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Horse Canyon Ruins, AZ

no permit
115 8 0
Guide 8 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Payson > Payson S
4 of 5 by 3
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
Distance One Way 2.3 miles
Trailhead Elevation 5,891 feet
Elevation Gain -845 feet
Kokopelli Seeds 3.71
Interest Off Trail Hiking, Ruins & Peak
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
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28  2013-12-10
Explore DelShayBasinSW-RattlesnakeSpringArea
19  2013-12-10
Exploration into SW Del Shay Basin
30  2011-05-18 CannondaleKid
20  2011-05-11 CannondaleKid
44  2011-03-26 Grasshopper
18  2011-01-15 Grasshopper
3  2010-03-31 ssk44
Author HAZ_Hikebot
author avatar Guides 16,882
Routes 16,052
Photos 24
Trips 1 map ( 6 miles )
Age 22 Male Gender
Location TrailDEX, HAZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   May, Oct, Apr, Sep
Sun  6:12am - 6:23pm
Official Route
4 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby

Likely In-Season!

Author Full Detail Guide
Overview: Rugged off-trail ridgeline hike to a remote Del Shay Basin hilltop ruin site.

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One-Way Notice
This hike is listed as One-Way.

When hiking several trails on a single "hike", log it with a generic name that describes the hike. Then link the trails traveled, check out the example.
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
Horse Canyon Ruins
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Explore DelShayBasinSW-RattlesnakeSpringArea
This very enjoyable day out to a new (for us) off trail Sierra Ancha Mountains exploration area in from Pumpkin Center off Roosevelt Lake Hwy 188 was actually a Plan "C". We had previously planned a couple of high priority Sierra Ancha Wilderness exploration outings off the north end of Hwy 288 but higher elevations, colder temps, and possible snow-pack at these originally planned TH Start locations required a fallback plan.

Over the past couple of months I had been working on some possible exploratory hikes via our valuable planning tool- HAZ Route Manager to access this area in from the remote "Rattlesnake Spring" area. My hopes were to successfully document a third but less strenuous, shorter off trail hiking route to visit the rewarding and remote HAZ Hike Description- "Horse Canyon Ruins".

Even though this exploratory trip we did not hike all the way to the "Horse Canyon Ruins" Hilltop Site, I feel confident that my posted & edited 12/13/13 GPS Route is a more preferred route out and back. The unfortunate trade-off is that the 13 to 14 mile 4WD only- High Clearance only- LT Rated Tires only- Experienced 4WD Driver only drive-in is a difficult and slow one under dry conditions. :( Also expect some moderated to substantial vehicle Arizona pen-striping.

..but this rugged and scenic area has a lot more to offer and we will be back! :D
Horse Canyon Ruins
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The forecast called for pretty high chance of rain but having planned this to be my first real test of my knee just 12 days after surgery, we weren't to be denied. As it turned out we had perfect timing, although threatened with ominous low clouds throughout, the rain held off until we were on the drive out.

After the short recon last week and some further research I drew out a route north of the ridge that we were on last week. By driving just a little farther we could take a straight shot to a ravine that runs 3/4 the way to the ruins. Stepping out of the car we were greeted by high winds and temps in the upper 40's, so we bundled up in preparation for cold and rainy weather. Not knowing whether the route down the ravine would be thick with brush or not was a gamble but it sure paid off. Although we had to climb down (up on the return trip) some large boulders here and there, in general it went pretty smoothly.

We left the ravine when we got to the point to head straight for the ruins and climbed up a few hundred feet to traverse along but well below the ridge line. We stuck to game trails as much as possible but a few times the Manzanita closed in enough to detour slightly. (For a first-timer the Manzanita might seem bad, but take my word for it, it was NOTHING like where I had searched for GPS Joe.) By paying attention to the elevation, after a while I realized the Manzanita thinned out below the 5100' mark and the thicker thorny brush was just a bit below the edge of the Manzanita. We filed that knowledge away for the return route.

