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Casa Grande Ruins National Monument, AZ

no permit
165 36 1
Guide 36 Triplogs  1 Topic
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Phoenix > Phoenix SE
2.5 of 5 by 11
HAZ reminds you to respect the ruins. Please read the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 & Ruins Etiquette
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Difficulty 0.5 of 5
Distance Round Trip 0.49 miles
Trailhead Elevation 1,405 feet
Elevation Gain 16 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 1 hour
Kokopelli Seeds 0.57
Interest Ruins
Backpack No
Dogs not allowed
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
19  2019-03-30 AladdinSane
6  2019-03-24 Hansenaz
14  2017-10-27 AladdinSane
14  2016-11-25
Hunter Trail - Picacho Peak
9  2014-08-03 AZ_Step
10  2012-12-21 DarthStiller
7  2012-10-07 PaleoRob
5  2012-01-06 TheNaviG8R
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   Feb, Mar, Nov, Dec → NOON
Seasons   ALL
Sun  6:14am - 6:23pm
1 Alternative
Flora Nearby
Culture Nearby
Home sweet home
by Randal_Schulhauser

History: The Grand House is a four story building, as large as a castle and equal to the largest church in these lands of Sonora. Close to this Grand House there are thirteen smaller houses, somewhat more dilapidated, and the ruins of many others, which make it evident that in ancient times there had been a city here. With these words recorded in his journal in 1694, Father Kino became the first European visitor to these prehistoric ruins. The "Great House" reference or "Casa Grande" in Father Kino's native tongue, lives on today in the National Monument status bestowed upon this site.

The frequency of visits by various Spanish expeditions enhanced the mystery as to its origin and meaning. The overland route from Tucson to San Francisco taken by Spanish settlers led by Juan Bautista de Anza rested for a day on October 31st, 1775, near Casa Grande. This gave Franciscan Friars Font and Garces an opportunity to explore the site, take measures, and record the intricacies of the architectural design. They dubbed the Casa Grande the "Palace of Montezuma" and concluded the site had been built by the Aztecs.

The 1846 Mexican-American war marked many recorded visits including one of the earliest surviving sketches, this by a member of General Kearny's military detachment which noted an "Aztec Temple".

A tradition of "leaving one's mark" on the ruins was also established, including those by J.W. Ward in 1871. By 1880, the Southern Pacific Rail Road established a station in the town of Casa Grande and a connecting stage coach route to allow tourists to visit the ruins. Some of the earliest known photographs of the site are from this period. With every tourist visit there seemed to be a little less ruins as souvenir hunters removed pottery, pieces of wood and even parts of the walls!

In 1892, recognized for its significance as a prehistoric ruin, the site was designated the first archeological preserve in the United States. Efforts to curb vandalism and to stop the deterioration of the site commenced. By 1903, the first roof was constructed over the Grand House to combat the effects of sun and weather erosion.

Around this time the assumed convention that Casa Grande was Aztec ruins was challenged. Noting many parallels between Zuni ceremonial structures in New Mexico and other southwest archeological finds seemed to change the notion almost overnight. The discovery of this ancient Hohokam culture led to elevating the site to National Monument status in 1918. A series of archeological digs established the existence of "Compound A & B" and in 1932 a new steel and concrete canopy was placed over the ruins. This established the unworldly, distinctive, and iconic appearance seen to this day.

The Hike: Start your hike at the Visitor's Center by paying the $5/person (16+ years of age). Alternatively, use your National Parks Annual Pass to gain "free" admission. Inside is an interpretive display of various artifacts unearthed during the many archeological digs and restoration efforts the past 100+ years. As you exit the Visitor's Center and enter Compound A, you are greeted with a sweeping view of the Great House and its outlying walls and buildings. There's opportunity for self-guided tours absorbing the factoids and stories parlayed on the many plaques. Or take part in a Volunteer Ranger guided tour to learn even more! Explore the out buildings and speculate on the reasons the Hohokam built and then abandoned this ancient settlement. Walk the perimeter wall of Compound A to gain an appreciation for the size of this settlement. At its zenith around 1300, it's thought that more than a thousand Hohokom people lived near this site.

Don't forget Compound B when you finish walking the Great House and central plaza. Located on the north side of the parking lot is a picnic area and some raised viewing platforms. From the raised viewing platforms you will see remains of two pyramids and a ball playing court. Walking Compound B is not permitted at the time of this writing due to ongoing archeological investigations.

