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Things to do in
Tonto National Forest

Tonto National Forest

Tonto National Forest: Our most recommended tours and activities

Phoenix: Self-Guided Kayaking Trip to Foxtail

1. Phoenix: Self-Guided Kayaking Trip to Foxtail

There is no better way to escape the summer heat than to go kayaking on the Lower Salt River. As you cruise below cliffs and past beautiful desert scenery, look out for native wildlife. The sit-on-top kayaks are very stable and easy to maneuver; after a 15-minute orientation, you'll be ready to go.  While this is primarily a scenic float there are sections of swift water and kayakers often tip out- so be prepared to get wet. At the end of the route, staff will be waiting to gather the kayaks as you board an air-conditioned van to return to the ranch.

Tucson: 5-Line Zipline Course in the Sonoran Desert

2. Tucson: 5-Line Zipline Course in the Sonoran Desert

Feel your adrenaline pumping as you ride 5 ziplines above the Sonoran Desert near Tucson. Explore the desert landscape on short hiking trails between the ziplines, and admire sweeping views over the scenic surroundings. Make your own way to the zipline adventure course, located just 1 hour north of Tucson and 2 hours of Phoenix in the foothills of the Catalina Mountains. Upon arrival, take in scenic views of the San Pedro River Valley, the Galiuro Mountains, the Tonto National Forest, and the Catalina Mountains. Then, prepare for your thrilling zipline adventure. Push the limit of your comfort zone as you ride 5 ziplines ranging in length from 400 to 1,500 feet. The last and longest run is a dual line, making it possible to zip alongside a friend or loved one. In between ziplines, plant your feet back on the ground and discover the desert landscape from the short hiking trails. Familiarize yourself with different types of plant life such as ocotillo, agave, and different types of cactus. While you are ziplining and hiking, keep your eyes peeled for wildlife: desert spiny lizards, Gila monsters, javelina, deer, and even bobcats inhabit the property. Stay refreshed during your desert experience with the water provided along the trails.

From Scottsdale: Sonoran Desert & Tonto National Forest Trip

3. From Scottsdale: Sonoran Desert & Tonto National Forest Trip

Take a break from the streets of Scottsdale and get out of the city to discover the Sonoran Desert. Make your way to the Village at Pinnacle Peak to meet your friendly guide and group for the tour. Jump in the jeep and admire the picturesque Arizonan landscape as you head towards outside the city limits. Drive through the Sonoran Desert and stroll around in the arid landscape with growing cacti and distant mountain peaks. Enjoy historic factual information of the area as well as interesting factoids about this unique natural wonder. The Sonoran Desert is slowly being encroached by development. Soon there won't be the ability to enjoy the serenity of this pristine desert environment. There may be a unique opportunity to see wildlife in an area inhabited by Deer, Javelina, Mountain Lions, Bobcat, Coyote, and many species of snakes and other reptiles. Your guide will make this a fun adventure for all ages.

Box Canyon and Pinal Mountains Half-Day ATV Tour

4. Box Canyon and Pinal Mountains Half-Day ATV Tour

Explore the extreme northeast corner of Florence, Arizona on board a thrilling Terrain Vehicle (ATV). Located halfway between Tucson and Phoenix, the Box Canyon and Pinal Mountains make for an ideal day out from both cities. The dirt trail that will set your blood racing is about 30 miles long, and you will have 3.25 hours to play. Once your guide has equipped you with safety equipment and received a short training, head off along dirt trails that twist, turn, and bump up and down the Pinal Mountains. Climb up and over the front range of the mountains. At the same time, your guide points out Indian petroglyphs left behind by the ancient Native Americans.  Another point of interest is an old adobe building that served as a way station for the Butterfield Overland Stage Coach Company during the 1860s. For a short time, it also serviced the Pony Express on what was known as the "Butterfield Route." The real highlight of the tour is Box Canyon. You'll be in the canyon for about 6 miles. Get set for the drama of the middle 3 miles, a slot canyon with walls only about 10-20 feet apart and 900 feet high on both sides!

Sonoran Desert: Sunset Jeep Tour with Tonto National Forest

5. Sonoran Desert: Sunset Jeep Tour with Tonto National Forest

Experience a world-famous Arizona sunset on a low-speed, off-road sightseeing tour of the Sonoran Desert via the Tonto National Forest. Your professional tour guide, a certified off-road driver, will tell you about the Sonoran Desert flora, wildlife, Arizona history, and Native American ethnobotanical practices. Hop aboard the Jeep and cruise past the Pass by Pinnacle Peak Park, a scenic 3,169-foot granite summit located in North Scottsdale, and Reata Pass, the last standing buildings of an old western town. Hear about these locations and their significance. At sunset, stop at a panoramic lookout point that overlooks the historic Great Western Trail. Feel free to exit the Jeep and walk around the scenic lookout. Whether you're interested in a couple of group photos or a full Instagram shoot with your camera, your guides are also great photographers willing to help. Depending on cloud conditions, the sky typically changes to various shades of pink, red, orange, and purple, all within the backdrop of the stunning Sonoran Desert.

