Recreation

Frequently Asked Questions

Also see: Recreation FAQs

Here you will find the answers to our customers' most commonly asked questions. If you need further information, please feel free to contact your local Forest Service Managing Office for greater details. If your questions can be answered in advance, or instantly, through the website, our phone traffic will be reduced dramatically. If you have any suggestions or a question that you think should be included here please tell us.

  1. Questions about ATV/OHVs
  2. Questions about Camping and Campgrounds
  3. Questions about Emergencies and Wildfires
  4. Questions about Employment
  5. Questions about Recreation use fees
  6. Questions about Forest Orders / Closures and Fire Restrictions
  7. Questions about Illegal Activity on the forest / Abuse and Misuse of the forest
  8. Questions about Lakes
  9. Questions about Maps
  10. Questions about the NEPA
  11. Questions about Passes andPassports
  12. Questions about Christmas tree program
  13. Questions about Forest Roads
  14. Questions about Trails
  15. Questions about Volunteering
  16. Questions about the Plant-a-tree program

1. Questions about OHVs/ATVs back to top

A: The Tonto National Forest has two areas specifically for OHVs:

  • The Rolls does not require a permit. A free map brochure is available at the Mesa Ranger Station.
  • Bulldog Canyon (off Usery Pass Road) requires a permit. Contact the Mesa Ranger Station to obtain the permit.

OHVs/ATVs can also be ridden on most forest routes (roads and trails). State law requires you to be street legal to drive on any road maintained by a city, county or the state. This includes a state license plate (similar to your car or truck plate--not a title plate generally given to you when you buy a new ATV), insurance and you must be a licensed driver.

Protect your riding areas by leaving them cleaner than you found them, stay on the routes (don't go off road, spin circles or make jumps) and conserve your forest for your grandchildren.

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2. Questions about Camping and Campgrounds back to top

A: Campgrounds are called "developed" when they have at least a few amenities (e.g. roading, parking areas, entrance signs, and vault toilets). More highly developed sites may also include showers, shade ramadas, picnic tables, grills, electricity, vault toilets, sewer, and water. Pets are welcome, but must be kept on a leash.

For those who prefer solitude and privacy, undeveloped or dispersed camping is allowed in most places within the forest boundary. Dispersed camping is more primitive than in the developed campgrounds with few or no facilities. You will need to Pack it in, Pack it out.

To find out what facilities are available at the developed campgrounds, please go to our Camping Recreation Opportunity Guide (ROG). This recreation opportunity guide (ROG) gives details on what facilities are available at that campground.

Q: How do I reserve a camping unit?

A: All developed campgrounds have units that are available on a "first-come, first-serve" basis, while some have units are reservable. Click on Camping & Picnicking to see which campgrounds accept reservations. If you would like to reserve a unit, call our national reservations system at 1-877-444-6777 (toll free number), TDD at 1-877-833-6777 or on the web at  www.recreation.gov.

Q: How quickly do the campgrounds fill up?

A: How quickly a campground fills depends on several factors including: holidays, weekends, accessibility and the weather. Ranger station personnel where the campground is located will be able to advise you about availability.

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3. Questions about Emergencies and Wildfires back to top

A: Call 911.

Q: What if I see a wildfire on the forest?

A: Call 911.

Also, there are 24-hour wildfire reporting hotline: 602-225-5355, 480-457-1555, 1 866-746-6516. During the work week the main Tonto switchboard at 602-225-5200, can direct you to a wildfire specialist, law enforcement officer, etc. as necessary.

It is always appropriate to directly contact the ranger district office where the fire is located.

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4. Questions about Employment back to top

A: The Tonto National Forest employs approximately 200 permanent employees in a variety of professional, administrative, technical and clerical occupations.

When a position is available, a vacancy announcement or recruiting bulletin is issued to solicit applications. Current openings are listed on the Office of Personnel Management Employment Information Homepage, USAJOBS, accessible at http://www.usajobs.opm.gov by typing in the keyword Forest Service. The jobs are posted in alphabetical order by their title (e.g. archaeologist, forestry technician, etc.). This is a listing of Forest Service jobs nationwide.

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5. Questions about Fees back to top


For fee-related questions visit our Recreational FAQs page.

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6. Questions about Forest Orders/Closures and Fire Restrictions back to top

Q: What is a forest order and what does it do?

A: The Forest service may mandate a restriction upon certain activities including closing a defined area on the forest (called a closure). For example, certain roads may be closed when they are very wet. The purpose of this type of closure would be to protect human life and to prevent damage to the road. Closures might also be implemented in the case of a forest fire or to protect human life or property associated with government activities.

Violations of these prohibitions can be punishable by a fine of up to $10,000, or imprisonment for up to six (6) months, or both.

Q: What are fire restrictions?

A: The forest supervisor issues a forest order after coordinating with the district ranger (s) and fire management officers. Conditions that could warrant fire restrictions and/or closures of certain areas include, but are not limited to: high temperatures, low humidity, low fuel moistures, and an increase in number of fire starts.

