We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.
We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

Rock art and Ruins

Which Tucson hotels are on sale?
dd/mm/yyyy dd/mm/yyyy
See hotels
San Diego
Level Contributor
43 posts
93 reviews
Save Topic
Rock art and Ruins

We are taking a trip out there in a few days to see the Biosphere (saw it years ago when it was in disrepair and loved it then). I like glyphs and ruins, and noted there were Romero Ruins at Catalina Mtn, some glyphs at Saguaro National park, and some at Redemptorist Renewal Center (Picture Rocks). We are well equipped and adept at hiking. I like to teach my children about those who came before us and how to respect ancient works (we have hit many sites elswhere that only locals are familiar with, but I never know where those are until I can talk to people in the area, maybe connect with some other hikers)

That being said, does anyone know which ancient Indian (Native American for the politically correct) sites we should/could visit while we are there? Have GPS, will travel. :~)

Thank you in advance.

tucson az
Destination Expert
for Tucson, Arizona, Northern Mexico
Level Contributor
15,605 posts
76 reviews
Save Reply
1. Re: Rock art and Ruins

I do not have the exact location of the rock art but generally are located where you state. There are directions online which you can find, and others are likely to respond. Rock art is often associated with astronomical observations and events of the period when they were created, but also is often just graffiti like today.

I am familiar with the Romero "Hohokam" site in Catalina State Park (not Mountain) in northern Oro Valley. Do not expect to see something like a pueblo ruin. The people of the era of this site did not build stone walls. Their homes are called pit houses as they were dug into the ground about a foot typically. The walls and roof were constructed over a structure of posts and beams covered with sticks (wattle) and mud (daub). What remains is a depression which was the pit house floor. The Romero site is unique in that it contains a large plaza, which the signs at the site will describe as a ball court. Natives descended from related people say that this is not necessarily the case, and that the plaza was just that, a plaza.

Do not mistake the simplicity of the site to mean that the people of the period were unsophisticated. They were not. They were very knowledgeable in agriculture, irrigation, raising domestic animals (turkeys, rabbits) and pottery.

This is the only site which you can visit in the Tucson area. There have been very many other sites excavated, but they are typically covered over with earth after excavation. You can learn more at the Arizona State Museum at the University of Arizona where there are some displays about the prehistoric people of this area. The best depiction of a pit house is at the Pueblo Grande Museum in east Phoenix near the airport.

There are many prehistoric ruins in central and northern Arizona with remnants of masonry walls which can be visited. You should make sure to visit those some day as well.

If you find any pottery shards on the ground, please leave them where they are.

TUCSON
Level Contributor
1,193 posts
Save Reply
2. Re: Rock art and Ruins

Kudos to you for teaching your kids the right way. You really have some great knowledge of sites I didn't even know about. Have lived here 50 yrs!

That being said, I know I'm old, The Saguaro Nat Park west has a nice display, but it sounds like you already know about this?

Bob has a good idea in asking Az State Museum. They have very knowledable and helpful people there.

Happy hunting, Love San Diego!

TUCSON
Level Contributor
1,193 posts
Save Reply
3. Re: Rock art and Ruins

What are the odds. I just read this.

…pima.gov/escoop/2012/jan/recurring.shtml…

If link does not work google "Los Morteros"

tucson az
Destination Expert
for Tucson, Arizona, Northern Mexico
Level Contributor
15,605 posts
76 reviews
Save Reply
4. Re: Rock art and Ruins

Los Morteros links:

pima.gov/cmo/…20Morteros.pdf

www.desert.com/sproj/p_losmorteros.html

San Diego
Level Contributor
43 posts
93 reviews
Save Reply
5. Re: Rock art and Ruins

Bob: We come equipped with cameras, so "take only pictures...". That was a hard one to teach my kids when they were small, but so worth it now. Thank you for the information about The Arizona State Museum. The Sonoran Desert Museum was on my itinerary, but not that one.

Does anyone know if Los Morteros has any trails yet? There is not a lot of information on the internet.

I had thought about the Picacho Mountains, but don't have enough time to get a Land Use permit unless we side trip through Phoenix. If anyone knows about this area, please let me know if it is worth the extra time to get the permit.

Thank you both for the information so far. I appreciate the help.

P.S. As an aside for anyone else interested, Sedona has some of the best cliff dweller rock art I have ever seen.

