dogs on leash
off road driving
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. This variety in vegetation and range in altitude (from 1,300 to 7,900 feet) offers outstanding recreational opportunities throughout the year, whether it's lake beaches or cool pine forest. As the fifth largest forest in the United States, the Tonto National Forest is one of the most-visited “urban” forests in the U.S. (approximately 5.8 million visitors annually). Its boundaries are Phoenix to the south, the Mogollon Rim to the north and the San Carlos and Fort Apache Indian reservations to the east.
Some of the reviews state they would recommend a 4x4. If you are coming in from the four peaks road you definitely need a 4-wheel drive vehicle. We had a jeep and it was 2wd and it got stuck a few times and the roads were very tough on the car.
The hike was nice. Snow make the conditions tougher and the trail is hard to follow at times. There is no signage. You have to be good with climbing and heights to make it to the top. One hiker noticed fresh bear tracks so be careful and come prepared.
We took the other road out towards Roosevelt lake. Roads were in better shape but still rough. Put us out almost to Payson so drive was a lot longer.
Hiked this trail around 8:30 am on a Sunday in February. There were a lot of cars in the parking lot, but we didn't really encounter that many other hikers on the trail.
The first mile of this hike is incredibly easy, lots of flat and slight uphill walking. Other than a lot of loose rocks and dirt, and some parts being washed out due to recent rain, the first mile was a breeze. The rest of this trail, however, was not. The second mile going up to the summit is where you gain all of your elevation and you do so climbing more or less straight up a canyon wall to the plateau with the mail box. This hike is not for the faint of heart. We went in a group of three, with one very experienced hikers and two moderate hikers, and it still took us a little over four hours round trip.
The trail is not easy to follow. There are several paths you can follow up the canyon, none of them is simple. Trail markings are frequent but somewhat confusing. It is very narrow in some spots with nothing between you and falling down the side of a mountain. Lots of rocks to climb up and over. We did meet someone who was on their way down who advised us to stay to the right of the cliff, but then the second group we passed said to stay to the left. We never did find the cliff they were referring to.
What we did find was one of the most spectacular views I've ever gotten. I don't know how much of that was because of how excited I was to have even made it up there in the first place. The mail box was cute, I spent some time reading the journals tucked inside it. You can't see the mailbox when you get to the top, there's a second plateau to the left you have to climb up to get to the actual summit where the bench and mailbox are.
I would probably never do this hike again, but it was absolutely worth it.