Everything opened up almost the moment we first caught glimpse of the peak that was our destination. Instead of following Hank & Eric's route up the south side, we found it quite easy coming up from the NE. Once at the summit we took some random shots, found some pottery shards, matched up a few for photos and a quick energy bar break. Then I started what turned out to be a 30-photo clockwise "tour" of the ruins summit. I took a few videos to document the cold gale-force winds shooting across the peak.

In too short an amount of time it was time to head back. On the way down the peak we came across a large number of Century Plants broken off about 3-4' off the ground. Initially we thought it was from straight-line winds but upon closer inspection we believe elk had been biting them off and most likely eating them because there was no evidence of the tops anywhere in sight. Ok, that mystery solved we set out in earnest. Sticking to the 5060-5080' elevation range along the return traverse the going was much easier. Once our path came back to the ravine we simply retraced our previous route although the last 1/4 mile to the car was much straighter. All in all a great day for a hike. Three falls, one hitting my left knee right over an incision and two to my right knee (making sure to stay away from another left knee hit) but no worries, now a day later I have no bruises on either knee and I feel great. Kudo's to the orthopedic surgeon!

Well over a hundred photos so it will take a few days to select the best to upload to HAZ, but for now you can view them here:
Videos and GPS route also to follow soon.
Horse Canyon Ruins
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Since I just had my knee surgery on Friday we set out to do some four-wheeling while checking out some new remote areas. Reading about Hank's hike of the Horse Canyon Indian ruins we thought that would be a good destination. Now that my Samurai was all done we decided to take it out there to see just how rough the road was. We got a late start leaving at 8:00 AM but the weather was so cool it didn't seem to make any difference.

It was about 9:30 AM when we hit FR 609 and started to climb up to the trailhead. Near the top just as we were getting into a rough area I was about to engage the air locker when it blew an air line. It turns out the air line expanded in the heat so although it had been tight it popped off. But no matter, we just pulled off the side I pulled out some plastic ties, re-secured it and we were off again. It wasn't a few minutes later when we came to the trailhead where Hank & Eric started their hike. It appeared the road kept going farther so we continued driving until the trees closed in on us. All in all, the road was in great shape all the way up and we probably could have made it in a two-wheel drive car with just a little care.

Once we got out of the car it looked like there was an opening for a good view so we thought we would just walk a couple hundred feet from the car, take a few pictures then do some more four-wheeling. As soon as Tracey got out of the car, she realized it was pretty chilly. We weren't dressed for hiking just for driving in the car so didn't even have a windbreaker along. But by being a little creative Tracey used an old T-shirt (really a rag) as well as making use of the seat-cover/blanket as a serape and found a reasonable amount of comfort. Then we set out for the photo opportunity. However as usually happens, there was no great view so we continued to walk a little farther, just a little farther and pretty soon we were within a half mile of the ruins. From memory I couldn't remember if Hank & Eric's followed the ridge on their first or second and successful attempt to reach the ruins, but since this was only 5 days since my knee surgery following the relatively flat terrain of the ridge would be better. But as I found out once I got home and looked at their routes, we pretty much got cliffed out so decided to call it a day and head back to the car. Besides, only intending to walk a few hundred feet from the car, we had no food or water and had been hiking for almost two hours. But now that we got so close to the ruins we'll soon be back for another attempt.

Between the two of us we took almost a hundred photos and a number of videos, including a half-dozen with the camera was mounted on the dashboard while we were driving.

Although the terrain where we hiked was uneven and rocky, surprisingly my knee felt great and I had no issues at all so we continued on. In actuality it was better on my knee than standing for 6 hours at work. Even now a day later it feels and looks much better. So I think I'll intersperse my work days with short hikes to help keep the healing going, it can't happen soon enough. I'm hoping the knee allows me to get in a few solid hikes before my next issue to deal with, a CT-guided needle biopsy of a 1" round mass in my upper left lung. Since I've tested positive for valley fever antibodies, I'm hoping the mass is a result of that and not something more ominous. We'll soon see as the biopsy is scheduled on May 24th.

