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Cave Creek Indian Ruins at Chalk Canyon, AZ

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Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Phoenix > Phoenix NE
3.7 of 5 by 16
HAZ reminds you to respect the ruins. Please read the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 & Ruins Etiquette
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Difficulty 3 of 5
Distance Round Trip 9.5 miles
Trailhead Elevation 2,947 feet
Elevation Gain 535 feet
Accumulated Gain 1,657 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 4.5
Kokopelli Seeds 17.79
Interest Off Trail Hiking, Ruins, Historic & Seasonal Creek
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
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33  2019-03-31 caragruey
14  2019-03-31 Naferg323
36  2019-01-30 RowdyandMe
10  2019-01-25 survivordude
4  2019-01-19 caragruey
21  2019-01-19 Naferg323
5  2019-01-12
Skull Mesa and Chalk Canyon
15  2018-12-25 mazatzal
Page 1,  2,  3,  4,  5
Author Oregon_Hiker
author avatar Guides 8
Routes 330
Photos 5,755
Trips 431 map ( 2,531 miles )
Age 73 Male Gender
Location Phoenix, AZ
Co-Author Hansenaz
co-author avatarGuides 4
Routes 151
Photos 6,020
Trips 357 map (2,615 Miles)
Age 66 Male Gender
Location Phoenix, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Nov, Mar, Apr, Feb
Sun  6:15am - 6:26pm
Official Route
1 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
keeping an eye out for collapsed walls
by Oregon_Hiker & Hansenaz

This hike will take you to the site of a Hohokam habitation ruin on the top of a 300 ft high bluff overlooking Cave Creek at Chalk Canyon approximately 4 miles upstream from the Spur Cross Park trailhead. A hike to this location is described in the 2nd edition of "Hiking Ruins Seldom Seen" by Dave Wilson. Archaeologist William Holiday described this site in a 1974 report as having 30 pueblo-type rooms with one room larger than the rest. This is just one of at least 7 habitation type ruins in this area scattered on the benches between the canyon bottom and the top of Skull Mesa. All but one are on the east side of the creek. Most of these ruins appear to have had a defensive type wall around the exterior of the ruin except on the sides protected by a cliff or very steep canyon wall as is the case for this ruin. The sites typically cover an area about 100 by 50 yards. Holiday estimated that these ruins were occupied around 1200 A.D. based on the type of pottery sherds found at the sites. The Hohokam food supply was primarily from cultivating corn, squash and beans supplemented with mesquite beans, paloverde beans, saguaro fruit and other wild plants. Meat from hunting rabbits, deer, bighorn sheep and other animals was probably a small part of their diet. Holiday concluded that there was insufficient arable land in this area of Cave Creek Canyon to support the number of people living there. He surmised that much of their food came from larger cultivated fields found in flat areas along Cave Creek below the mouth of the canyon and was supplemented by smaller plots in the canyon bottom and on flat areas of the benches near the dwelling sites. Tending these fields would have required a one way commute of about 10 miles. The reason for locating their dwellings up in the canyon may have been the availability of perenial springs and perhaps the better defensive positions offered there.

The starting point for the hike is the parking lot of the Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area, a Maricopa County Regional Park. There are no restrooms at the parking lot but well maintained outhouses are located past the entrance gate approximately 0.2 miles from the parking lot. There is a per person entrance fee (current info found in Fees/Permit section) at the trail head for everyone except residents of the town of Cave Creek who helped finance the purchase of land for this park with a local tax levy. From the parking lot walk north along the road a short distance to the entrance gate where the fee box is located. Continue to follow the road north past the outhouses staying to the right at the fork in the road at that location. The road stays on the east side of Cave Creek for about a mile. The site of the old Spur Cross Dude Ranch can be seen along the west side of the creek shortly after you pass the outhouses. Nothing remains of the ranch buildings except some foundations, so use your imagination. There was a ranch-style main house, several guest houses, and a small swimming pool. There was even a short air strip along the creek bottom used by one of the ranch owners, Warren Beaubien, to commute to the ranch from his home in Santa Ana, CA. in his private plane. Tragically, he died from burns received when his light plane crashed and burst into flames on approach to the landing strip in 1953. On the bench just above and to the west of the ranch site are three Hohokam pueblo-type ruin sites. Although located close to one of the Spur Cross trails these sites have "Closed Area" signs blocking access for a closer look. The park ranger periodically gives a guided tour of these sites. A schedule for these guided hikes can be found on the Spur Cross Park website.

