The Tonto National Forest is approximately 2.8 million acres, and the number of areas that have fees associated with them is less than 1% of this total area. The other 99% of the Tonto National Forest is free to enjoy by the public.
The Tonto National Forest has approximately 215 Developed Recreation Sites (sites that have some type of infrastructure), with approximately 1.8 million visitors using these developed sites annually. The annual Operating & Maintenance cost to maintain these developed recreation sites is approximately $5,430,000.
Some of the items that are included in these costs are:
- Garbage collection
- Cleaning bathrooms
- Supplies Maintaining 50+ miles of 20 year old water pipeline
- Completing water testing and treatment for all of these facilities to keep the drinking water in compliance
- Maintenance of 20+ year old aging facilities – bathrooms, ramadas, boat docks, etc.
- Maintaining asphalt parking lots
- Managing the Buoy Program on 6 lakes
- Staffing to complete this work and serve the public
- Law Enforcement support
Out of the 215 Developed Sites, only about 50 of these sites collect fees. The only sites that collect fees are those that have a higher amount of development and infrastructure associated with the management of them.
In 1996, the Tonto National Forest began charging use fees at many of the forest’s water based recreation areas under the Recreation Fees Demonstration Act. The program continued under the Recreation Enhancement Act passed in 2004.
The Tonto Pass is NOT valid on the Payson Ranger District. Day-use and camping fee sites on the Payson Ranger District are managed by the concessionaire located at Houston Mesa Campground.
Tonto Pass Options
Tonto Daily Pass - $8
Sold at Tonto National Forest offices, retail outlets and online.
Tonto 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 Tonto Daily Passes to be conveniently obtained in advance of forest visits.
Passes expire 24 hours from time of validation.
Watercraft Use Sticker - $4
One sticker must be permanently affixed to a Tonto Daily Pass for each motorized watercraft that the vehicle tows or otherwise carries to the lake. "Motorized watercraft' means any watercraft that is propelled by machinery whether or not the machinery is the principal source of propulsion.
Tonto Discovery Pass - $80
Sold at Tonto National Forest Offices only.
The Tonto Discovery Pass is an annual pass valid for one year (expires at the end of the month and year punched on the card) from the time of purchase. The pass must be displayed in the provided hangtag from the rearview mirror. The Tonto Discovery Pass is valid for the pass holder (person(s) who signed the back of the pass) and the occupants of a single, private non-commercial vehicle.
Tonto Senior Discovery Pass - $60 (Age 62 and older with proof of age)
Sold at Tonto National Forest Offices only.
The Tonto Senior Discovery Pass is an annual pass valid for one year (expires at the end of the month and year punched on the card) from the time of purchase. The pass must be displayed in the provided hangtag from the rearview mirror. The Tonto Discovery Pass is valid for the pass holder (person(s) who signed the back of the pass) and the occupants of a single, private non-commercial vehicle.
Where Are the Tonto Passes Sold?
There are several ways you can purchases Tonto Passes:
- At the Tonto National Forest supervisor’s and district ranger offices
- At a variety of retail outlets around Arizona and along routes that forest visitors use to reach recreation sites on the Tonto National Forest
- Purchase annual and daily passes online
- By phone or mail Purchase by Phone or Mail
One of the unique features of the Tonto Pass program is the participation of retail outlets, small and large local businesses that sell the pass at many locations throughout the Phoenix metropolitan area, other Arizona cities and towns, and within the Tonto National Forest.
The retail outlet program is to make it easier and more convenient for forest visitors to purchase a Tonto Pass in advance of their trip or on their way to the forest.
The retail outlets continue to grow, making it easier for visitors to purchase the pass. Forest Service offices have expanded office hours during heavy use periods in order to provide better customer service.