I only had time today to upload the whole batch to my own website:

I'll pick out a few dozen of the best to upload here on HAZ tomorrow. It'll probably be Sunday or Monday before I have videos posted
Horse Canyon Ruins
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Victory! This is a special hilltop ruin site and likely the crown jewel of Del Shay Basin. The pottery pieces are very large and in pristine condition. This site sees very little visitors. A great adventure!

Horse Canyon Ruins
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Located in the Sierra Ancha Mountains within the Del Shay Basin area NE of Pumpkin Center,AZ, the middle of Jan'11 on our "1st attempt" we made it to within .40 miles of this remote, difficult access, and seldom visited ancient Indian Ruins Hilltop Site at 5246ft.

The moon, stars, other planets, needed pre-planning, with good weather luck and a high tolerance for bushwhacking and route finding must all be lined up correctly for one to successfully pull-off this rugged out and back day hike. All was lined-up correctly for our "2nd attempt" this day to reach the site which ended in success and for me, a high degree of self satisfaction :D . For me it is always a humbling experience to visit an ancient Indian Ruins site like this and especially so knowing that few others to date have done so.

This hike description is now correctly documented with a driving GPS track, default GPS hiking track, and photo sets to help aid all qualified who would like to visit this remote and rewarding site.

Some of the issues to consider before and during:
..From the PHX area(east valley) to TH Start is a recommended 4WD-high clearance vehicle driving time of ~2hrs 45min for a 2.7 mile one way totally off-trail, route finding hike;
..The topo maps do not correctly represent the true ruggedness of this hiking area;
..At Pumpkin Center, one need to crossover flowing Tonto Creek coming and going, so water flow level and rate should be monitored closely prior-to Pumpkin Center arrival;
..Determining a "best day" to do this day hike outing can be somewhat of a lucky guess as Pumpkin Center is around 2375ft elevation and the TH elevation is at 5890ft (so in winter and spring can be snow, ice, slush, and/or mud at 5890' and dry at 2375'; In summer and fall can be very hot with the snakes out, and hiking exposure to bad monsoon weather conditions;
.. I personally don't think that one proficient in only map and compass can correctly do this out and back hike without a lot of lost time roaming the countryside; I would highly recommend having GPS knowledge and being able to download the posted driving route and default GPS track for this hike and following those two tracks out and back;
..This is a very rugged off-trail hike with brutal varieties of cactus to stick you on every turn;
..This is also a very scenic and very rewarding ruins hike once successfully completed! ;)
Horse Canyon Ruins
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Doing his Google Earth fly overs and reviewing his old topo maps in a general area he calls hiking heaven, ssk44 found yet another remote and seldom visited area in our Sierra Ancha Mountains (between Hwy 188 and Hwy288) where an ancient Indian Ruins would exist.

Leaving for a day hike when I need to leave, it took us a while to reach the TH/Parking location 13.7 remote miles in from Pumpkin Center off 4x4 FR1938. We began hiking at 9:50am at an altitude of 5890ft with patchy snow.. a beautiful area with the largest concentration of alligator juniper trees that I have ever hiked among.

This would be a first time try for the two of us to reach these little know, seldom seen, and less visited ruins just west of the scenic and remote Del Shay Basin area. We had no idea what to expect regarding the difficulty of our prior-planned and completely "off trail" route. The difficulty did not disappoint :sweat: . At 12:40pm we were still a time consuming ~.40 miles (as the crow fly's) from our ruins site destination which we could only zoom-in on and wish we had more daylight. We will return another day with both more daylight and a perfected off-trail route. A very 8) area indeed!

Permit $$

Map Drive
High Clearance possible when dry

To hike
Access is from Punkin Center (Tonto Basin) via FR71 to FR609 (Picture Mountain). From the highpoint saddle along FR609, turn left on FR1938 (unmarked) to the designated trailhead.
page created by ssk44 on Mar 31 2010 5:35 pm
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