Marina, California
Destination Expert
for Tucson
Level Contributor
5,806 posts
98 reviews
Save Reply
6. Re: Rock art and Ruins

I really don't think Los Morteros is slated to have any trails. It's an archeological site that's been purchased by the county for preservation purposes. Same with the pictographs in the Tortolitas. Pima County does this quite a bit: purchase open space with no intention of developing it.

The Picacho Mountains is a really rugged terrain. I don't know what your vehicle is, but if you did get a land permit, you'd need a 4x4 to get in there.

One of the publicly-accessible petroglyph sites is actually owned by the Ritz Carlton in Marana. I don't know if they actually allow non-guests out there, but you could certain call to find out.

I also assume you already know about Painted Rocks near Gila Bend. That'll be on your way out.

San Diego
Level Contributor
43 posts
93 reviews
Save Reply
7. Re: Rock art and Ruins

Colinaz: re: Picacho Mtns. Do you mean 4x4 standard or 4x4 lifted? Is the terrain just rocky and uneven, or is there something major to worry about (Broken Shaft Gulch in Anza Borrego is 4x4 standard, by our standards- this is not us, but shows the terrain http://i40.photobucket.com/albums/e215/taisiya8/Jeeping/Anza-Borrego%2012-5-10/DSCF0067.jpg) Is it worse than this?

Thanks in advance.

Scottsdale, Arizona
Destination Expert
for Phoenix, Scottsdale
Level Contributor
1,910 posts
88 reviews
Save Reply
8. Re: Rock art and Ruins

If you are driving over from San Diego on I-8, about 15-20 miles west of Gila Bend you will see a turn off to Painted Rock Reservation. Up there is a mound of rocks with all kinds glyphs. There is no known settlement nearby so there has been much speculation why this is out in the middle of nowhere. It is near the Gila River, and this area may have been a crossroads for prehistoric trade routes. One wonders if the glyphs were ancient billboards.

Have you been up to Phoenix? We have a massive ruin practically downtown. Pueblo Grande. In northwest Phoenix, there is the Deer Valley Rock Art Center. Both are on Things to Do here on TripAdvisor. Also just outside Carefree is the Sears Kay Ruin on the top of a hill with fantastic vistas. On up the road, there are numerous ruins that are uncharted. The road bends around and ends up at I-17 just south of Cordes Junction. There are numerous sites in that area, some with rock art.

Between Tucson and Phoenix outside Coolidge, there is the Casa Grande.

San Diego
Level Contributor
43 posts
93 reviews
Save Reply
9. Re: Rock art and Ruins

I was aware of the Painted Rocks on I-8 and thank you and discman for reminding me about them. Since so many glyphs end up in rock piles, it makes me wonder if it wasn't some kind of initiation or ritual (create a drawing on a rock, then bring it to a certain area or perhaps, break out a section of a previous or enemies glyph, and bring it to a certain area.) I have to wonder if each rock in the pile has a glyph on it, but I wouldn't want to ruin the rock pile. Besides, snakes love those rock piles...

I am not going to Phoenix this time, but I didn't know about Carefree. I will put that on my list for when I do my north tour. When I have a week or more, Phoenix to 17 to Flagstaff, then east toward New Mexico is a great run.

Scottsdale, Arizona
Destination Expert
for Phoenix, Scottsdale
Level Contributor
1,910 posts
88 reviews
Save Reply
10. Re: Rock art and Ruins

Hope you enjoy your visit to Biosphere. I was by there this week. I have a buddy - he and I were shipmates in the Navy and later roommates at the University of Arizona - who has lived in Oracle for 30 years or so. He has met numerous people who have worked at Biosphere. They come and go. Biosphere has an interesting history. Back in the 70s, it was an executive retreat for Motorola. In the late 70s, Motorola donated the site to the UofA, which spent several years trying to figure out what to do with it. Then somebody came up with the Biosphere idea. Now, people are trying to figure out what to do with Biosphere.

I think you would enjoy Sears Kay. Another buddy, who is an archeologist, and I have tramped around up there. Most of the ruins seem to have a defensive nature. The area on north is known as the Bloody Basin, however, the name comes from the red soil not from a massacre. But something very drastic happened here in the Southwest.

Going on up through the Bloody Basin to I-17 then north to Flagstaff and east to New Mexico is a route laden with ruins and prehistory. Have you been to Canyon de Chelly? Chaco Canyon? I would like to go there.

Have a good trip with good exploring.

Get answers to your questions about Tucson