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Cold Spring Canyon Ruins, AZ

Guide 48 Triplogs  1 Active Topic
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HAZ reminds you to respect the ruins. Please read the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 & Ruins Etiquette
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Difficulty 4 of 5
Route Finding 3 of 5
Distance Round Trip 4.02 miles
Trailhead Elevation 3,753 feet
Accumulated Gain 1,191 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 9.98
Interest Ruins, Historic, Seasonal Waterfall & Seasonal Creek
Backpack Yes
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
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19  2019-09-18
Sierra Ancha Ruins
13  2019-05-05 jamminaz
10  2019-01-27 MountainMatt
9  2018-02-24
Pueblo Canyon Ruins
18  2018-02-17 MesaWeekenders
7  2018-01-06 Johnnie
15  2017-10-14
Cold Spring and Pueblo Canyon Ruins
27  2016-04-05
Cold Spring Canyon Road Hike
Page 1,  2,  3,  4,  5
Author Randal_Schulhauser
author avatar Guides 71
Routes 98
Photos 9,967
Trips 1,009 map ( 9,248 miles )
Age 61 Male Gender
Location Ahwatukee, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Mar, Apr, Oct, Nov → 7 AM
Seasons   Early Autumn to Late Spring
Sun  5:13am - 7:38pm
Official Route
6 Alternative

Cherry Creek Crack House?
by Randal_Schulhauser

Some History
The Sierra Ancha (Spanish for "Wide Mountain") is an archeologically rich wilderness area known for some remarkable cliff dwellings made famous by Dr. Emil W. Haury and the Gila Pueblo Project starting in 1930. Dr. Richard C. Lange has continued that legacy with the Sierra Ancha Project beginning in 1981 and continuing to present day.

Dewey Peterson was a rancher who lived on Aztec Peak circa 1900 - 1950. Peterson served as Dr. Emil W. Haury's guide during many of the Gila Pueblo Project expeditions. On one particular excursion, another local rancher, "Slim" Ellison, accompanied the Gila Pueblo Project expedition as described by Haury;

"From the Peterson Ranch, we went north to McFadden Horse Mountain and several other parts of the crest of the Sierra Ancha. Then we dropped off the east side of the range, north of Pueblo Canyon and into Cherry Creek, where we established camp. From our camp in Cherry Creek, we went back up into Pueblo Canyon, Cold Spring Canyon, and Devil's Chasm. After collecting wood in ruins in each of those canyons, we set out to the east, passing south of Sombrero Butte and on into lower Canyon Creek. After inspecting a prehistoric turquoise mine, we went up Canyon Creek to the Canyon Creek Ruin, which Dewey knew about, but had not seen. We returned cross-country, almost due west, and dropped back into Cherry Creek to the Ellison Ranch, where we ended the adventure".

After several similar expeditions into the Sierra Ancha, Haury published his findings in 1934 as Gila Pueblo Medallion Paper #14. His seminal publication, "The Canyon Creek Ruin and Cliff Dwellings of the Sierra Ancha," was published later in the same year. You can connect to the past by viewing the remains of the Peterson Ranch near Aztec Peak. The Ellison Ranch is still a going concern within Cherry Creek valley.

Many of my favorite Cherry Creek hiking destinations are documented in Dr. Rich Lange's recent publication, "Echoes in the Canyons - the Archaeology of the Southeastern Sierra Ancha," celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Sierra Ancha Project (SAP).

The SAP began in June of 1981 from a small grant by the University of Arizona Research Office to verify and update site information originally cataloged by Gila Pueblo. It soon became clear that the project's original scope was more extensive than anticipated as many new sites were discovered, and the project was stitched together piecemeal over the first 25 years of operation.

One of the first major undertakings of the SAP was a main beam replacement in Cold Spring Canyon site V:1:136. Insects and water severely damaged the main roof beam, and the structure was in danger of complete collapse. In late October of 1983, a replacement beam was dragged up the old mining road by a horse. A pulley system was used to transport the beam up the scree slopes from the abandoned mining road trail to the terrace ledge near the cliff dwelling. It took four people to accomplish the final task of lifting the beam across the terrace ledge and into position within the cliff dwelling. When one ponders the magnitude of the task in the present day, you have to marvel at the determination of 700-year-old civil engineering to construct these Cherry Creek cliff dwellings.

