Best Hiking Trails in Tonto National Forest
Phoenix, Arizona, is the gateway to the "urban" Tonto National Forest, which boasts landscapes ranging from cactus-strewn desert to forested mountains. The national forest includes eight wilderness areas and both high and low country, making it easy to find cooler temps at higher elevations in the summer, and winter-friendly hiking trails down low. Tonto's many lakes make it particularly great for hot weather: There are plenty of opportunities to enjoy the water by paddling, fishing, and swimming.
Start by heading to the national forest's page for recreation conditions as trail status can change seasonally. Whether you want to do-it-yourself or join a guided trip, the recreation page contains many options for making the most of your visit to the park.
The rest of the year, the Highline Trail in the Payson district provides lengthy legs and many variations for multi-day backpacking trips. Bring plenty of water, especially during the hotter months, as on-trail water sources become limited.
Contact regional ranger stations for additional information.
When to Go
Accessible all year. The desert floor is attractive during the spring, fall, and winter months when temps are mild. In the summer, gain elevation to a cooler climate to escape the desert heat.
With year-round access, permits are strictly enforced and set in place to protect fragile environments from overuse. Various overnight permits and day-use options are available. You can find more information here or call the local ranger station for most current availability.
Dogs are permitted in the national forest. However, Tonto's plentiful wildlife includes bears and snakes, so dogs should be monitored at all times, and preferably on a leash. Learn more here.