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Name: Cold Spring Canyon Ruins Author's Rating:
Author: Matt Marine Avg. User Rating: (based on one user vote)
Type: Hike Difficulty: (Advanced - see description)
Time: 3 - 5 hours Region: Central Arizona
Length: 3.0 miles (out and back) Elevation gain/loss/change: +1257 / -311 / +946 (one way)
Type: Out and back Avg Elevation: 4200 ft
Best time to go: winter, fall, spring Fees: NA
Fitness rating: High Educational Merit: Medium
Danger/fear rating: High Scenic Beauty: High
Hours of Operation: NA Last updated: November, 2013
See Cold Spring Canyon Ruins feature story for a full trip report and more information
Short Description: A short, difficult trail to some extremely beautiful and intact ruins in a narrow crevice
Geocaches: A few geocaches in the area. Devils Chasm; Workman Creek Falls; Bam Bam's Bar & Grille
References / Contact Information: Hike Arizona
Points of interest: Cold Spring Canyon Indian Ruins, Big Buck Uranium Mine Road, Cherry Springs Road
Special Considerations: Although the trail is short, this can be a strenuous hike. The last 1/8-1/4 mile is a very steep scramble up the side of the mountain. The trail can be dangerous. Climbing inside the ruins can be dangerous. Route finding is very difficult near the ruins. If you're afraid of heights, this may not be the trail for you.
How to get there: You may need 4WD (I would recommend it) to get to the trailhead. Head north out of Globe on Hwy 188. Turn north on Hwy 288 and drive for almost 7 miles until you reach Cherry Creek Road. Drive on Cherry Creek Road for about 22 miles until your reach Waypoint CSR1. Cherry Creek Road is a graded dirt road for a while until you pass Ellison Ranch, then it turns to high-clearance 2WD/4WD. Click here for directions.

Trail Description

See Cold Spring Canyon Ruins feature story for a full trip report and more information

This is an awesome trail along Cherry Creek Road about half way between Globe and Young. You may need 4WD (I would recommend it) to get to the trailhead.

The trail heads up an old uranium mining road that's been shut down for a long time. While on the road, the climb is almost continuous, but not too steep. When you leave the road, the climb gets very steep and difficult. Route finding is difficult. Portions of the trail are very dangerous.

But, it's all worth it if you can make it. The ruins are awesome. They are built into a narrow crevice on the side of a tall canyon. The ruins are three stories tall with access granted by strategically placed poles. One of the most incredible aspects of the ruins is that on the third level, you get to walk to the other side of the crevice and look down the canyon bottom hundreds of feet below you (if you dare).

General Information and History

From Hike Arizona:

"The Sierra Ancha (Spanish for "Wide Mountain") is an archeologically rich wilderness area known for some remarkable cliff dwellings made famous by Dr. Emil W. Haury and the Gila Pueblo Project starting in 1930. Dr. Richard C. Lange has continued that legacy with the Sierra Ancha Project starting in 1981 and continuing to present day.

Dewey Peterson was a rancher who lived on Aztec Peak circa 1900 - 1950. Peterson went on to serve as Dr. Emil W. Haury's guide during many of the Gila Pueblo Project expeditions. On one particular excursion, another local rancher, "Slim" Ellison accompanied the Gila Pueblo Project expedition as described by Haury;

"From the Peterson Ranch, we went north to McFadden Horse Mountain, and several other parts of the crest of the Sierra Ancha. Then we dropped off the east side of the range, north of Pueblo Canyon and into Cherry Creek where we established camp. From our camp in Cherry Creek, we went back up into Pueblo Canyon, into Cold Spring Canyon, and into Devil's Chasm. After collecting wood in ruins in each of those canyons, we set out to the east, passing south of Sombrero Butte, and on into lower Canyon Creek.

After inspecting a prehistoric turquoise mine, we went up Canyon Creek to the Canyon Creek Ruin, which Dewey knew about, but had not seen. We returned cross-country, almost due west, and dropped back into Cherry Creek to the Ellison Ranch, where we ended the adventure". After several similar expeditions into the Sierra Ancha, Haury published his findings in 1934 as Gila Pueblo Medallion Paper #14. His seminal publication, "The Canyon Creek Ruin and Cliff Dwellings of the Sierra Ancha" was published later in the same year. You can connect to the past by viewing the remains of the Peterson Ranch near Aztec Peak. The Ellison Ranch is still a going concern within Cherry Creek valley.

