Short climb to Unimpressive ruins with Extraordinary Views!
The drive from Crown King to the trailhead is on a seldom maintained dirt road and may be closed during winter months. 4-wheel drive is not required, but moderate clearance is.
Like the nearby East Fort, South Fort is a Hohokam site dating back to approximately 1300 AD. It is one of many hilltop sites that form a network with each site being visible to at least one other. The sites stretch from the northern Phoenix Valley, across the Bradshaws to Prescott and down to Wickenburg. Archaeologists are not certain of the purpose of this extensive network.
You may park at Coal Camp and walk up the old Jeep trail to the east or attempt to drive the rocky and rough trail as far as you dare. Either way, you are going uphill for .6 miles before turning sharply right to proceed southwest on a foot path to the rocky outcrop that hosts South Fort. Along the way you will pass a very nice camp spot on your left set back in a stand of large pines. The setting is almost park-like. Manzanita, oak and the occasional alligator juniper make up the remainder of the forest here. Scattered wild flowers are present in season. Keep your eyes open for deer and other wildlife. Many species call this area home.
The final leg of the hike up to the Fort crosses a fence marking the Castle Creek Wilderness Boundary. Ahead you'll see a large rock outcropping and the single rock wall that remains of the ruin. The views south as simply spectacular. Slightly west is a huge granite boulder precariously perched on the edge of the ridge.
Time permitting, the Willow Springs trail goes southeast and the rugged Jim Creek trail goes south out of Coal Camp. Or you could just head back to Crown King for a beer and burger.
Water is available on the drive in at the Ranger Station, Hazlett Hollow Campground and Turney Group Campground (maybe turned off in winter months).
Nearby Hazlett Hollow Campground is open Spring through Fall. Multitudes of dispersed camping sites are available.
Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.
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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