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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Hiking Up to Black Mesa Indian Ruin

Hohokam fort walls.

Remember to leave this special place as you found it. 
Leave ALL artifacts in tack.

Recently I hiked up to Black Mesa. I was joined by my friends Tom and Neal as we made our way upward to this incredible fortress like Pueblo. Although this ruin is not located in the Bradshaws it sits on the east side of the range, on the southern end of the Agua Fri National Monument. This is a fairly well know ruin but rarely visited because of the difficult uphill hike. 

This is another of my recommended "off trail hikes" so there is no trail to follow. One must bushwhack, navigate loose ground in areas as well as cactus and scramble rocks almost 800 feet uphill. 
Make sure you go with someone. 

In the book "Ruins Seldom Seen" by Dave Wilson, which I recommend,
it lists this ruin but I feel the route that he suggests and shows is more difficult. Other websites recommend his route but I will suggest an easier way. I have included a Google Track with this hike (at the bottom) that presents my route. It is just bit longer and less direct but again easier. 

Dave also states in his book that this Hohokam ruin has the tallest walls of any in the state. Actually there is one other sensitive unknown Hohokam ruin that has taller walls. But the walls here are defiantly high, measuring 12 feet in some areas. 

  • Miles... 2 round trip.
  • Time... 4 to 5 hours round trip.
  • Difficulty... difficult
  • Elevation climb... 733 feet to the bluff below the ruin according to Google Tracks.

Notes... Do not attempt this hike in summer. Take needed water with you as none is available. Not a good hike for dogs. Stay away from edges of high bluffs and be careful walking within the site.

What I like about this hike is that it has a spectacular ending to it. The ruin itself is one of the best sites in the state. And to think that thousands of people drive by it everyday unaware it exists. It also presents a good exercise walk even though it is a short one. 

Baby saguaro among wildflowers.

On the way up it offers you a chance to see some nice mule deer. In the spring there are patches of California Poppies that you will pass through... that is if we received enough winter rain. Other wildflowers are numerous such as soar eye poppies, brittle bush, lupine, asters and many others.

Parking Area

You can carefully park in either parking lot shown on the map below and if you choose our suggested route, it is located at the yellow warning sign. This sign advises motorists to turn off their air conditioner, before climbing Black Canyon Hill. This is only a couple of miles north of Black Canyon City on I 17. Make sure to pull as far off the interstate as possible.

Study our Google Track and create a similar route in your head. 

Your goal is the prominent bluff shown in this photo above. For about 1/4 mile this bluff simply looks like a common outcropping. If you carry binoculars with you, you can see the fortress walls. At about 1/2 mile the walls become visible to the naked eye. 

As you get closer the walls will amaze you. 

Nearing the Ruin.

Most of the petroglyphs are located on the east side below the big wall. There are scattered grinding stones about the site within large rocks. There are a couple small perfect round hole matates, within rocks also. 

It has been mentioned on other websites that there are very few pottery shards around this site but I have found the opposite to be true. If you watch closely as you walk you will find them scattered about on the ground. 

Rock art hand prints are fairly common, but this site has a foot etched in stone. 
A rare find.


The views on top are amazing. The New River Mountain Range, Bradshaws and the flat grass land on top of the mesa. 

Be careful as you explore the inside of the Pueblo. There are port holes built into the walls that were thought to be used for watching for the enemy and airflow. Most have settled through the years.


This Pueblo was believed to have been abandoned around 1300 AD. A long warming period dried up springs, creeks and rivers and forced the Hohokam to retreat to more stable water sources, such as the Gila River in Phoenix. Its thought that this two story Pueblo was built in less then a year by possibly 100 men. There were no doors or windows on Hohokam style buildings and each resident entered from the roof top. Small loopholes let air in and were placed strategically to look over vulnerable areas. 

Looking though a port hole. Notice Interstate 17 below.

Very thick walls for a Hohokam site. Black Canyon City below. 

Well constructed walls.

Return to your vehicle the same way you came.

Most of the above images were created with a Panasonic point and shoot camera. 

Google Track

Please forgive errors in grammar or spelling as we type from our phones.