Arizona March 16, 2018
This Hike Takes You To A Place Arizona’s First Residents Left Behind
If you’ve spent any amount of time in the Southwest, you’ll know this land is rife with history. It can be found everywhere and in places where you least expect it, if you take the time to look. Sometimes, you can explore historic areas—both ancient and fairly recent—through hiking. We’re going to take a look at one ancient cliff dwelling constructed by a group of people who were among the first to call the land now known as Arizona home.
One spectacular place to visit is Tonto National Monument, home to two beautiful cliff dwellings constructed by the Salado people. The dwellings are believed to be approximately 700 years old.
The Upper Cliff Dwelling, which we’ll be checking out today, has 40 rooms and you’ll get to see the dwelling up close. It is accessible only through a guided hike offered by the National Park Service. Because of this, you will need to make reservations to take part in a three-hour tour.
Tonto National Monument is located about three hours east of Phoenix, or about 30 minutes northwest of Globe. It’s quite a drive, so be sure to leave home early and bring a snack!
The tour begins at the Visitor Center, where you’ll meet your guide (a park ranger) at 9:45 a.m. for the 10 a.m. tour.
The park service requires you to bring your own water and recommends bringing a snack as well. If you’re unsure how much water to bring, our general rule is approximately 8-10 ounces per mile for a morning hike like this. Another pro tip is to hydrate well the day before!
The trail is about 3.1 miles (round trip) with some elevation gain and will take you through some beautiful desert terrain. You’ll follow a little spring, walk along foothills, and even spot some wildlife while you’re out here.
We’d also like to mention that springtime is the perfect time head out here as well, especially when the wildflowers are blooming!
The end of the trail will bring you to the entrance of the dwellings.
The delicate building sits under a dry cave, overlooking the area. This will give you an idea as to why the Salado people chose this area for their home.
The cliff dwelling was constructed around 1300 CE, then abandoned about 150 years later for unknown reasons.
The Salado people (a name given by archaeologists) were believed to be a group that combined Ancestral Puebloan and Hohokam cultures, as their pottery and other artifacts left behind have distinctive differences from other ancient cultures.
During the tour, you’ll get to see the dwelling up close for yourself. Take note of the details in construction, like the still-standing wooden beams, the doorways, ledges, and other features.
Once you've had a chance to look around and the guide has provided detailed information about the site, you'll be headed back to Visitor Center on the same trail.
Tonto National Monument is located almost three hours east of Phoenix, via US 60 and Apache Trail. You can find the location on this
Google Maps link and details about reserving a space on the hiking tour by visiting the National Park Service website.
Looking for more trails that will take you to see more Arizona history for yourself? Check out
These 9 Arizona Hiking Trails Lead To Some Incredible Pieces Of History.