Many times I have passed by the entrance to Tonto National Monument. A couple times drove to the parking lot and once even went up to the lower ruins. Today I decided to go to the upper ruins. I am always fascinated by cliff dwellings and the way the Salado Indians intertwined the structures so as to conserve heat and cold. This is very evident at the upper ruins where a combination of 39 rooms occupy a fairly small space. As others have said the hike is by reservation only with a maximum of 15 per trip. They go several times a week starting at precisely 10 AM. We were lucky this day as our total group was 6 plus the ranger.
Others have described the route very well. It is 1.5 miles from the parking lot to the ruins and 600 feet vertical. The first part of the hike follows a creek bed and then there are a set of rock stairs followed by quite a number of switchbacks followed by another set of rock stairs. Although from the creek bed to the ruins is a constant climb the switchbacks make it quite easy for a casual hiker. The ranger stops many times to talk about the plants and geological features. In fact we took about 2.5 hours going up, spent about an hour in the rooms and eating lunch and took about one half hour coming down-each at his own pace.
There are many cliff dwelling ruins throughout the Southwest where people are not allowed to climb into the rooms and go from room to room. This set of ruins is an exception. The trail is gated off in several places and padlocked at the top. Going with the ranger guarantees that you will be able to explore most of the ruins.
The views of Roosevelt Lake and the surrounding mountains are astounding. The weather today was (finally) cool enough so we could enjoy the trail and the ruins. Our Golden Age passes got us in free and as the photos will show the upper ruins are very imposing. A fun day and fun short hike where the real purpose was to get in a great example of cliff ruins.