Phoenix/Mesa: Guided Kayaking Trip on Saguaro Lake

6. Phoenix/Mesa: Guided Kayaking Trip on Saguaro Lake

Experience the spectacular landscapes of the Tonto National Forest on a guided kayaking tour around Saguaro Lake. Paddle through canyons, see beautiful desert scenery, and discover the local flora and native wildlife from a unique perspective. Escape the heat and feel refreshed by one of the most stunning lakes of Arizona. Travel at a leisure pace, giving you the opportunity to truly take in the picturesque views. Start with an orientation of basic safety and paddling instructions. The “sit-on-top” style kayaks are very stable and easy to maneuver or if you would prefer a paddleboard just give us a call or email. Before you know it you’ll be paddling below thousand-foot cliffs. Explore the lake's glimmering waters and discover coves and craggy shorelines. Keep your eyes open for the native wildlife native to the Tonto National Forest.

Sonoran Desert: Guided 2-Hour UTV Adventure

7. Sonoran Desert: Guided 2-Hour UTV Adventure

Hop in, buckle up, turn the switch, and hit the trail in the toughest vehicle the Sonoran Desert has ever seen. The 4-seat UTV can be filled to capacity and can still climb trails, crawl boulders, and zip all over the desert without breaking a sweat. Whether you're craving adventure or simply want to enjoy some sightseeing at your own pace, this UTV is dialed in to deliver. With electric power steering, a thrilling V-Twin engine, and towing capacity to take everything with you, this exhilarating drive handles like a dream. 

Scottsdale: Tonto National Forest Off-Road H1 Hummer Tour

8. Scottsdale: Tonto National Forest Off-Road H1 Hummer Tour

Explore one of Arizona’s most picturesque trails on an off-road H1 Hummer excursion. The trail winds through the heart of the Tonto National Forest and Arizona’s most beautiful mountain ranges: the 4 Peaks and the Superstition Mountains. Enjoy beautiful views of Saguaro Lake and learn about the flora and fauna of this majestic landscape. Experience the thrill as the Hummer conquers the rugged desert terrain. If you crave excitement you’ll be sure to feel the rush of adrenalin as the H1 climbs 60-degree slopes, traverses 40-degree side slopes, and fords up to 2.5 feet of water. Even with all the thrills, this is a family friendly excursion that is suitable for all ages.

Canyon Lake: Scenic Guided Kayaking Tour

9. Canyon Lake: Scenic Guided Kayaking Tour

Take an unforgettable adventure with Riverbound Sports' guided kayaking tour of Canyon Lake, nestled in the Superstition Mountains. Your journey begins with a scenic drive along the Apache Trail, a historic route that winds through the different colors and features of the dramatic desert landscape, open to a breathtaking view of the lake itself. Your tour will start at the Acacia Recreation Area, where your guide will go over your equipment and provide a safety briefing. Then, you'll set off on an approximately 6.5-mile round trip paddle up the channel. Paddling under towering canyon walls that rise on either side, offering a glimpse into the geological wonders of the region. Keep your eyes peeled for captivating wildlife encounters. Bald eagles soaring overhead, graceful deer grazing on the shore, or bighorn sheep perched on the cliffs are just some of the treasures you might encounter. Our experienced guides are passionate about the region's history and ecology, and will provide information about the fascinating story of Canyon Lake, its role within the intricate network of reservoirs created by the Salt River, and the unique desert ecosystem that thrives here. Take a moment to soak it all in and capture the memories with a photo break amidst the stunning scenery. Along your adventure, we'll provide a selection of snacks, for a little extra energy to continue exploring back to the Acacia Recreation Area. This tour is the perfect way to create lasting memories, experience the serenity of Canyon Lake, and gain a deeper appreciation for the natural wonders of Arizona. After your tour, be sure to checkout Tortilla Flats for a prickly pear ice cream, lemonade or margarita.

Other Sightseeing Options in Tonto National Forest

Want to discover all there is to do in Tonto National Forest? Click here for a full list.

What people are saying about Tonto National Forest

Overall rating

4.9
(33 reviews)

We had a great time thanks to Jaz, Nora and Emma for keeping us safe and making our day a fun filled experience

Great value for the money. Beautiful scenery. Total excursion was about 2 1/2 hours.

Kayaking and scenery was great. Perhaps a bit pricey considering it was self guided

The guides were great, the weather was perfect and the river was beautiful!!

The float was relaxing and the scenery was incredible!