Tonto National Forest

Tonto National Forest: Our most recommended tours and activities

Box Canyon and Pinal Mountains Half-Day ATV Tour

1. 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!

Phoenix: Kayaking Trip to Foxtail

2. Phoenix: 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.  This self-guided float is the most convenient way to explore the area. Park your car at Saguaro Lake Ranch, no Tonto Pass required, and launch from a private kayak beach. Embark on an around 2-hour float. 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.

Sonoran Desert: Sunset Jeep Tour with Tonto National Forest

3. 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 and Mesa: Self-Guided Kayak Trip on Saguaro Lake

4. Phoenix and Mesa: Self-Guided Kayak Trip on Saguaro Lake

Experience the spectacular landscapes of the Tonto National Forest on a self-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 your own 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. 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

5. 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

6. 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.

Phoenix & Scottsdale: Saguaro Lake Stand Up Paddleboard Tour

7. Phoenix & Scottsdale: Saguaro Lake Stand Up Paddleboard Tour

Experience the Sonoran Desert from a thrilling new perspective on a stand up paddleboard. Paddle through the gorgeous Saguaro Lake or Lower Salt River, taking in valuable insight into the ecosystem that is sustained by these indispensable desert oases. Maybe you’ll even catch a glimpse of a bald eagle or a bighorn sheep, which are among the many distinctive species found within this one-of-a-kind environment. Stand up paddleboarding is a perfect activity for the whole family, and your professional guide will spend some time at the start of the tour teaching the proper techniques. Geared up with a provided life jacket, snacks, and bottled water, appreciate the mountain peaks that surround you as you drift along, flanked by giant saguaro cactuses and desert foliage unique to this region. And be sure to splash around and have some fun while you’re at it.

From Scottsdale: Sonoran Desert & Tonto National Forest Trip

8. 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. Drive by jeep to the Pinnacle Peak neighborhood and see an old stagecoach station. Meet wild horses by the Verde River after walking through Tonto National Forest. Make your way to the Village at Pinnacle Peak to meet your friendly guide and group for the day. Jump in the jeep and admire the picturesque Arizonan landscape as you head towards the desert. Learn about local wildlife as your guide points out the different species you come across. Enter the Sonoran Desert and pass by a stagecoach station as you stroll around in the arid landscape with growing cacti and distant mountain peaks. Continue to the Tonto National Forest and begin walking along the winding tree-lined path. Find your way to the roaring Verde River to have the chance of watching wild horses playing on the riverbanks, before returning to Scottsdale.

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 / 5

based on 42 reviews

This was a lot of fun. My husband really enjoyed the UTV ride we did four of them while on vacation this week and this was BY FAR the BEST one. You get to go faster (as comfortable) and actually drive verses jus following along at slow speeds in a row/group. Mitch was a great tour guide. If you are going to do a utv ride I highly rec booking through stellar adventures here.

Nice, long trip. Was a first time kayaker, it went fine and my 13 year old daughter did great for her first time too. A few spots are a little swift, but manageable. You have to avoid the tubers at the end, I ended up going through a small rapid with a large group of them. Was very pretty and scenic! Lots of photo opportunities. Would do again. Wear lots of sunscreen.

We had the best time!! It was absolutely beautiful and the customer service was great. Not to mention the added bonus of seeing some wild horses. I would 10000% recommend.

Our trip was amazing! Absolutely beautiful a blast. Best memories made today with my husband. Definitely would recommend.

Fun! Wild horses on river bank. Great way to spend a hot afternoon