Tonto National Monument is located in the Superstition mountain in Arizona. It comprises of two well preserved cliff dwellings of the Salado culture who resided here back in the 13th- 15th century. The Salt River was the important and perennial source of water for these people who used it for farming.
The Lower Cliff Dwelling can be accessed by paying a nominal fee of $5 at the visitor center. The path is paved and it is an easy 15-20 minutes hike upto the dwellings. One can admire the surrounding scenery of towering saguaros growing almost out of the tall brooding mountains. The access to Lower Cliff Dwelling closes by 4PM.
As were unaware of the guided tour to the Upper Cliff Dwelling, we signed up for it in the visitor center for date later in the month of December. This was a strenuous but rejuvenating hike which lasted for little less than 3 hours. A park ranger from the NPS guided our team of seven people. The path is unpaved, with loose rocks and pebbles on the route.
We had to step over a small stream which we were told turns into a gushing water source during the rains. The ranger was well informed and stopped to explain about the native plants and how the Salado people utilized them back in their days. Once we reached the top the ranger explained to us how the excavation team worked in the site. There were few broken pots and dried grains to show evidence of the flourishing life of the Salado.
The hike down was relatively easier. It was almost 1 PM when we reached the visitor center. In total we had spent about 3 hours hiking 4.8 km with an elevation of 600 ft and were ready to head back home for lunch.
Total distance covered: 96.6 miles