Circlestone Ruin in the Superstition Mountains
A long, difficult hike to a seldom-seen, Native American Ruin.

 

This is a very long, very difficult hike to a mysterious Native American ruin in the heart of the Superstition Wilderness.  The hike is about eight miles, one way.  Bring plenty of water, because there may not be any available.  Even though you'll be hiking along the upper length of Reavis Creek for a short stretch, it may be dry.  If you're planning to hike it in one day, get started early.  A better option may be to take a couple of days and set up camp at Reavis Ranch.

You'll begin the hike actually by going down, heading down a wash.  Eventually, you'll get to a trail that splits off to the right and heads uphill to the east.

Circlestone is located in almost the highest point in the Superstition Mountains.  Mound Mountain, just to the southwest of Circlestone, is the highest point in the Superstitions, at 6,266 feet.  The view from the ruin is awesome.  To the west is Superstition Mountain, its shape familiar to residents of the Valley of the Sun.  To the north are the Four Peaks of the Mazatzal Mountains.  Turning to the northeast gives you a view of the Sierra Ancha range, with the Mogollon Rim further behind.  And to the southeast you can see the mining area around Globe, and Mount Graham way off in the distance.  If the Native Americans who built Circlestone did so for a ritual purpose, they sure picked a terrific spot.

The stones of this ruin are arranged, obviously, in a large circle.  There are two piles of stone radiating out from the center of the circle, like spokes.  In the center of the circle is a square structure of stacked stones.  Throughout the ruin, sections of it have fallen down, or been removed, but enough remains to get a sense of its size and shape.  Trees and bushes have grown up inside the circle, but I imagine that it must have been kept clear when it was still in use.

Date of hike: April 26, 2006

Along the way, you'll see terrain that you wouldn't expect for the Superstition Mountains.

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     Two men wrote a book about Circlestone, back in 1986.  "Circlestone- A Superstition Mountain Mystery", by James A. Swanson and Thomas J. Kollenborn.  Apache Junction, Arizona: Goldfield Press.  The main Scottsdale Public Library has a copy of it.  Here is some information about Circlestone, from their book:

     First of all, the book states that the ruin was possibly built as long ago as 100 B.C.  “The construction techniques used in Circlestone, its location, and the evidence found at the site point to either the Anasazi or the Salado as the most logical choices as its builders” (p. 89).

     “It would be safe to assume that the Indians who roamed this country on hunting forays were the first visitors to Circlestone after its builders abandoned it centuries before.  Pimas probably gathered food in the area, and Apaches may temporarily have used the site for protection or shelter.
     If the Mexicans visited Circlestone in the 1800s, they left behind no records or stories which tell of the circular ruin.  Mountain men may have chanced upon the site in the 1820s or 1830s.  Prospectors began to search the Superstition Wilderness for mineral wealth as early as 1854.  Between 1854-1874 a few prospectors may have visited Circlestone, but, again, there are no records to verify this.
     The first Anglo-American to spend any time in the general area was Elisha M. Reavis.  Reavis arrived in the Territory of Arizona about 1869 and retired to his mountain homestead, known as Reavis Ranch, about 1874” (p. 21-22).
     “Because of his many hunting trips, and because of the close proximity of Circlestone to the little valley [where Reavis Ranch is], Reavis probably visited the ruin at some time.  Old-timers have stated that Reavis often talked about the many prehistoric Indian ruins near his home” (p. 25).
     “Many of the cowboys who worked at Reavis Ranch, as well as the visitors to the ranch, visited Circlestone.  Most of the early visitors to the area believed the circular ruins to be nothing more than an old corral of some kind.  A 1960 Tonto National Forest map gives reference to the circular ruins as being a Spanish fortress and places the site south of Mound Mountain.
     The cowboys who worked at the ranch knew the ruins well.  However, when they made reference to it, they were convinced it was nothing more than an early Mexican or Spanish goat corral.  For this reason the site has remained obscure for more than a century” (p. 29).

     Sam Henderson, who in 1981 was “Park Superintendent at Casa Grande National Monument near Coolidge, Arizona” (p.59), went to examine the ruins.  “Henderson received his degree in archaeology from Northern Arizona University, [and] was a practicing archaeologist” (p. 59).
     “Henderson walked around and through the site, noting every detail… Henderson stated positively that Circlestone was a primitive Indian ruin, not a corral.  Furthermore, he was of the opinion that Circlestone was probably celestially oriented and may have been used for religious ceremonies as well” (p. 61-63).
     “The real test was the noon sighting.  If at noon the sun shone through the doorway in the outer wall and aligned with the doorway in the center structure, this would add evidence to strongly support the theory that the structure was celestially oriented” (p. 63).
     “At precisely noon on June 21st, the summer solstice, the sun did indeed shine directly through the outer door and align perfectly with the interior door.  This is the first day of the calendrical summer, and event of tremendous significance to early agrarian cultures” (p. 63).

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Getting there:

First, get yourself to Florence Junction.  That's the intersection of US 60 (the Superstition Freeway) and State Route 79, which comes up north from the town of Florence to meet US 60.  Go east on 60 for two miles to Queen Valley Road.  Go north on Queen Valley Road until you get to Forest Road 357 (NF-357), also called Hewitt Station Road.  Take NF-357 until you come to a left turnoff onto Forest Road 172 (NF-172), also called Hewitt Canyon Road.  Stay on NF-172 all the way to its end- about 9 miles.

For more photos of Circlestone, click here.

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