Fire restrictions usually mean that campfires, and smoking are not permitted. (Charcoal, wood and coal stoves outsides dwellings are classified as campfires). Use of gasoline or propane/butane-fueled devises are usually permitted during fire restrictions.

Smoking is, however, permitted in designated campgrounds and picnic grounds or while traveling in a vehicle (an ashtray must be used).

When the situation is extremely bad, it may be necessary to keep all visitors out of the national forest.

It is advisable to call ahead to the local ranger stations, since restrictions may vary throughout the forest.

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7. Questions about Illegal Activity on the Forest/Abuse and Misuse of the forest back to top

Q: What should I do if I spot illegal activity in the forest?

A: If you see possible illegal activity please contact one of the six (6) districts ranger offices on the Tonto National Forest.

You can also call the Tonto National Forest Supervisor's Office at 602-225-5200 so that a law enforcement officer can investigate the incident or situation of concern.

If the situation requires immediate law enforcement attention please call 911.

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8. Questions about Lakes back to top

Q: What are the water levels at the lakes?

A: For current information on lake water levels, go to Salt River Project's website at www.srpnet.com or call the recorded message line 602-236-5929.

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9.Questions about Maps back to top

Q: Are maps of the national forests available?

A: Yes. The Tonto National Forest has visitor maps of the following areas available for sale:

Apache Sitgreaves National Forest
Coconino National Forest
Coronado National Forest
Kaibab National Forest
Prescott National Forest
Tonto National Forest
Cave Creek Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV)
Mazatzal Wilderness
Superstition Wilderness
The cost is $6.00-10.00 per map and they can be purchased at any of our six ranger stations, the forest supervisor's office, or from our website. The supervisors office address is:

Tonto National Forest
2324 E. McDowell Rd.
Phoenix, AZ 85006

Q: Are USGS topographic maps available at this office?

A: We only have topographic maps of wilderness areas in Arizona. All other topographic maps can be purchased from Wide World of Maps. They have three locations in the Valley:

Wide World of Maps has three locations in the Valley:
Phoenix: 2626 W. Indian School Road 602-279-2323
Mesa: 1444 W. Southern Avenue 480-844-1134
Scottsdale: 7325 E. Frank Lloyd Wright Blvd.
Or on the web at www.maps4u.com
USGS is located at: 1769 W. University, Ste. 175, Tempe 85281. 480-736-1093

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10. Questions about the NEPA back to top

Q: What is NEPA?

A: "NEPA" refers to the National Environmental Policy Act. NEPA provides direction for the planning, analysis and public disclosure of federally funded projects that affect our environment. The Tonto National Forest NEPA Calendar contains a listing of currently planned projects and other ongoing analyses related to the Forest's environment.

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11. Questions about Passes and Passports back to top

Q: How much is an annual pass and what does it cover?

A: On January 1, 2007, the Tonto National Forest annual pass in the form of an upgrade to Golden Passports was discontinued. On that date a new national interagency pass program was initiated called America the Beautiful- the National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands pass program. However, the elements of the Golden Passport upgrade policies were kept intact.

Holders of any of the old or new national interagency passes (Annual, Senior or Access) may upgrade their pass to cover all Tonto National Forest daily use fee sites for $15 per year. The upgrade is valid for one year from the date of purchase. Expires last day of the month in the year card is punched. (For example, Purchase Oct. 1, 2009, expires October 31, 2010.) Upgrades are in the form of a decal that must be permanently attached to the windshield of the vehicle.

The national interagency pass upgrade allows the holder and all persons in the vehicle to use all daily fee sites on the Tonto without paying the daily fee. It is not valid for use at campgrounds, group use sites or at concession-operated sites. Examples of where it can be used are boating sites and swimming areas on all Salt and Verde River lakes and shoreline access areas at Roosevelt, Apache and Bartlett Lakes.

Since the upgrade is an added benefit to the national interagency pass program, the cost of the upgrade cannot be discounted. All pass holders pay the same amount, $15 plus the cost of the national interagency pass. These costs are $80 per year for the Annual pass and $10 lifetime for the Senior pass. The Access pass is free and is also valid for the life of the holder.

Q: What if I have a Golden Age/Golden Access Passport or a national interagency Senior/Access pass and choose not to upgrade it?

A: Holders of the Golden Age Passport and the Golden Access Passport and the new interagency Senior and Access passes are entitled to a 50 percent reduction in all daily recreation-use fees. The Golden Age Passport/interagency Senior pass are for US citizens 62 years of age or older. These passes are valid for the life of the holder and carry a one-time charge of $10 per card holder at the time of issue. The Golden Access Passport/interagency Access pass are for anyone who is permanently disabled and are also valid for the life of the holder. There is no fee for these passes. Golden Age and Golden Access Passports were discontinued on January 1, 2007; however passports issued prior to that time will still be valid for life.