Summary: I'm often asked to recommend "family-friendly" hikes. With a personal preference for the strenuous and extreme (think ruins in the Sierra Anchas), this is not a family outing option. Having daughters that consider a walk around the local mall a hike, this relatively short, flat, historical excursion certainly makes for an acceptable compromise. Enjoy!

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2006-01-16 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
    Casa Grande Ruins National Monument
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    Along the Gila Trail - Dec2011
    Along the Gila Trail - Dec2011

    Put some miles on the F-150 today dodging rain showers and retracing a section of the GILA TRAIL while on the "trail of the ancients" from;

    Casa Grande Ruins National Monument =>
    Hohokam Pima National Monument (aka "Snaketown") =>
    Patio Area Petroglyph Site =>
    Gatlin Site - Gila Bend =>
    Painted Rocks Petroglyph Site =>
    Sears Point Petroglyph Site =>
    Antelope Hill Petroglyph Site =>
    Confluence of Gila River with Colorado River near Yuma AZ? => Unexplored territory for this author (but suspect the area is rich in ancient artifacts...)

    Missed out on a "drive-by" of the Fortaleza Ruins between the Gatlin Site and Painted Rocks Petroglyph Site => viewtopic.php?t=2915#p32656

    I've embedded in a HAZ FORUM post a reference document I used researching the GILA TRAIL => viewtopic.php?t=6627 . Thought I would share with HAZ members.

    I'd appreciate hearing from anyone with some "insights" on rock art near the confluence of the Gila and Colorado Rivers. I've never had a chance to explore this area and suspect there are some significant sites. :wrt:

    Started the day heading down the I-10 towards Casa Grande searching out the "Snaketown" site near Gila River bridge. From the NPS website;

    "Hohokam Pima National Monument was authorized by Congress on October 21, 1972, to protect an ancient Hohokam village known today as "Snaketown." Excavations in the 1930's and again in the 1960's revealed the site was inhabited from about 300 BC to around 1200 AD and may have had up to 2,000 inhabitants. Following the last excavations, the site was completely recovered with earth, leaving nothing visible above ground. The Monument is located on the Gila River Indian Reservation and is under tribal ownership. The Gila River Indian Community has decided not to open the extremely sensitive area to the public. There is no park brochure, passport stamp, picture stamp or other free literature available. Snaketown was first excavated in 1934 by the Gila Pueblo Foundation, under the direction of Harold S. Gladwin. Between 1964-1965, a second excavation was led by Emil Haury. The two expeditions discovered that the site contained more than sixty midden mounds. A central plaza and two ovel shaped fields were surrounded by pit houses, and an elaborate irrigation system fed the nearby fields in which beans, maize and squash were grown."

    My home library has many historical photos from the principal archeologists from the "Snaketown digs" and I recall some of the artifacts are on display at the Casa Grande Ruins National Monument. I conduct a drive-by of the Snaketown site bounded by the I-10 on the east, the Gila River on the south, Maricopa Road on the west and Riggs Road on the north. The site is completely buried, unkown, and returned to nature. Check out the 2009 video archive posted by University of Arizona commemorating the excavation's 75th anniversary =>

    I now head towards the village of Maricopa and Hwy 238 in search of the Patio Area Petroglyph Site => A chance to explore before a squall line comes in from the south bringing some serious rain. Time to head out.

    A stop at the Shawmutt Trainspotting Loop yields some interesting clouds. The dogs are appreciative of the chance to stretch their legs after that bumpy escape along the 4x4 tracks from the Patio Area.

    Next up is the Gatlin Site. A sad, lonely spot after the acrimonious divorce between the Town of Gila Bend and the Arizona Archeological Society.

    A stop in Gila Bend to pick up some 'burgs and we make the trek out to the Painted Rocks Petroglyph Site to enjoy lunch in the pouring rain!