At approximately 1 mile from the outhouses the road/trail crosses to the west side of Cave Creek and a short distance later enters the Tonto National Forest. The trail continues up the bottom of the canyon following the route of an old forest road, FR48, crossing the creek several times. Be prepared to do some rock hopping to keep your feet dry if there is water flowing in the creek. At approximately 2.2 miles from the parking lot after the trail crosses over to the east side of the creek you will come to a trail intersection with a large sign showing a map of the trails. The ruins at Chalk Canyon can be reached either by continuing up the canyon or by taking the Cave Creek Trail #4 to the right at the sign. The "official route" for this description follows CC #4 to the ruin site so at this point turn right and follow the old road bed. After a short distance you will pass the intersection where Cottonwood Trail #247 forks off to the right. Continue to follow the old road as it turns north and climbs up to a saddle about 1 mile from where it left the creek. At this point CC Trail #4 traverses a hill side for about 0.7 miles and then drops down into the bottom of Chalk Canyon and climbs back up the other side. After the trail climbs out of the canyon and levels out, proceed about another 100 yds and then head due west off trail. You will have to meander around some prickly stuff but try to continue bearing west until you reach the rim of the bluff overlooking the creek below. Keep your eyes open for the random petroglyphs that are scattered about this area on dark boulders. When you reach the rim turn right and proceed along the rim keeping an eye out for the collapsed rock walls of the ruins. The inhabitants of this site had a great view of the canyon below as well as the New River Mesa on the west side of the canyon and Skull Mesa on the east side. One of the rooms is more well preserved than the others and has been excavated on the interior to reveal the fitted rock walls just below ground level. The original rock walls were held together with a clay-like mortar. Over the centuries the clay was washed away by the rains resulting in the collapse of the rock walls. The roofs were made of horizontal log rafters with layers of sticks and reeds across them then covered with clay. The logs have long ago disintegrated. You will find pottery sherds scattered around the site. According to the 1974 archaeology report by William Holiday the pottery found at the Cave Creek sites is primarily Wingfield Plain and Gila Red with none having painted decorations.

There are two options for the return route. Option #1 is to return the way you came. Option #2 for the more adventurous is to hike down the steep canyon side to the creek side trail below and follow that trail downstream to form a lollipop loop. Warning...the hillside is steep and you will have to pick your way through a small thicket of thorn bushes at the bottom. The reward is a field of large boulders directly below the ruin site with probably the largest collection of petroglyphs found at one location in the Cave Creek Canyon area. There are also some bed rock metates at this location. This petroglyph site is on the property of the old 6L Ranch which was abandoned long ago but the land is still privately owned. The iron gate and a "No Trespassing" sign is located a short distance from the petroglyphs down the return trail. The "No Trespassing" thing is no longer enforced. Hikers and equestrians regularly visit this area. About 0.8 mile from the petroglyph site the return trail crosses the creek a couple of times. The remains of a fairly large mining operation can be seen to the west just above the canyon floor. A short section of the creek at this location seems to always have water in it so there must be a perennial spring somewhere along that stretch. Another 0.8 miles and you arrive back at the trail sign where CC #4 trail starts. From there retrace your incoming trail down Cave Creek to the Spur Cross parking lot.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

Gate Policy: If a gate is closed upon arrival, leave it closed after you go through. If it is open, leave it open. Leaving a closed gate open may put cattle in danger. Closing an open gate may cut them off from water. Please be respectful, leave gates as found.

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

2013-01-31 Oregon_Hiker & Hansenaz
    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 of 15 deeper Triplog Reviews
    Cave Creek Indian Ruins at Chalk Canyon
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    This turned out to be an enjoyable hike with some cool ruins to view. Leaving the TH, we (Tracie, my intrepid hiking partner, and I) began the hike by going out on the Metate Trail, which is more interesting than just going on the Spur Cross Trail. Once we got to the Forest Service sign, we went out Cave Creek Trail 4 until we got to a cairn, and then went on a easy, off trail scramble to get to a site of some ruins. The trail was not very noticeable once we left Cave Creek trail 4, but the ruin site was easy to find by following the GPS track that I downloaded from HAZ. There were a lot of petroglyphs at the ruin site, along with a room that was probably 12'X30' with walls 3'-4' high.

