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Gisela Ruins, AZ

no permit
41 8 0
Guide 8 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Payson > Payson S
3.5 of 5 by 2
HAZ reminds you to respect the ruins. Please read the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 & Ruins Etiquette
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Difficulty 1 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance Round Trip 2.5 miles
Trailhead Elevation 2,850 feet
Elevation Gain 240 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 1.5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 3.7
Interest Ruins
Backpack Possible - Not Popular
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
6  2018-05-30
The Ruins Near Gisela Ruins
3  2014-06-01 neilends
3  2014-06-01 neilends
1  2012-09-08 TheNaviG8R
5  2011-01-22 Wild Bill
5  2010-10-25 Charger55
7  2009-10-04 andy_ellarby
17  2006-03-27 PrestonSands
Author PrestonSands
author avatar Guides 168
Routes 149
Photos 5,534
Trips 1,317 map ( 6,690 miles )
Age 42 Male Gender
Location Oro Valley, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Nov, Mar, Feb, Jan → Any
Seasons   ALL
Sun  6:10am - 6:29pm
0 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Culture Nearby
Walls of rocks at The Box
by PrestonSands

These Salado ruins along Tonto Creek just downstream of Gisela are described in Dave Wilson's book "Hiking Ruins Seldom Seen". Access to these ruins will not be possible if Tonto Creek is in flood stage.

Starting at the end of Tonto Creek Drive in the little village of Gisela, (just south of Buckboard Trail), follow the dusty 4x4 path through the cottonwoods and mesquite trees. Soon you will arrive at Tonto Creek, where, if it has not gone dry, you will find a nice swimming hole next to an unusual conglomerate rock formation. Look for a place where you can cross over to the east side of the creek (you may get wet), and go for it. On the east bank of the creek, there is a jeep trail that you can follow through the mesquite flats. There are many small roads criss-crossing this area, probably due to weekend parties . Soon the mesquite flat narrows, and eventually ends at a shelf of rock along Tonto Creek. Along here I came across the recent work of a beaver: a cottonwood tree cut down by teeth. Head downstream along the eastern bank for a short ways, and cross a dry wash coming in from the east (Cocomunga Canyon), until you reach the base of a hill on the east side of the creek. At the top of this hill is the ruin.

While hiking up the hillside, I came across several old rock walled terraces, with no apparent purpose. I wondered if these terraces were built by the Salado for dry farming. I continued the short climb up to the top of the hill through the jojoba bushes and junipers, and over to the rocky outcropping overlooking "The Box" on Tonto Creek. On top of this rocky granite hilltop, you will see chest high walls built of the red granite rocks that surround you. There is little to see here in the way of relics, but I did see of couple of rocks that could have been cutting tools. The big oval wall is the main attraction at these ruins, it is about sixty feet in diameter. After you have seen all you want, return the way you came. If there is water in Tonto Creek, this is a great hike to enjoy a way home swim.

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2006-08-11 PrestonSands
    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 Review
    Gisela Ruins
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    For a hike that featured trash and litter for most of its duration, this will prove to be one of my more memorable ones, because of the ruins. The litter only stopped as I made my way up the hill. It took me some stumbling around, but once I turned a corner and the ruins appeared before me, I was speechless. At least two "rooms" are clearly definable, including the apparent ceremonial chamber that is the largest one. There is a fire pit in the ceremonial chamber. There are at least two entries to the ceremonial room that can easily be spotted.

    Not having explored or even found any ruins on my own during my lifetime of hiking in Arizona, I was completely mesmerized and it was hard to tear myself away and go home. The imagination runs wild while standing there in the room, with its expansive views. I assume that the location was strategic, because of the expansive views and proximity to water. The effort to build just the portions of the structure that are still intact was a significant group task, given the hundreds of rocks used and their heavy weight.

    I did spot a pair of bluish-grayish herons or cranes on Tonto Creek.

    The general advice of hiking along the east bank of the creek is still good. Most of the hike to the base of the hill is on a 4x4 path. I walked for about 10 minutes through unmarked brush to the point where Cocomonga Canyon intersected. If there's a clear path up the hill, I didn't find it.

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    FR / Dirt Road / Gravel - Car Okay

    To hike
    From Payson, head south on AZ highway 87 approximately 11 miles to the signed Gisela turnoff. Follow the paved Gisela road east about 4.4 miles to Tonto Creek Drive (the sign at the junction says Tonto Creek Shores), and turn right. Follow Tonto Creek Drive about 1.2 miles to its end, just past Buckboard Trail. Now you have left private land, so park where you wish. Begin hiking down the increasingly primitive Tonto Creek Drive as it heads towards Tonto Creek.
    1 TB Flash Drive... $40
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