Encompassing about 3 million acres (1,214,057 hectares), the Tonto National Forest is the country’s fifth-largest forest. The altitude ranges from 1,300 to 7,900 feet (396 to 2,408 meters), allowing for diverse flora, fauna and landscapes throughout. In fact, while in one part of the forest you might find a cactus-filled desert, in another you’ll walk through rugged mountain dotted with pines. You’ll also find beautiful lake beaches for peaceful relaxation and aquatic pursuits.
The main reason people visit Tonto National Forest is the outdoor recreation. There are eight wilderness areas in Tonto National Forest, including Four Peaks Wilderness, Hell's Gate Wilderness, Mazatzal Wilderness, Salome Wilderness, Fossil Creek Wild and Scenic Area, Salt River Canyon Wilderness, Sierra Ancha Wilderness and Superstition Wilderness. Each of these offers its own unique experiences. For example, while the Four Peaks Wilderness Area is known for its Four Peaks landmark and 16 designated hiking trails totaling about 40 miles (64 kilometers), the Salt River Canyon Wilderness is where experienced white water rafters go.
The Tonto National Forest borders include Phoenix, the Mogollon Rim, and the San Carlos and Fort Apache Indian reservations. You will need a pass to enter, although these are easily attainable online on the Tonto National Forest recreation passes and permits web page as well as select local merchants. Additionally, a special Salt River permit is required to use land and water areas within Salt River Canyon that reside on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation.