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Camp Verde Cliff Dwellings, AZ

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Guide 17 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Camp Verde > Camp Verde
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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 2 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance Round Trip 1.32 miles
Trailhead Elevation 3,166 feet
Elevation Gain 443 feet
Accumulated Gain 443 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 1 hour
Kokopelli Seeds 3.54
Interest Ruins & Historic
Backpack No
varies or not certain dogs are allowed
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1  2018-08-29 Steph_and_Blake
10  2017-04-14 eagleloc
6  2016-08-09 emptypockets
5  2016-05-26 LindaAnn
4  2016-04-17 friendofThunderg
13  2016-02-13 phlak
4  2015-11-06 AZWanderingBear
5  2015-09-18 cactuscat
Page 1,  2
Author Randal_Schulhauser
author avatar Guides 71
Routes 98
Photos 9,967
Trips 1,009 map ( 9,248 miles )
Age 59 Male Gender
Location Ahwatukee, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr → 9 AM
Seasons   Early Autumn to Late Spring
Sun  6:11am - 6:31pm
Official Route
0 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Culture Nearby
Desperately Seeking Sakwavayu?
by Randal_Schulhauser

Some History
The Verde Valley has been a magnet for civilization throughout the millennia. Reliable water, abundant wildlife, fertile soil, and ready shelter - all the elements to establish a permanent settlement can be found in the "green valley".

One of the earliest inhabitants of the Verde Valley was the Hohokam, originally a pithouse dweller and dry farmer, dependent on rain for their crops. The pithouse was constructed with a shallow rectangular, but round-cornered pit which was covered with a superstructure of poles, brush and clay. The remains of a pithouse has been excavated at nearby Montezuma Well.

In 1066 Sunset Crater erupted, covering 800 square miles with black ash, forcing many of the nearby inhabitants to flee the lower slopes of the San Francisco Mountains. Many Sinagua migrated to the Verde River and seemed to intermingle with the Hohokam people. The cultural blending, and subsequent population boom, prompted three notable advances; the adoption of Hohokam irrigation systems from the south, the building of above ground masonry dwellings characteristic of the Sinagua from the north, and a merging of rock art styles. The remains of a masonry cliff dwelling has been preserved at nearby Montezuma Castle. There rock art is exemplified by the nearby V-Bar-V petroglyph sites.

In the early 1400s, the Sinagua abandoned the entire valley. No one can say why, perhaps too much pressure on the land, drought, or conflict with Yavapai, who were living here when the Spanish entered the valley in 1582. Whatever the reason or reasons, the survivors were probably absorbed into pueblos to the north. Some may have moved to the Little Colorado and may be among the ancestors of present Hopi Indians. Cotton weaving found at Tuzigoot has been compared to the Hopi and the similarities suggest a connection between the two cultures.

The Yavapai were nomadic, moving from one area to another in small bands and family groups. They followed the various wild foods and the locale of the game they hunted. They made brush shelters called "rancherias," small temporary circular shelters, usually made at each stopping place out of branches, brush and mud. At times some groups took shelter in natural caves. Crops were occasionally planted in moist bottomland to supplement their wild diet, but they did not store food in any large quantity. After planting, the Yavapai continued their migration and returned in fall to harvest their crops.

In 1582 Diego Perez de Luxan, a Spanish explorer, recorded the first evidence of a Yavapai settlement. The Indians gave the explorers metals as a sign of peace and led them to their mines. The explorers considered the mines poor, as it was of copper and not silver or gold, so returned to their base camp. Other explorers came to the Verde Valley from time to time, searching for gold and silver, but contact with the Spanish or Anglo-Americans prior to 1860 was infrequent.

Miners, ranchers, and other settlers entered the Verde Valley shortly after 1860. Predictably, extreme hostilities broke out and continued until the Yavapai were completely defeated by General Crook in late 1872. Most of the Yavapai were placed on the Camp Verde Reservation where they remained until 1875. In 1875 the Yavapai were removed to the San Carlos Reservation.