    Rather than going into the canyon below, we made our way back to Trail 4. Once there, we continued going out for a ways -- I wanted to see if there was way to get up to the Skull Mesa fort ruins from Trail #4. Unfortunately there did not appear go be a good way to do so, at least from the west side of Skull Mesa. You might could do it, but you'd spend a lot time and energy doing so. Perhaps there would be a way up and down Skull Mesa from the north side, but I did not check that out on this trip.
    Cave Creek Indian Ruins at Chalk Canyon
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    After meeting Steph and Blake on El Camino del Diablo, we knew we wanted to hike together and plan some future explorations. They hadn't hiked much in the north valley, so we took them to one of our favorite areas, Spur Cross, to visit the Chalk Canyon Ruins and Petroglyphs.

    Rain was in the forecast, but we were undeterred. A mountain bike race was using the Maricopa Trail through Spur Cross when we arrived so we had to accommodate the bikers, meaning it took 5 minutes to go 200 feet until they turned west onto the Spur Cross Trail while we continued north.

    The rain began about 3 miles into the hike, so the rain gear came out. Spent time exploring the glyphs, a quick look at the overturned rusty old Ford pickup and then a break at the 6L Ranch. The rain stopped as we climbed east out of the creek canyon. The connector trail between 6L and the Cave Creek #4 Trail has really become overgrown since I last used it. Lots of catclaw and loose footing. We examined the plane crash site and turned south along the #4 trail.

    The bushwack over to the ruins was easy enough and we spent time examining sherds, walls and pondering life here back when.

    The rain has really popped out the color of the varied rocks and a few went into packs for additions to rock gardens back home. The red fishhook barrel cacti were showing off all along the trail. We sidestepped onto the Metate Trail to admire the huge saguaros but all of us were getting footsore and tired and ready for the trailhead and some warm showers back home.