Other examples of Cherry Creek cliff dwellings have been documented within HAZ hike descriptions for;
1. Moody Point Trail #140
Moody Point Trail #140 on 2006-11-14

2. Devil's Chasm
Devils Chasm on 2006-03-04

3. Cooper Forks Cyn Cliff Dwellings
Cooper Forks Cyn Cliff Dwellings on 2005-09-17

4. Pueblo Canyon
Pueblo Canyon Ruins on 2004-09-05

I'd like to add Cold Spring Canyon as another example of Cherry Creek cliff dwellings to the HAZ collection of hike descriptions featuring ruins. To further pique your interest, there is a remarkable mining history associated with this trail (after all, it does follow an abandoned mining road). The Big Buck Uranium Mine operated from 1954 to 1957 and is located between Devil's Chasm and Cold Spring Canyon west of FR203 at the end of the abandoned mining road. Blue Rock and Grindstone prospect deposits are also located along the abandoned mining road.

The Hike
From our campsite near Devil's Chasm at FR203 continue north along the Forest Road about 1 1/4 miles until you cross Cold Spring Canyon Creek. As the Forest Road bends to the east out of Cold Spring Canyon, you will notice an abandoned mining road crossing FR203 in both directions. This is the trailhead to Cold Spring Canyon and Pueblo Canyon.

Follow the steady incline of the abandoned mining road constructed in 1954 to service the Big Buck Uranium Mine. Footing can be a challenge as the old road surface is comprised of ankle-rolling "baby-heads" (~6-inch diameter rocks). After completing the first quarter-mile and rising about 500 feet, take a break at the campsite remains near the Sierra Ancha Wilderness boundary.

The trail will veer to the west, crossing the wilderness boundary while maintaining a steady assault on elevation gain. Around the half-mile mark, you will pass a house-sized boulder on your left. At the three-quarter-mile mark you will pop out onto a flat terrace with a distinctive petroglyph-marked boulder on your right. The trail splits here. The trail ascending to the west takes you to Pueblo Canyon. The relatively flat trail to the south takes you to Cold Spring Canyon. Take note, if you are ascending to the west, you are on the wrong trail! We managed to take a wrong turn here but quickly recovered...

The flat terrace near the Pueblo Canyon trail junction has a vista view of Cherry Creek valley. If you examine the cliff face directly to the east, you will be able to pick out the Cooper Forks cliff dwellings.

Continue south along the remains of the abandoned mining road towards Cold Spring Canyon. The trail will veer to the west when it reaches the edge of the canyon. At this point, the trail will contour slowly downhill towards a dry waterfall crossing Cold Spring Canyon. Carefully scan the cliff face in front of you on the north side of Cold Spring Canyon. Look for a distinctive crack in the cliff wall forming a cave. This is the V:1:136 site described by Haury and Lange, or the more memorable name "Crack House" assigned by our hiking party...

At the time you make one of the first sightings of the "Crack House," there will be a scree rock slide covering the abandoned mining road. The mining road trail becomes considerably more overgrown past the scree rock slide. Note this, as you will ascend the scree upwards towards the "Crack House". This section is nothing short of NASTY. Century plants will gouge you, prickly pear needles will penetrate you, and dust will fill your lungs. The climb is reminiscent of the scramble up to Devil's Chasm cliff dwelling. You will climb about 250 feet until you reach the cliff face. The intermittent trail will contour along the cliff face until you reach an exposed dry waterfall "punchbowl." Traverse the punchbowl heading towards a clump of trees hiding the cliff dwelling entrance.

Upon passing the clump of trees, you are rewarded for your efforts! There are poles strategically located to allow entrance into the cliff dwelling. Once inside, there is much to explore. There is also a balcony view of Cold Spring Canyon.