    Sears Point and Antelope Hill (was also going to check the nearby Texas Hill rock art site, but had enough rain for one day) are up next before the stretch run home to catch the 2nd half and OT of the Cards game...
    Casa Grande Ruins National Monument
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    Last hike of 2009. Down visiting friends in CG, and we decided to get out and about a little on the last day of the year. Strolled around the ruins with them and their son. Good time - weather was perfect. The Park Service is backfilling some of the southern section of the Big House compound to repair damage and improve drainage.
    Casa Grande Ruins National Monument
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    Though I don't completely understand why this is on HAZ it was a fun trip. It is basically a couple of ruins out behind a museum not a hike but still pretty neat. There are other ruins in the area too but they will not let you leave the first compound to see them. I had very little previous knowledge of Native American life out here in AZ but was amazed by how they managed to survive in such a harsh climate, even engineering canals for water! Overall a good day trip which we combined with visiting the WWII POW camp in Florence.
    Casa Grande Ruins National Monument
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    The Monday March 13th edition of the Arizona Republic had a brief on page B5 indicating that;

    "March is Arizona Archeological Awareness Month and Rangers from Casa Grande National Monument will be conducting backcountry tours to archeological sites normally closed to the public."

    Intrigued, I was able to secure a reservation for Sunday March 26th at 9:00 am. I picked up Mike Mattes and we arrived at the National Monument with time to spare. We soon met our Ranger guide, Denise Schultz, along with 6 other hikers for the backcountry tour. Denise explained that Compound A, the "Grand House", is open to the public 7 days a week.

    We however, are headed to Compound B, open to the public only on very special occasions. We first visit a ball court and soon discover that this is relatively small compared to the ball court located outside the National Monument near the new WalMart visible to the east.

    We then visit a large trash mound. This looked insignificant at first, but upon closer examination the trash mound reveals many secrets - large pottery shards, arrowheads. Walls around two large platform mounds are visited next. We see drainage systems installed in 1907 to move rainwater off the platform mounds.

    One of the last stops is an oven pit lined with congealed sugars from agave plants. The fired sugars would form a ceramic-like finish on the rocks giving the appearance of a fireplace lining. We return via the old stagecoach route back to the visitors center completing a circuit of almost 1 ½ miles.

    Many thanks to Ranger Denise Schultz for a most informative tour of Compound B!

    Permit $$
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    Map Drive
    Paved - Car Okay

    To hike
    From Phoenix: Take Interstate 10 east (towards Tucson) about 40 miles until you reach exit 185 for Hwy 187/387. Turn left (east) onto Hwy 187/387 (GPS coordinates 33o 00.071'N, 111o 45.272'W) and drive over the Interstate 10 overpass and continue about 1/4 mile until you reach the intersection where Hwy 187 and Hwy 387 diverge (GPS coordinates 33o 00.349'N, 111o 45.078'W). Take Hwy 387 towards Coolidge and Florence. Note that the Casa Grande Ruins are in Coolidge, not Casa Grande! Drive about 7 miles through the Sacaton Mountains until you reach Hwy 87 (GPS coordinates 33o 01.282'N, 111o 38.176'W). Turn right on Hwy 87 towards Coolidge and Florence. Travel another 7 miles until you reach the signaled intersection for Hwy 87 & Hwy 287 (GPS coordinates 33o 00.151'N, 111o 31.460'W). As you approach this intersection, take note of the northern boundary of the Casa Grande Ruins National Monument viewed to the south. You may notice archeological excavations in progress within the National Monument boundaries. Turn right at the signal lights as Hwy 87 heads south into the town of Coolidge. An interesting contrast as a new Wal-Mart and Safeway appears on your left and the entrance to the National Monument is on your right (GPS coordinates 32o 59.739'N, 111o 31.449'W. Proceed down the entrance road about 3/4 mile until you reach the Visitor Center parking lot.

    My GPS noted 46 miles traveled from my home in Ahwatukee to the Visitor Center parking lot. Travel time was just under 45 minutes. GPS coordinates for "trail head" are 32o 59.730'N, 111o 32.111'W.

    From Tucson: Take Interstate 10 west (towards Phoenix) about 45 miles until you reach exit 211b for Hwy 87. Follow the Frontage Road about 1/2 miles until you reach the junction with Hwy 87. Bear right onto Hwy 87 and travel about 20 miles until you reach the town of Coolidge. Continue through Coolidge until the National Monument entrance appears on your left, about 1/4 mile before the signaled intersection of Hwy 87 & 287. Proceed down the entrance road about 3/4 mile until you reach the Visitor Center parking lot. GPS coordinates for "trail head" are 32o 59.730'N, 111o 32.111'W.
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