The Lower Cliff Dwelling trail is open daily (closed December 25) from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. You must start your hike before 4:00 pm. During the months of June, July and August, start your hike before 12 pm (noon). The trail is 1 mile (1.6 km) roundtrip and takes about one hour to complete. 3D Modeling (Very Large File - Best viewed on Desktop with highspeed internet) Click Here


Upper Cliff Dwelling The Upper Cliff Dwelling is open by guided tours only. The trail is 3 miles (4.8 km) roundtrip and takes about 3 to 4 hours. For more information, visit the Guided Tours page.


3D Modeling (Very Large File - Best viewed on Desktop with highspeed internet) Click Here


For more adventure choices in Gila County visit https://www.discovergilacounty.com/adventure


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