    MJ had prepped some enchiladas for dinner and the wide ranging conversation went for a good while into the evening. A good day with good friends!
    Cave Creek Indian Ruins at Chalk Canyon
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    Had some friends from Canada visit Wade and I. I met Loretta and Pat while on a 12-day Colorado River trip through the Grand Canyon last April and we have become good friends. They spend 6 weeks traveling the southwest each year getting away from the harsh weather of eastern Canada. Took them on the Cave Creek, Spur Cross trail to the petroglyphs crossing the creek 8 times. On the way back, I slipped off a rock that moved on me and down into the water I went. Slight bruise on my knee and forearm, but overall, no issues. In fact, the water felt good. There were a lot less wildflowers on this trail than there were on the Elephant Mountain Trail, but a lot more water. My favorite bird, the Canyon Wrens, were singing away putting a smile on my face. The only people we passed on the trail were on horseback. My friends really enjoyed the petroglyphs and the hike.
    Cave Creek Indian Ruins at Chalk Canyon
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    The last time I came here I was a little disappointed and never made it to the ruins. This time it was a mission. I take back all the bad stuff I said about Spur Cross. Instead of just taking the road trail I went with the metate trail and it was great. The trail goes through a really lush area and there were some gigantic saguaros here. Some of these would give the Superstition saguaros a run for their money. The recent rains have really got everything so green and huge. The entire trip was through thick and tall vegetation. I decided to take the loop with the Cave Creek trail up and back around to the top and then down to the ruins site. Unfortunately there was way to much prickly pear on the ground for Gabby to navigate so we ended up way past the ruins when we made our decent. Did climb back up a short ways to check out a few rock walls and also all the great petroglyphs. I love looking at the art and trying to figure out the stories being told. I have decided this one is aliens. Found a dead animal, not sure if it was a fox, but I'm sure it was dead. Didn't see anyone at all until we made it back out of the Tonto and officially in Spur Cross. Then I ran into several groups and they all talked about the several rattlesnakes they saw on the trail. I saw zero snakes but I did see rabbits, lizards, tons of different birds, and a pack of javelina. Really enjoyed this one today and so did Gabby.
    Cave Creek Indian Ruins at Chalk Canyon
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    First off, $3 per person is a little ridiculous. The lady told me they are 'self funding'. Whatever that means.. So am I, lady! I picked up about 10 pieces of trash along the trail so maybe the Spur Cross people should reevaluate how they are spending all the $$ they are taking from the hikers. Secondly, the 'trail' was just a road the whole way until you get into the Tonto Forest. So basically paid $3 to walk a road to get to the actual trail. :SB: I digress, after the point into Tonto, the hike was real nice. Lots of water in the creek, little falls here and there. Gabby dog really liked swimming through all the pools. There were a lot of big birds out there. Im not much of a bird guy, but Gabby sure liked chasing them around!! LOTS of bees. The constant hum was a little creepy. It seemed like there was a hive in every other tree!! Didn't see any snakes, though a guy I passed said he saw 2 rattlers. Do to having to go back to Circle K for the $3, I was short on time and didnt even make it to the ruins. :( Will have to come back sometime from the Cave Creek side. The pics of the glyphs look very interesting.
    Cave Creek Indian Ruins at Chalk Canyon
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    Took my neighbor and her Aunt and Uncle to Spur Cross to see the petrogylphs. I think it was a little longer of a hike than they wanted to do, but they hung in there and did all the creek crossings just fine. A little breezy and cool today but worked up a sweat on the return. They took lots of photos. They neighbors's relatives saw a Bobcat coming into Spur Cross in the morning and we saw a skunk in its den just off the trail. The skunk would not move and did not seem to care that we were staring at it trying to figure out if it was alive or dead. It was definitely alive and it moved slowly away and we moved quickly away. A good hike and everyone was sufficiently tired the rest of the afternoon.
    Cave Creek Indian Ruins at Chalk Canyon
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    Hiked up to the petroglyphs. Some friends from out of town want to do this hike next week. Just wanted to make sure the creek crossings were manageable for them. Lots of folks on the trails today. One group of three guys were totally lost. Got them headed back to the parking lot (hopefully).
    Cave Creek Indian Ruins at Chalk Canyon
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    Spur Cross-Chalk Canyon Ruins-6LRanch-Metate
    I had Friday off which means I can hike with Wade and Mary Jo. Wade usually has to work weekends. Fortunately the temps wouldn't be too high for the day and in fact, the start was pretty windy which died down as the morning wore on. Wade was taking us to some new country that involved a little cross-country. I always look forward to seeing areas I've heard about or seen pics of on HAZ.

    The Highlights:
    1) Hiking with Wade and Mary Jo, they make it nice and fun and entertaining and educational.
    2) The creek crossings are always a bit of a challenge except for Wade who seems to leap across without a second thought where Mary Jo and I have to scope out the situation first. However, Wade is always there with a helping hand if needed.
    3) There was lots of yellow blooms out there.
    4) Going up Cave Creek 4 hill was not bad at all and the views along the way were worth the elevation gain.
    5) Cave Creek 4 trail seemed in great shape
    6) The Ruins were beyond my expectations :y: ...much bigger than I thought. It was great fun to wander around and imagine and check out all the sherds and glyphs
    7) The wolfberries were a welcome treat. We found one bush that provided perfectly flavored berries.
    #8 We headed back to the trails while being treated to lots of Mariposa Lilys strewn about the landscape.
    9) The change of terrain while making our way to the airplane wreckage with a little dune section, a rocky dike-like section, a canyon, a gila monster, prickly pear section and an occasional smattering of junipers.
    10) The trail down to the Ranch on the grassy hill was pretty but the trail was a little dicey after that due to rocks and its narrowness.
    11) The view as we came down creekside to the ranch was pretty cool.
    12) The hike in and along and above Cave Creek from the ranch had lots to offer in the way of scenery and creek crossings, dry and wet.
    13) The billboards were so cool :DANCE: .
    14) An out of place palm tree
    15) The Metate Trail never disappoints altho one of the main giants has fallen :( .
    16) Cold towel, wet beer and a great post hike meal and conversation :) .

    Yes, there is a LOWlight: G N A T S :yuck: that prevented us from having a nice lunch at the Ranch.

