National Forest Foundation

Our Forests

Find a Forest

Tonto National Forest

The Tonto National Forest, Arizona, embraces almost 3 million acres of rugged and spectacularly beautiful country, ranging from Saguaro cactus-studded desert to pine-forested mountains beneath the Mogollon Rim.

The variety in vegetation and range in altitude (from 1,300 to 7,900 feet) on the Tonto provides outstanding recreational opportunities throughout the year, whether it's lake beaches or cool pine forests.

In the winter, visitors flock to Arizona to enjoy the multi-hued stone canyons and Sonoran Desert environments of the Tonto’s lower elevations. In the summer, visitors seek refuge from the heat at the Salt and Verde rivers and their chain of six man-made lakes. Visitors also head to the high country to camp amidst the cool shade of tall pines and to fish the meandering trout streams under the Mogollon Rim.

Eight Wilderness Areas are managed to protect the unique natural character of the land. Portions of the Verde River have been designated by Congress as Arizona’s first and only Wild and Scenic River Area.

Fish and wildlife are abundant on the Tonto; more than 400 vertebrate species are represented, including 21 listed among federal and state Threatened and Endangered Species.

Six man-made reservoirs on the Salt and Verde Rivers and the flowing portions of these rivers provide an abundance of water-related recreation. Power-boating, sailing, water-skiing, swimming, rafting, and tubing are some of the more popular recreation activities on the Forest's lakes and waterways. World-class white water can be experienced on the upper stretches of the Salt River.

The Tonto National Forest has much to offer boating enthusiasts. Some people choose the larger lakes for water-skiing and power boating. Others opt for the quiet seclusion of a narrow lake arm extending between two near-vertical canyon walls.

A broad range of opportunities are available to overnight campers. Many forest areas are open for those who do not require any amenities or services. You may even boat-camp at a remote spot on the shore of one of the reservoirs located on the Tonto. Several developed campgrounds are located at higher elevations and are open in the warmer months of the year.

The Tonto National Forest has a collection of nearly 900 miles of trails. Their primary purpose is to provide a variety of opportunities for hikers, bikers and equestrians to enjoy the beauty and challenge of nature. The Tonto National Forest has established two areasfor the dedicated use of Off-Highway Vehicles.

There are many points of interest on the Tonto National Forest. Among the most noted are the Scenic Byways on State Route 88, and State Route 288, as well as the Roosevelt Lake Wildlife Viewing Area.

The Tonto National Forest has a rich heritage reaching thousands of years into the past. Originally home to several prehistoric Indian groups who hunted and gathered wild plants in the Mazatzal Mountains and Sierra Ancha and along the Salt and Verde Rivers and their tributaries, it was colonized more than a thousand years ago by a related group of people known today as the Hohokam.

Arizona Forests

First-timer’s Adventure

Drive the "From the Desert to the Tall Pines Scenic Byway" and enjoy the diverse landscape and resources of central Arizona. You will be introduced to complex ecosystems as you pass through various biotic communities along the 67 miles designated as a Scenic Byway.

It traverses an area known for its beautiful scenery, significant historic and prehistoric values, and a characteristic flavor of the old west.

Climbing from a low elevation of 2,100 feet (along the popular upper Salt River) to 7,600 feet on the abrupt Mogollon Rim, travelers experience a wide variety of fauna and flora from Sonoran Desert Scrub to Rocky Mountain Montane Conifer Forest.

From its southern terminus at State Highway 188 to the community of Young, this route is commonly known as the Young Highway, and is designated as State Highway 288. From Young to its northern terminus, the route is designated as Forest Road 512, and is often called the “Young-Heber Road."




Nearest Large Urban Area:


Notes & Conditions:

Research campground locations and amenities at the U.S. National Forest Campground Directory. The Web site is full of pictures and detailed descriptions to help you plan your next trip.

If you want to experience a guided recreation trip in a National Forest, visit Adventure Vacation to learn about whitewater rafting, canoeing, kayaking, horseback riding, camping, hiking and fishing trips.


Visit the National Forest Store to see what maps are available for this Forest and others you may want to visit.