Map of Tonto National Monument
Lower Ruin Trail
One of the two ancient dwellings (the Lower Ruin
) is reached by a paved, half mile, self-guided trail which leads from the visitor center/museum quite steeply 350 feet up the side of a rocky hill, giving increasingly good views of Tonto Basin and Theodore Roosevelt Lake. The trail is closed to uphill travel at 4 pm, giving the last visitors one hour to make the trip, as the monument is closed every day at 5 pm. Along the way are notices about the native animals and plants - the area is especially abundant in cacti, the most visible species being saguaro
, buckhorn cholla
, teddy bear cholla
, jumping cholla
, Christmas cholla
, Engelmann's hedgehog
, tulip prickly pear
and California barrel cactus
. Cacti are also identified along a linked, 0.25 mile trail which provides an alternative route back to the parking area.
The two-storey Lower Ruin
originally had 19 rooms; most are quite well-preserved and it is permitted to walk through some of them. Many surfaces are worn smooth from being walked over or touched yet the walls remain thick and strong, reflecting the generally sturdy if unspectacular construction, not like the more delicate and intricate cliff dwellings of the Anasazi. The settlement is constructed in a big alcove lined by unusual metamorphic rocks, greyish overall but including thin-layered components of more brighter colors. Originally, the only access was by ladder, leading to an entrance at the far left of the structure, which made the village easy to defend. A ranger is usually present at the ruin all day, to answer questions and monitor visitor behavior. The second (Upper
) ruin is larger, with 40 rooms, but further away and visitors must be accompanied by a ranger; these tours (3 miles round trip) need to be booked in advance.