    Spur Cross Trail -
    Cave Creek Trail #4 including Chalk Canyon -
    The Ruins -
    Cave Creek Trail #4 from Ruins toward Wreckage -
    The Plane Wreckage -
    To 6L Ranch -
    6L Ranch to Spur Cross Trail -
    Spur Cross Trail -
    Metate Trail -

    Cave Creek Indian Ruins at Chalk Canyon
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    An Old Ranch and Ancient Ruin
    A few weeks ago Tibber planned a hike for us. Was my turn this time. She'd never seen the Chalk Creek Ruins, the petroglyphs below it, or the abandoned 6L Ranch. So I planned out a fairly aggressive trip and off we (AZ Beaver, Tibber and me) went on a windy, but otherwise perfect morning.

    The hike up the #4 Trail was mostly checking out the wildflowers and enjoying stretching out legs. The buckhorn, hedge hog, and prickly pear are about to really get going. The brittle bush is well past its prime. There is a scattering of other flowers and quite a few Mariposa lilies. Hit the bottom of Chalk Canyon and a pretty little gila monster paid its respects. Second this season for all of us.

    Of the three, only I had been to the Chalk Ruins. I sensed a lack of enthusiasm from one of our party, but soon she was pointing out pottery shards to Tibber. The rooms are plentiful a couple are very interesting. We munched on the plentiful wild wolfberries and enjoyed the views and speculations on the folks that once lived here.

    After the ruins, we worked north and visited the sight of a plane crash dating back to the 1950s. From there we took a little used trail down to the site of the old 6L Ranch with the intent of resting and having a light lunch. By now the wind had died and the gnats had risen, so much that the ladies suggested we find another place. We took a brief time looking over what's left of the ranch and headed south, finding an open space with some breeze, and thus fewer gnats, by the creek. We took lunch there.

    The old Ford is still where I last saw it. The petroglyphs are still carved into stone below the ruins and I seem to find a new panel with every visit. Tibber seemed to enjoy our stop there.

    Kept heading south and took the Metate Trail with its shade the rest of the way in to the Spur Cross Trailhead. We had all brought cold brews for the post hike. Some very refreshing iced down towels magically appeared.

    Starving, we headed over to Big Earls for burgers and cold drinks.

    Was a good day with good people on some good trails. Everyone seemed pleased enough with what we had seen and how it had all gone. And for me, that was plenty good enough.
    Cave Creek Indian Ruins at Chalk Canyon
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    Looked to be a nice day, so we headed up to Spur Cross with the intent to hike past the petroglyphs up to the old 6L Ranch. Was windy and a little cool at the start.

    Saw two folks at the trailhead who had some questions as to where to hike and see some saguaros. Course there were only a few hundred in view at the time, but I made what appeared to be a well considered suggestion (while noticing they had no water and no idea either). Crossed paths with a commercial trail ride group not long after we set out, and then saw no one else the remainder of the hike.

    Hadn't been on this trail since back in the Spring. The results of the monsoon flooding is still evident and has altered a few of the creek crossing (we had 16 wet crossings today). Spent some time reexamining the glyphs and metates before heading on up to 6L. Had lunch and then spent some time with my hiking partner reviewing some knots used for setting up our camps. For some reason she was really curious about how to tie a trucker's hitch.

    Took a slight detour along the Metate Trail on the way out.

    Was nice to get some dirt time. Haven't had enough of that lately.

    Permit $$
    Spur Cross Conservation Area $3 per person

    Map Drive
    FR / Dirt Road / Gravel - Car Okay

    To Spur Cross Trailhead
    I-17 North & Exit 233, which is SR-74 the Carefree Highway. Head east on Carefree Highway 9.9 miles to Cave Creek Road. Head North on Cave Creek Road 2.6 miles to Spur Cross Ranch Road. The road jogs a bit here but you go 4.0 miles to the parking lot.

    It is a well-graded dirt road. As it nears the parking area, the road leads past a large green house, through a tall gatepost and past a corral. There is a large signed parking area. Along the road about 75 yards northeast of the parking area, there is a self-pay station and a small informational kiosk with rudimentary maps. Pay the fee and carry the stub with you.

    From PHX (I-10 & AZ-51) 35.8 mi - about 57 mins
    From TUC (Jct 1-10 & Grant) 144 mi - about 2 hours 26 mins
    From FLG (Jct I-17 & I-40) 133 mi - about 2 hours 10 mins
    page created by joebartels on Jan 31 2013 10:53 am
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