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Black Mesa Ruins, AZ

no permit
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Guide 26 Triplogs  1 Topic
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Phoenix > Phoenix NE
3.3 of 5 by 9
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 3 of 5
Distance Round Trip 1.5 miles
Trailhead Elevation 2,217 feet
Elevation Gain 728 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 1 - 2 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 5.14
Interest Off Trail Hiking & Ruins
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
6  2018-12-11 GeeEss
23  2018-12-08 Nightstalker
7  2018-10-28 mt98dew
22  2018-02-20 SteveHall
34  2017-12-11 TheNaviG8R
16  2015-08-22 cabel
21  2015-03-21 Nightstalker
19  2013-12-24 AZWanderingBear
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Author joebartels
author avatar Guides 213
Routes 824
Photos 10,834
Trips 4,261 map ( 21,471 miles )
Age 49 Male Gender
Location Phoenix, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Dec, Jan, Feb, Nov → 10 AM
Seasons   Late Autumn to Early Spring
Sun  6:16am - 6:27pm
0 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Culture Nearby
Seldom seen, passed by many
by joebartels

Overview: Steep but short off-trail hike to ruins you've likely driven past many times. Good option for those dead-of-winter wake-up-late days.

Summary: Anybody that's driven north on I-17 has passed these ruins. You know the routine... Phoenix, Anthem, Black Canyon City and then there's that haul up the mesa towards the rest stop. Well the mesa directly on your right is Black Mesa. These ruins are at the very southern tip. This section of the mesa is slightly separated from the mass.

From the parking area you will easily spot a path going through the fence. The path then peters out quickly. Not to worry as your target destination is in plain view. Check out the map below. The route shown is a gps track of my ascent. It's definitely the way to go.

Key notes:
1. Follow the fence line north up about 40 yards
2. Aim a hundred yards north of the tip of the mesa as to avoid some small cliffs.

I recommend boots, jeans and a long sleeve shirt for this off-trail jaunt. Preferably go on a cool 60 degree day or you'll be sweatin' buckets going up. The lower half of the ascent is close and personal with the vegetation. It gives away soon before becoming annoying. The ascent is steep. It's slightly steeper than Camelback or Piestewa but nothing as bad as Seven Cataracts or Black Cross Butte. The soil is pretty loose so be careful not to slip backwards. There are a variety of chollas, prickly pear and Saguaro awaiting your mistakes. Just be wise in your path of choice and you'll be fine.

On top of the mesa you'll quickly notice how the soil is soft and aerated. Since the hike is short and the ruins are the highlight I decided to explore the mesa top first. Next I explored a bit around the eastern face of the ruins checking out the rock art.

Dave Wilson, author of the book "Ruins Seldom Seen", best describes the ruins. It should go without saying but if you happen to find any artifacts don't take them. You aren't doing science any favors in preserving history in your home. Further more it's illegal.

It's pretty obvious why the Indians bolted out of this site... the highway noise below never goes away! Tag on the fact everybody is flooring it to ascend the mesa. Whew, it's enough to drive you nuts at times.

This is a nice short off-trail hike for north valley residents, at least once anyhow. It would serve as a good addition if you were on your way to one of the short hikes in Sedona. Ruin enthusiast will appreciate the hike most. However I wouldn't recommend driving up from Tucson or down from Flagstaff just for this hike.

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2004-02-10 joebartels
  • Map
    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.

Most recent Triplog Reviews
Black Mesa Ruins
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Finally got around to hiking this ruin, but went a new (and I feel a better) way, hiking up a wash from Black Canyon City, then left and up. This is without a doubt, one of the more spectacular pueblos in the area, with very tall perimeter walls, and plenty of interior walls at 5' tall. Construction and petroglyphs are in a similar style to New River Ruins, so I believe this is probably Hohokam, rather than Perry Mesa Tradition.
Black Mesa Ruins
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Been wanting to do this one for a long while. So why not do it on Christmas Eve?

Met some friends at the I-17 pull off and parked the vehicles. Worked out way over to the gate and started up the old abandoned jeep trail. We went up and up and up. Easy way to gain the elevation though. Finally began to bushwack our way up to the northern end of the mesa and then across the top of the mesa to the ruins. Lots of rocks just big enough to twist an ankle and plenty of thorny plants and cactus. Lots of deer tracks too, but we never saw any deer.

The ruins are impressive. Tall walls, well defined rooms, commanding view. I am totally amazed at the amount of work that had to go into this fortress. Just think of these people, relatively small by present standards, working to sustain their lives and finding enough energy left to collect and stack all these rocks. The caloric investment alone is enormous.

Had lunch and admired the views. Seems there is always great conversation when on one of these little adventures.

Started back and did some little side explorations. Near N34 07.025 W112 07.879 there are large trees in a wash. I scrambled around and found a nice seep, which in wetter times is likely a spring. While I was doing that our group found an area of pottery shards at the above location. We suspect there was once a dwelling or perhaps an area where food was gathered or prepared. Didn't notice and particular rock formations that might have been a structure.

Always fun to go explore these old sites. Great hike. Tough footing, so you definitely work for it. Now to head home to some nog and presents. Merry Christmas all you HAZers!
Black Mesa Ruins
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I took the "scenic route" to Black Mesa Ruins. I parked at the Bumble Bee exit and went cross-country up and across the mesa approaching the ruin from the rear.

It's not very scenic at the beginning as I had to walk up the I-17 on-ramp until the walls of the hill cut were suitable to get up. Also the barb wire fence a little further up is well constructed and not so easy to get by. But it's about 20min to the mesa rim and then it's a matter of picking a trajectory that gets to the semi-isolated far southern edge of the mesa and the fort.

I walked mainly the "local" southern edge of the rim looking for anything interesting but didn't see much, just a lot of prickly pears. Easiest access to the semi-isolated far southern edge is via a saddle. This was an interesting passage, the prickly pears giving way to teddy bears and ocotillos, and I came across some interesting modern petroglyphs left (I think) by Basque shepherds from the early 1900's.

The fort itself was very impressive with tall walls and well-defined rooms. On the cliff band below I found some nice petroglyphs.

On the way back I decided to cut the dogleg and took a high traverse over to a jeep road I could see (walking the road is quite a bit easier than bushwacking the mesa). While getting to the road I startled a group of javalina and I also went through an area with a lot of pottery shards - though I didn't notice a ruin which would probably have been hidden by the shrubs. The road, apparently a service road for the power lines, switchbacked up to the mesa and then it was again cross country back to the car.
Black Mesa Ruins
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What a great bushwack climb. The ruins are some of the best walls that I have seen. Plenty of pottery shards and petroglyphs. Temps droped and rain was comming in fast so I left the top. Would have been great pictures but I left the camera in the truck. I have to go back to this one!

Permit $$

Map Drive
Paved - Car Okay

To hike
Take 1-17 north out of Phoenix. Past mile marker 245 there's a pullout just before the highway turns left. Check out the map above for GPS cordinates. This is not an established trailhead. In fact you are simply pulling off the highway. Be sure to pull all the way off. There's a small hill you can hide behind. Upon leaving you might wish to back out from behind the hill as there is no room to turn around on the shoulder of the highway. I'm not sure if it's legal to park here or not, so go at your own risk. Also be very careful getting back on to the highway, it's a dangerous situation without proper space.

For reference: Pioneer Road is exit 225 so this is just twenty miles north.
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