Q: Can a visitor from outside the US obtain an interagency Senior Pass?

A: No. The Senior Pass is available only to U.S. citizens or permanent residents. A non-citizen must have a United States Permanent Resident Card or "Green Card" to be eligible for a Senior Pass.


Q: How much does the Tonto Daily Pass cost?

A: $6

Daily Passes are hangtags, designed to be self-validating. Visitors scratch off the date and time of their visit upon reaching their forest destination. This design allows Daily Passes to be conveniently obtained in advance of forest visits.

Passes expire 24 hours from time of validation.

Q: Where are Tonto Passes Sold?

A: There are several ways you can purchases Tonto Passes:


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12. Questions about Permits/Christmas Tree Permits back to top back to top
Q: How do I obtain a special-use permit?
A: There are many different "special uses" within the Tonto National Forest. They vary widely: from a fishing tournament to a multi-day, guided pack trip; from a small water development to a major power-line. All such activities and uses require a Special-Use Permit (SUP).
If you feel you have an appropriate activity or use, first visit your local ranger station. It may take some time to evaluate your proposal or a decision may be made quickly.

Q: Where can I get a Christmas tree permit?
A: The Arizona national forests personal-use Christmas tree harvest is extremely popular, with tags for some cutting areas being highly popular. The Christmas tree-cutting tags are to harvest one tree, less than 10 feet tall, in designated areas on several Arizona national forests. The cutting period is normally around the end of November (a date is specified annually) up to December 24 at midnight.
Information concerning this program is disseminated to the media and posted annually on the Tonto National Forest website in September, usually right after Labor Day. Additionally, some forests sell tree-cutting tags over the counter. This information is also disseminated to the media and posted on forest websites. The Christmas Tree Hotline at (602) 225-5258 is updated, September – December, for the public as new information becomes available.

Q: How much does a Christmas tree permit cost?
A: In 2008, the price for a Christmas tree-cutting tag increased from $10 to $15 to cover the cost of administrating the program.

Q: How many Christmas tree permits can I get?
A: Only one tag per residence is allowed. Only individuals or families may apply for trees to be used in their household. Companies, organizations or schools may not apply for this household-targeted program.
Anyone cutting a tree without a valid permit can be fined and his or her tree confiscated. No tree harvested under this program may be sold.

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13. Questions about Forest Roads back to top

Q: Are forest roads open to the public?

Each Forest Service road exists to access a specified area or need identified as necessary for management of the portion of national forest the road serves. Roads are constructed and maintained with funds appropriated by Congress, or paid for by an interested third party, such as a logging road or access to a resort. These roads are necessary for management of the national forests. The Forest Service is the owner of these roads. (By contrast, "public roads" are roads owned by cities, states, and counties, constructed and maintained with highway user funds such as gas tax and vehicle license fees, and are intended for all uses in the general commerce of the United States.) Thus, while Forest Service roads are necessary for management of the public's national forests, the roads themselves may not individually be open to all types of vehicles at all times.

For example: Most national roads are constructed and maintained for use by prudent drivers in high clearance vehicles (such as pickup trucks, sport utility vehicles, and commercial trucks) as opposed to ordinary passenger cars. Speed of travel is not usually a consideration in the design of "high clearance" roads. Different skills are needed to drive on these roads than down the highway in the family sedan.

Commercial use of a Forest Service road requires authorization in a contract or permit. Commercial operators are required to perform or pay for road maintenance made necessary by their use.

Snow is not generally plowed on Forest Service roads.

Individual roads may be closed to vehicles to protect resources or simply because the need for a road is intermittent in nature. Forest Service roads closed to vehicles may be open to foot travel.

When you visit the Tonto or other national forests, you will probably reach your destination by traveling on a Forest Service road; some may be closed, others may be open. Please drive carefully paying attention to wildlife crossing the road, other traffic, sharp curves, and delicate surface conditions.


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14. Questions about Trails back to top

Q: Where can I get information about the trailheads and trails?

A: To find out information about trailheads, trails and basic trail information, please click on Hiking & Trail-Riding to get the recreation opportunity guide (ROG) for that trail, or contact one of the six ranger stations or the forest supervisor's office for further information.


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15. Questions about Volunteering back to top

Q: Can I volunteer to work on the forest?

A: Public involvement is an important part of managing national forest system lands. We rely on volunteers to assist with campgrounds, trail maintenance, and other programs. Concerned citizens help the forest to provide better wildlife habitat, identify and preserve historic sites, etc.

Contact your local ranger station to find out what opportunities are available in that area.

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16. The Plant-a-tree program back to top

Q: How can I participate?

A: People often wish to leave living memorials for those they have lost or want to plant trees to commemorate special occasions. In response to these wishes, the U.S. Forest Service has established a special program to allow people to donate money toward planting trees on the National Forests. Click here for more information.