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:: Day and Overnight Hikes: Tonto National Forest
Day and Overnight Hikes: Tonto National Forest
The Tonto National Forest in central Arizona is one of the largest (2.8 million acres) and most popular (approximately 6 million visitors a year) forests in the United States. Within this territory, visitors find six separate ecosystems from Sonoran desert lowlands around Phoenix to pine forested mountain peaks, all part of the convoluted topography that left this area one of the last in the west to be truly settled. Parts of it are specifically unsettled, for the Tonto includes eight designated wilderness areas including one of the largest in the country (Mazazatl Wilderness) and one of the most popular (Superstition Wilderness).
Much of what is really worth discovering in the Tonto National Forest can only be reached by foot. Wilderness boundaries and the sheer ruggedness of the terrain mandate that visitors get out of the car and lace up their boots to explore the numerous high peaks, deep gorges, babbling river beds, near silent deserts, hundred year old mining camps and thousand year old native American settlements scattered widely across this vast national forest. Winding through all of these rugged wonders are more than 900 miles of trails. This guide follows the best of them, representing each of the Tonto’s unique areas.
Some are well known, such as the Highline trail, which winds across the 2000’ escarpment of the Mogollon rim for 79 miles, or the Lost Dutchman trail through the wild and weird Superstition Mountains. Some are known only by numbers, or faint lines on old maps. While the Highline Trail offers panoramic vistas of the entire Tonto Basin, Jacob’s Crosscut Trail offers a vista of metropolitan Phoenix. Other hiking trails tunnel through thick brush or squeeze through claustrophobic slot canyons.
Many of these trails are as obvious as sidewalks, but a few are trace routes marked only by instinct and an occasional pile of rocks. Whether you’re looking for an easy hike to show your relatives from back east what real cactus looks like, or an epic journey through the backcountry that will test your feet and your nerves, this guide can tell you where to start, and what to expect.
About Tony Padegimas
Tony Padegimas is, among many other things, a free-lance writer who spends as much time as possible in his hammock slung in some random part of a national forest. His wife, two children, and two dogs join him on occasion, but report mixed feelings about whether these endeavors are really worthwhile. In addition to wanderings in the wilderness, he also chronicles sports, fitness, historical curiosities, technical theatre (which is also his day job) and the inside guts of buildings. His work has appeared in numerous local and regional magazines and a handful of national publications. This is his first book.
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