For more information, check out Camp Verde Museum
• Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
• Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
• 435 South Main Street, Room 202 Camp Verde 928-567-9560

Park your vehicle on the north side of Hwy 260 by the gravel pullout near the trailhead. As you climb through the fence, you step into Coconino National Forest lands with signage noting;

"Hundreds of years ago, the Sinagua Indians lived in the central Arizona area. Evidence of their dwellings and tools from their daily life may still be found in the West Clear Creek drainage. If you encounter a ruin or artifact, please DO NOT disturb the area. This allows others to also feel and enjoy the sense of ancient history that can be imparted. If you examine a particular artifact, replace it where you found it. A lot of its value is derived from its specific location, in relation to other objects and the surrounding environment."

Examination of our topographic map confirmed that the Camp Verde Cliff Dwellings are within the Coconino National Forest in an area noted as "The Caves" within the "Old Military Reservation Boundary". Recall the historical tie above associating Yavapai shelters and occasional storage to these natural caves as well as General Crook's confinement of the Yavapai to this reservation from 1872 to 1875.

The trail will be obvious following a small drainage. Look to the cliff band to the north. Just below the mesa high point, you should begin to make out a series of caves within the largest cliff band. You may be able to faintly determine the outlines of walls, windows, and doorways. After covering about 0.1 miles, the trail will fork. We decided to bear right towards the east on what appeared to be a gentler ascent. Not to worry, both trails converge at a flat bench after trekking about 0.25 miles. A forest of bizarre looking cedars lines the trail along the bench.

You will soon come to another fork in the trail. Again we choose to keep right on a path the seems to direct us straight towards some caves with masonry walls blending into the cliff band. The trail becomes progressively steeper with loose gravel and scree in some spots making sure footing a challenge. At about 0.5 miles you'll pop up onto a terraced ledge.

You'll find a series of caves with evidence of cliff dwelling residences and granaries. Corn cob remnants suggest more recent use (maybe by the Yavapai?). Explore the multiple caves along the terrace. Of particular interest will be a section of collapsed cliff face that appears to have obliterated some of the ruins. You can contour along the crack to the west where the cliff face has collapsed providing a route to the upper mesa.

Researching this hike description, I found a reference to these cliff dwellings as "Clear Creak Ruins", or in Hopi language "Sakwavayu". This reference suggests that at least 50 rooms and 1 kiva were constructed into the cliff face plus 2 pueblo ruins on top of the mesa. We circled the top of the mesa and couldn't find any evidence of an archeological site. We located the collapsed cliff face crack, and lowered ourselves down to the terraced cliff face. From the cliff dwellings and caves, we quickly retraced our path back to the trailhead.

If you are intrigued by ancient Sinaguan culture, may I suggest combining the Camp Verde Cliff Dwellings hike and a driving loop incorporating;
Montezuma Castle
Montezuma Well
V-Bar-V Petroglyph Site
Sacred Mountain

Each of these sites is a relatively short hiking distance, making it a kid-friendly choice. Enjoy!

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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

2008-04-05 Randal_Schulhauser
    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.

    Most recent Triplog Reviews
    Camp Verde Cliff Dwellings
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    Heading up to Pine for a weekend with some neighbor friends at their cabin. Stopped off to hike to these ruins for the first time. Trail was much better than expected. Nice views back down into the Verde Valley. Scrambled around a bit on the ledges checking out the various alcoves and structures. Most amazing was the amount of pottery shards on the hike up. The ground is literally covered. Turned into a good leg stretcher on the way up to Pine and the Rim.

    Some autumn color still lingering along West Clear Creek below.
    Camp Verde Cliff Dwellings
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    Alston and Bruce invited me to come along on their excellent adventure. Wow...they had done all the hard work and now it was just gravy. Yes I got gravy with no work.

    Their logs give the details. I'll just say it was a ruins nerd's fantasy trip.

    I really enjoyed the banter... Alston has a lifetime of experience in these hills and Bruce has packed a lifetime of experience into the last 10 years. They were constantly pointing to distant somethings and discussing details while I strained to follow along.

    Alston who is a few weeks post-MI is a hiking marvel...and Bruce is (as we knew already) a dynamo on the trail.

