Puneet Varma (Editor)

Tonto National Forest

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Nearest city  Payson, Arizona
Area  11,627 km²
Established  1905
Website  Tonto National Forest
Phone  +1 602-225-5200
Number of visitors  5,922,000

Location  Gila, Maricopa, Yavapai, and Pinal counties, Arizona, USA
Governing body  United States Forest Service
Address  Tonto National Forest, Arizona 85553, USA
Management  United States Forest Service

Drive through tonto national forest 1 25 2015

The Tonto National Forest, encompassing 2,873,200 acres (1,162,700 ha), is the largest of the six national forests in Arizona and is the fifth largest national forest in the United States. The Tonto National Forest has diverse scenery, with elevations ranging from 1,400 feet (427 m) in the Sonoran Desert to 7,400 feet (2,256 m) in the ponderosa pine forests of the Mogollon Rim (pronounced MOH-gee-on, or MUH-gee-own). The Tonto National Forest is also the most visited "urban" forest in the United States. The boundaries of the Tonto National Forest are the Phoenix metropolitan area to the south, the Mogollon Rim to the north and the San Carlos and Fort Apache Indian Reservation to the east. The Tonto (Spanish for "fool") is managed by the USDA Forest Service and its headquarters are in Phoenix. There are local ranger district offices in Globe, Mesa, Payson, Roosevelt, Scottsdale, and Young.



Many wildlife species inhabit the forest including raccoons, bald eagles, black bears, coyotes, skunks, bobcats, roadrunners, prairie falcons, white-tailed deer, long-eared owls, mule deer, red-tailed hawks, Great blue herons, cougars, barn owls, ring-tailed cats, kestrels, pronghorns, and javelinas.

Tonto Pass

Tonto National Forest began charging user fees in 1996 for daily and overnight stays at expanded amenity recreation sites in the national forest. Five different passes are currently offered for sale:

  • Daily Pass
  • Watercraft Sticker
  • Half Price Daily Pass
  • Half Price Watercraft Sticker
  • Interagency Pass and Tonto Upgrade Decal
  • The Half Price passes are for use by Golden Age/Access Passport or Interagency Senior/Access Pass Holders. The Tonto Upgrade must be used in addition to an Interagency Pass for use of the recreation sites.

    Tonto Passes are available through online vendors at the Tonto National Forest recreation passes and permits web page. Daily and Half Price Daily Tonto Passes are now available for purchase online, immediate printing at home and use at the Tonto National Forest. Passes are also available through many local merchants.

    Lakes, rivers and streams

    The Tonto National Forest has six notable cold water reservoirs:

  • Bartlett Reservoir
  • Horseshoe Reservoir
  • The next four are created by the Salt River chain of dams:

  • Saguaro Lake
  • Canyon Lake
  • Apache Lake
  • Theodore Roosevelt Lake
  • Wilderness areas

    There are eight federally designated wilderness areas within (or partially within) the Tonto National Forest:

  • Four Peaks Wilderness
  • Hellsgate Wilderness
  • Mazatzal Wilderness (partly in Coconino NF)
  • Pine Mountain Wilderness (partly in Prescott NF)
  • Salome Wilderness
  • Salt River Canyon Wilderness
  • Sierra Ancha
  • Superstition Wilderness
  • A portion of the Verde Wild and Scenic River also lies within the forest.


    The Tonto Forest Reserve was established on October 3, 1905 by the General Land Office. In 1906 the forest reserves were transferred to the U.S. Forest Service, and on March 4, 1907 Tonto became a National Forest. On January 13, 1908 the Pinal Mountains National Forest was added along with other lands. On July 1, 1908 part of Black Mesa National Forest and other lands were added, and on July 1, 1953 part of Crook National Forest was added.

    Proposed land transfer to Rio Tinto Group for copper mining

    A land swap proposed as a part of the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act would permit a subsidiary of the Rio Tinto mining conglomerate, Resolution Copper Co., to acquire 2,400 acres of the Tonto National Forest, considered sacred for the San Carlos Apache Tribe, for purposes of copper mining. This proposal, in Section 3003, titled "Southeast Arizona Land Exchange", is strongly opposed by many Native Americans, including the 57 member tribes of The Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, and by the Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Association.


    Tonto National Forest Wikipedia