“A paved trail that leads from the visitor center to the Lower Cliff Dwellings and great views.”
— David Hitchcock
Birding · Views
Tonto National Monument is open from 8am - 5pm daily year round except for Christmas Day. If you are starting late in the day, your hike needs to start before 4 p.m. to allow time to make it to the dwelling and return before the monument closes.
The Lower Cliff Dwelling Trail is a paved path that leads from the visitor center at Tonto National Monument to the Lower Cliff Dwelling where you can give yourself a self-guided tour of the ruins. The trail leaves from the top level of the visitor center. For those who have trouble with stairs or pets, use the Cactus Patch Trail
to access the Lower Cliff Dwelling Trail. As the trail leaves the visitor center, it begins climbing immediately.
Made out of concrete, the trail is free of obstacles. The trail climbs continuously until it gets to the Lower Cliff Dwelling, so take your time and utilize the benches and rest areas along the way. As the trail climbs up the hillside, Saguaro cacti grow along the trail. Not long after starting, the Cactus Patch Trail
comes in from the left. The trail cuts back to the right and continues climbing the hillside. At roughly 0.2 miles, sweeping views of Theodore Roosevelt Lake come into the view. The trail climbs a little more before cutting back to the left and heading straight toward the Cliff Dwelling.
Following the ridge line, the trail arrives at the entrance to the Lower Cliff Dwelling. Read about the original entrance and how it was used by the people for protection from intruders. The trail cuts back to the right, climbs some stairs, and arrives at the Lower Cliff Dwelling.
There is usually a volunteer or park staff member at the cliff dwelling to answer any questions you may have, and can provide a map of the dwelling in case you left yours at the visitor center or in your vehicle. Take time to enjoy the preserved ruins, contemplate what it was like for the people who lived there, and enjoy the views of the surrounding area.
Be respectful of the ruins and help preserve them for future generations by only going where you are allowed and staying out of closed areas.
As the Lower Cliff Dwelling does not require reservations, this is a popular trail throughout the day. The trail is crowded with families and pets, so take your time and enjoy.
Flora & Fauna
Cacti, cholla, and other plants native to the Sonoran Desert can be found in Tonto National Monument. Saguaro cacti grow along the course of the trail. Birds can be seen and heard as they fly among the trees and bushes. Over 160 different species of birds have been observed in the monument, making it a great place for people who love bird watching.