Many of my favorite Cherry Creek hiking destinations are documented in Dr. Rich Lange's recent publication; "Echoes in the Canyons - the Archaeology of the Southeastern Sierra Ancha" celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Sierra Ancha Project (SAP).

The SAP began in June of 1981 from a small grant by the University of Arizona Research Office to verify and update site information originally catalogued by Gila Pueblo. It soon became clear that the original scope of the project was larger than anticipated as many new sites were discovered and the project was stitched together piecemeal over the first 25 years of operation.

One of the first major undertakings of the SAP was a main beam replacement in Cold Spring Canyon site V:1:136. The main roof beam was severely damaged by insects and water and the structure was in danger of complete collapse. In late October of 1983, a replacement beam was dragged up the old mining road by a horse. A pulley system was used to transport the beam up the scree slopes from the abandoned mining road trail to the terrace ledge near the cliff dwelling. It took 4 people to accomplish the final task of lifting the beam across the terrace ledge and into position within the cliff dwelling. When one ponders the magnitude of the task in present day, you have to marvel at the determination of 700 year old civil engineering to construct these Cherry Creek cliff dwellings."

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The Trail

See Cold Spring Canyon Ruins feature story for a full trip report and more information.

Note: Although this trail is well-known, it is not an "official" trail and has few (if any) markers. Route finding can be difficult. Highly recommend a good GPS with waypoints included, maps and instructions. Getting to the trail head is an adventure in itself. Although some high-clearance trucks may be able to make it, I highly recommend a 4WD vehicle.

Park your vehicle at Waypoint CSR1 where Cherry Creek Road (FR 203) and the old Big Buck Uranium Mine road (now closed). There's room for only a few vehicles off the side of the road here.

Head up the Big Buck Uranium Mine road as it ascends into Cold Spring Canyon. Watch out for the "baby head" rocks that litter the road, they can twist an ankle in a snap.

After about 1/4 of a mile, you will come to a fairly open area with a rock fire pit in the saddle at Waypoint CSR2. Keep heading up the mining road.

Very soon you will enter the Sierra Ancha Wilderness area and the road becomes a little less traveled.

About 0.6 miles into your hike you will pass by a large house-sized boulder on your left at Waypoint CSR3. Keep going on the road.

Keep climbing up the road for about another 0.25 miles until you reach Petroglyph Rock at Waypoint CSR4. This rock will be very obvious and on your right. It's about 10-12 feet high and has a flat face that looks over the canyon. A swirled arrow is barely visible (in the sunlight) on the left end and seems to be pointing to Pueblo Canyon. If you have good eyes or a pair of binoculars, you can see the Cooper Fork Ruins across the canyon.

The trail splits here. The right fork goes to Pueblo Canyon Ruins, the left to Cold Spring Canyon Ruins. You want to take the left, though the trail may be difficult to see. You will be on the correct trail if you begin to descend after Petroglyph Rock. If you keep climbing, you're not on the Cold Spring Canyon trail (though the profile on the topo map doesn't show this clearly).

The road continues to get worse from here on out. Some spots are difficult to follow and overgrown. Be careful of a muddy/spring area we had to walk through. There's also some nice views and trees here.

NOTE: All waypoints from here on are approximate. My GPS broke and I did not save the waypoints as I usually do. The waypoints noted have been located using my tracks and Google Earth. I believe they are correct but have not verified them.

At about the 1.25 mile mark (Waypoint CSR5), you will come a small rockslide on your right. Look for a cairn and a rock arrow pointing up, though these may be knocked over and hard to see. The "trail" goes up the slide for a short distance, then heads to the left. This is the "Red" trail on my topo map.

We missed this and kept going down the road until we hit Waypoint CSR8 (the "Blue" trail). You don't want this trail. Head up the trail near Waypoint CSR5. It's not too bad until you get to CSR6. This is where you head up another rockslide to get to the ruins. You will come to the ruins from the east and slightly above them.

The ruins are located at approximately Waypoint CSR7 (again, the coordinates may be off slightly as my GPS had broken by going up the blue trail). I would also recommend reading the Hike Arizona trail description for more information.

Once you've reached the ruins, you can climb up into them using the X-shaped poles. There are three levels you can climb to using this method (it's not easy). Be careful, the second floor is a little bit mushy.

Once you're done exploring, go back the way you came.

Have fun and be safe!

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