    Bruce had a chance to channel his "inner Indiana Jones", i.e. with us he had time to poke around rather than finish another 20mi before midnite. Four hours in a car with Alston is four hours of entertainment.

    Fun day.
    Camp Verde Cliff Dwellings
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    While looking for another set of ruins in the area online, I stumbled on this one. This appeared to be the set that Alston and his better half Deb had been trying to locate for awhile. They scoped it from afar, verifying our thoughts the week before. We enlisted noted Perry Mesa expert and all around nice guy Hansenaz (aka Issac Hanson, one of the 3 brothers, famous for the song MMMBop) to join us. So with 180 years of experience enlisted, the group was set.

    After much plotting, PM'ing and throws at the dartboard, I penned a path, that surprisingly enough took us right there. The site was quite intact, with many pottery sherds and corn cobs scattered about. It was at one time, 3 stories tall in places. There were also probably ten plus Cavetes cut into the hillside. I was amazed, based on the location, that they were able to gather all the timber, reeds and water for mud, to construct this place. The ceiling construction on these is incredible. Alston guessed this site was from about the year 1400.

    Being the baby of the group, I relied heavily on their wisdom in ancient Indian artifacts and culture. I was just there to see cool stuff.

    Video :next: ... FAw0

    We stopped at the more popular Camp Verde Cliff Dwellings on the way home. I'd driven past this site numerous times on my way back from the High Country. They actually proved to be much cooler than I expected. Lots of sherds, caves, corn cobs and numerous room ruins up top.

    Video :next: ... ZSOE

    Never a dull moment on this hike, with lively conversation and stories. It was a pleasure to hike with these two ancient ones, I mean..... ones so well versed with ancient things. (Sorry, I gotta use it while I can)

    Thanks for FJ'n us there Alston.
    Camp Verde Cliff Dwellings
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    I enjoyed this hike very much!
    20 mins up to the dwelling, 2 hours exploring the levels and top of the mesa.
    Tons of pot shards and corncobs, and I saw my first snake of the year - a skinny, but very pretty and long gopher snake.
    Then I went to West Clear Creek to cool off - water is still too cold for me, but it was nice to hike along. Saw some nice pools for swimming later in the summer, and some really nice trout.
    Camp Verde Cliff Dwellings
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Fun hike, although a little too hot in July. This was our first ever hike with a climb included and my wife and I enjoyed it. Fairly easy most of the way, the last 50 yards to the actual cliff caves is a little tougher. You have to be in shape and not afraid of heights to make it all the way to the caves.

    The recent rains seem to have eroded the top level of dirt of the last half of the trail, exposing pottery artifacts all over and around the trail. The caves themselves show signs of the old inhabitants, with smoke stained ceilings viewable in most of them.

    What a view when you make it to the caves. You can definitely see why they chose to live in this difficult to get to spot. You can see for miles and nobody would be able to sneak up on them without them being completely prepared.

    We did not attempt to go all the way to the top of the mountain above the caves. It didn't seem prudent for us at forty something. In my twenties maybe, but getting to the caves was rewarding enough.
    Camp Verde Cliff Dwellings
    rating optionrating optionrating optionrated 2rated 2
    With Mike Mattes on a stop along the way back from Grand Falls...

    The Cliff Dwellings had remarkable similarity to those on Nantac Rim near Point-of-Pines on the San Carlos Reservation. Does this indicate a Yavapai linkage?

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    Paved - Car Okay

    To hike
    From Phoenix, take I-17 north towards Flagstaff. Travel about 75 miles to exit#287 for Hwy 260 located just before crossing the Verde River. Travel east on Hwy 260 about 7 miles until you see a mesa with cliff bands and caves appear on the north side. As Hwy 260 enters the midpoint of a gentle "S" bend onto Wingfield Mesa, you will notice Trail Head parking on the north side for about 3 vehicles. If you see E. Verde Lakes Drive, you've passed the trail head!

    GPS coordinates for the Trail Head are 34o 31.704'N, 111o 47.812'W. My GPS noted 105 miles traveled from my Ahwatukee home to the trail head. Travel time was just under 2 hours.
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