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Elephant Rock Arch, AZ
mini location map2014-02-18
32 by photographer avatarOregon_Hiker
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Elephant Rock Arch, AZ 
Elephant Rock Arch, AZ
Hiking avatar Feb 18 2014
Hiking5.50 Miles 1,900 AEG
Hiking5.50 Miles
1,900 ft AEG
1st trip
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This was an off-trail hike from the Globe-to-Young Highway 288 to a natural arch which lies at the foot of Elephant Rock at the north end of McFadden Horse Mountain in the Sierra Ancha Wilderness. This nameless arch has been dubbed "Elephant Rock Arch" on HAZ. Photos of this arch from a distance have appeared in several HAZ triplogs but to my knowledge, no one in HAZ has yet posted a triplog for a hike to the arch.

Using Google Earth, I had traced a GPS track which we hoped would be the easiest and most direct route to the arch and a second track for a side trip across a mesa to the northeast of the arch to check out an unnamed canyon for possible cliff dwelling sites. The advantage to using GE versus a topo map is that the track can be drawn to maximize the use of clearings in the trees and in this case to bypass manzanita thickets. I also routed the track along the flat top of a ridge which based on my experience appeared to be a good location for Indian Ruins.

The first mile of the hike was a fairly easy stroll in the woods. Although this area is thickly forested it was fairly open under the tree canopy. However, the tree canopy also obscures landmarks making the use of a gps almost mandatory for this hike. Slight deviations from our track can put you in manzanita thickets or bring you to difficult ravine crossings. After about a mile we came to the flat topped ridge where Hank and I split up to search for Indian ruins. In a short time we spotted the crumbled walls of an ancient ruin partially covered by a manzanita thicket. It was not an impressive ruin by Sierra Ancha (or any other AZ) standards. There had probably been several rooms possibly surrounded by a wall. The build up of decaying leaves, branches, etc on the ground over the centuries in this forested area had probably partially buried the walls as well as any pottery sherds. These dwelling would have been within sight of the walled fortress on top of Elephant Rock only 0.5 miles away.

From the flat topped ridge we descended into a small canyon which had to be crossed on the way to the arch. Here we encountered a pool of water and two short rock walls against a large boulder. These walls may not have been from ancient times - maybe a temporary shelter for a prospector. From there we started the long climb up the steep east side of the canyon to the ridge top where the arch is located. As we neared the ridge top the views opened up. There were many amazing huge hoodoo-like rock formations along the ridge line.

We enjoyed the views from the arch while we paused for a quick lunch. Then we followed the hoodoo ridge line north and down to a mesa which extended to the northeast. I started to attempt some shortcuts not on our gps planning track and quickly got stopped by manzanita thickets. So it was back to the planning track which skirted the west edge of the mesa and avoided the manzanita thickets taking us to a viewpoint at the north end of the mesa where we could scan the cliffs of an unnamed canyon for possible cliff dwellings. The south facing cliff walls had a number of caves and alcoves. We were running out of time so I quickly took photos of likely areas with a telephoto lens planning to check the photos for ruin walls after returning home. The caves openings were too dark for us to see possible ruins located inside from our location on the opposite side of the canyon. But by increasing the camera exposure setting the interiors become visible in the photos. Unfortunately I did not find any obvious signs of dwelling walls in these photos.

We made good time (for us) on the return and arrived back at the car at 5:00 pm - the end of another fun adventure in the Sierra Ancha.
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