When you have little more than a day to get away, I hope you will go see the amazing Tonto National Monument in Roosevelt, AZ. There is hardly any preparation necessary. All you need are snacks, a water bottle, and sturdy shoes.
You will probably want a camera, too (which most of us carry at all times), sunscreen and shades. After a surprisingly quick and beautiful drive–passing Globe, a historic mining town, and Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park–you are already pulling up to the visitor center.
There, we looked at the artifacts and watched a short video. As part of the Junior Ranger activities, we learned that pottery with outside decoration indicates a storage vessel and decoration in the interior indicates a serving dish. With that knowledge, it was fun to identify the use of the artifacts on display.
Next, we made the half-mile hike (1-mile roundtrip) up a steep trail with our little boys. Switchbacks on the trail made more of it visible, so we didn’t have trouble keeping an eye on them when they sprinted ahead. We stopped at a bench part way up the trail to take pictures of the view of Theodore Roosevelt Lake. The peace of the place must have inspired some quiet time. The boys listened to the wind and soon heard a hawk cry, something they were happy to note in their activity books.
Except for a friendly and knowledgeable volunteer, it was just us at the top exploring these ancient Salado-style ruins. Unlike the decaying Montezuma’s Castle we visited weeks prior, most of this cliff dwelling is open to walk through. We felt like we were granted special privilege to walk inside the Lower Cliff Dwelling and even touch the walls that still show impressions of the hands that shaped it.
Our little guys were very happy with their visit to these fantastic ruins, but there is even more to see for hikers 9-years and older. November through April, park rangers lead a small group of early-arriving hikers to the Upper Cliff Dwelling; more information about reserving a spot is on the website.
We extended our visit with a stay in Globe and some classic road trip food from Nurd Berger. Besh Ba Gowah Archeological Park and Museum, just a mile south of town, features more excellent examples of ancient Salado construction. These beautiful 800-year-old ruins overlook Pinal Creek and are a worthy stop.
I am sure we will make this (easy) trip again, and I would love your recommendations. What should we experience on our next visit to Tonto National Monument and Globe, Arizona?
Tonto National Monument