From the "Crack House" ruins, you have a clear view of the abandoned mining road traversing the south side of Cold Spring Canyon. That will take us to our next destination after negotiating our way down the scree slope. I don't know which was worse, the scree going up or the scree going down. Here's an afterthought - a good pair of work gloves would protect the hands allowing one to gain a more secure purchase on this challenging section of the trail...

As you approach the dry waterfall crossing the north side to the south side of Cold Spring Canyon, you will notice rock cuts on the north side. This is the Grindstone deposit prospects (see p.114 from the Sierra Ancha mining survey). Look further west up Cold Spring Canyon to view some impressive rock spires.

As you travel along the south side of Cold Spring Canyon, scan the north cliff face to spot "balcony room" from site V:1:136. The abandoned mining road is overgrown in many sections, with the occasional rock slides blocking the route. The old road will veer south, traveling another half mile to reach the Big Buck Mine site (see p.94-96 from the mining survey). The Blue Rock deposit prospects (see p.103 from the >mining survey) are located about 2000 feet SE of Big Buck Mine.

Dr. Rich Lange documents 5 archeological sites in Cold Spring Canyon. We have located one of the sites. The remainders are for future adventures...

Gila Pueblo Site RefASM Site Reference TypeRoomsElevation
C:1:36 AZ V:1:136Small cliff dwelling 9 4840 ft
???AZ V:1:129Small cliff dwelling23960 ft
C:1:25AZ V:1:164 Small cliff dwelling6 6180 ft
C:1:46 AZ V:1:174Small cliff dwelling65280 ft
C:1:52 AZ V:1:169 Large surface pueblo 104600 ft

The Sierra Ancha is a special area rich in history. Archeological sites and evidence of past mining activity abounds. Combine this with spectacular scenery and you've got all the ingredients of a great hike. Enjoy!

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

This is a moderately difficult hike.

Leave No Trace and +Add a Triplog after your hike to support this local community.

2007-11-10 Randal_Schulhauser
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    guide related
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.

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Map Drive
Strictly 4x4

To hike
Directions to the trail (synopsis): From Globe, take SR188 north towards Lake Roosevelt. Turn right on SR288 and follow about 2 1/2 miles past the Salt River until you reach FR203 (Cherry Creek Road). Follow FR203 for about 22 miles until you reach the trailhead at an abandoned mining road located immediately after crossing Cold Spring Canyon.

Directions to trail (detailed): From Phoenix: Take Hwy 60 (Superstition Freeway) east 75 miles to Globe/Miami. Turn left (northwest) onto Hwy 188 (GPS coordinates 33o 24.976'N, 110o 49.711'W) and drive 16 miles to the intersection with Hwy 288 (GPS coordinates 33o 33.936'N, 110o 56.782'W). Take Hwy 288 towards Young. In about 4 miles you will cross the Salt River Bridge (GPS coordinates 33o 37.187'N, 110o 55.299'W). Travel another 2 1/2 miles until you reach FR203, also known as Cherry Creek Road (GPS coordinates 33o 38.570'N, 110o 57.085'W). Follow FR203 for about 22 miles until you reach the trailhead at an abandoned mining road. FR203 typically has 4 water crossings year-round
- 1st is Coon Creek at mile 8.6 (GPS coordinates 33o 41.396'N, 110o 50.663'W)
- 2nd is Cherry Creek at mile 11.3 (GPS coordinates 33o 43.177'N, 110o 49.054'W)
- 3rd is Cherry Creek at Ellison Ranch at mile 18.4 (GPS coordinates 33o 48.231'N, 110o 50.180'W)
- 4th is Devil's Chasm Creek at mile 20.6 (GPS coordinates 33o 49.390'N, 110o 51.619'W).
Beyond Ellison Ranch, FR203 is described as a "Primitive Road" subject to little or no maintenance. On this particular trip, there was evidence of recent road maintenance. The large boulder in the middle of FR203 between Devil's Chasm and Cold Spring Canyon has been removed and many of the washouts have been filled. My GPS noted 121.57 miles traveled from my workplace in Tempe to the abandoned mining road trail head. Travel time was about 3 1/2 hours.
90+° 8am - 6pm kills
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