History: This hike takes place in an area rich with historic significance to Arizona. Considered prehistoric people, some of the earliest residents, the Hohokam Indians lived here. They were desert dwellers who were able to capitalize on the few water resources available and survive for hundreds of years by irrigating and farming The core area of their habitation was the Gila-Salt river basin which includes the entire Valley of the Sun. The Hohokam disappeared in about 1450 leaving little written record of their experience. Perhaps that is why we cherish the petroglyphs and attempt to interpret them. These petroglyphs are typical Hohokam with images of spirals, lizards, animals, and human figures. One human figure at this site appears to be giving birth.
Following the Hohokam were the Spanish, the Mexicans and eventually the Anglo people most of whom were seeking fortune. This area, now known as the Mineral Mountain Mining District is mentioned in many stories of the Lost Dutchman and the Peralta Treasures. There are several ghost towns in the area and several active, working mining claims.
While protected and managed by the BLM, the twenty first century recreational lifestyle is encroaching and literally at the heels of this historic site. Access to the site involves traveling across State Land Trust which several times of the year is used by the military for war games and live artillery fire. Caution should be used if red flags are posted. Read the warning signs for posted dates of military activity. The State Trust Land is heavily used by ATV's and motorcycles on the weekends. The hike itself is shared at times by extreme rock crawling vehicles who pass within feet of the petroglyphs.
Hike: The hike starts where Cottonwood Canyon Road Meets the Cottonwood Canyon Wash. While there is no formal trailhead here, there is ample parking in the wash. This starting spot is accessible by two wheel drive vehicles. Four wheel drive with high clearance can go an additional half mile to the formal trailhead where there is parking for only one car. I suggest hike it and get a feel for the area. An old settlement marks the beginning of the hike. A building sliding off its foundation and the adjoining well make for some nice pictures. A large neighboring stone foundation with steps leading up to it will leave you curious about its origin and use. Continue east in the wash/canyon. At .32 miles the road leaves the wash to the right going up to the formal trailhead at the top of the hill. If you are hiking bear left in the wash and continue east. Watch among the gray rock for varnished brown rocks lining the canyon for petroglyphs. At a little over two thirds of a mile, the canyon starts to narrow and become chocked with boulders. The brown varnished rocks lining the canyon abound with petroglyphs. Continue east in the canyon being ever alert for more writing. At .93 miles the wash rejoins the road. Turn right and follow the road up the hill to the formal trailhead. Take the trail back down to the wash. There are several placards along the trail. Once in the wash you can enjoy the petroglyphs once again and then head west back to your vehicle.
2013-12-12 Powered vehicles are no longer allowed to drive down the wash. There is a sign posted by the Bureau of Land Management preventing vehicles from driving very close. The sites are now also marked as an "archeological" area. In addition, the cabin has now collapsed into a pile. The petroglyphs remain an amazing find for hikers. ( correction #2708 from Jerry W. )
To hike From the Florence Junction intersection of highway 60 and Sr 79, take SR 79 south 5.2 miles to an unmarked dirt road going off to the east. There is a flagpole at the entrance(if a red flag is flying this means active military in the area-read warning signs) Travel east on Cottonwood Canyon Road. At about 5 miles you will come to another flag pole and cattle guard. Continue about another .5 miles to a Y intersection. Bear left. The road swings north and down into Cottonwood Canyon. There is an active Cattle ranch ahead of you up on the opposing hill. Once in the wash you come to two gates. The one on the left is for the cattle ranch(no trespassing. Take the gate on the right, if the gate was closed reclose it. If it was open-leave it open. Park just past the gate on the side of the road.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.