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 Passes cover use of the picnic sites, shorelines, and boat launches (with Watercraft Use Sticker).
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.
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 and Senior Discovery Passes include watercraft access and do NOT require a Watercraft Use Sticker.
Sold at Tonto National Forest offices only. Tonto Discovery Passes may be purchased over the phone by calling the Cave Creek Ranger District (480)-595-3300 or the Tonto Basin Ranger District (602)-225-5395. Tonto Discovery Passes are NOT available online.
Tonto Discovery Passes cover use of the picnic sites, shorelines, and boat launches.
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 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.
Sold at Tonto National Forest offices only. Tonto Senior Discovery Passes may be purchased over the phone by calling the Tonto Basin Ranger District (602)-225-5395 or the Cave Creek Ranger District (480)-595-3300. Tonto Senior Discovery Passes are NOT available online.
Tonto Senior Discovery Passes cover use of the picnic sites, shorelines, and boat launches.
Persons ages 62 or older are eligible for the Tonto Discovery Senior pass. The Tonto Discovery Pass is valid for pass holder (or person who signed the back of the pass) and the occupants of a single, private non-commercial vehicle.
Tonto Discovery Vehicle Sticker: Free
(With purchase of Tonto Discovery Pass)
Available at Tonto National Forest offices only.
This pass is meant for OPEN TOP vehicles only where the regular Discovery Pass hangtag cannot be used or can be easily stolen. It is meant to be placed on your front windshield and used as a Tonto Discovery Pass. It is valid for a year from the day you purchase it. Only one sticker will come at request with the purchase of a Tonto Discovery Pass.
Proof of current registration/ownership of your open top vehicle/motorcycle is required at time of issuance to validate and receive the vehicle sticker. Customer must carry their Tonto Pass Hangtag with them when driving a vehicle with a vehicle sticker.
America the Beautiful Interagency Passes cover use of the picnic sites only.
The government has established the America the Beautiful -- the National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Program (national interagency pass) that allows the public to access some fee areas without additional charge. This is very convenient and cost effective when traveling to several sites that charge an entrance fee. You can find more information on this pass at “America the Beautiful Interagency Passes”
Tonto Vendor Pass Program
Retail outlets may purchase Tonto Daily Passes and Watercraft Use Stickers in bulk 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.
Why have Fees Have Increased and what’s in the Future for Tonto National Forest:
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.