Hike to Indian Mesa Ruins and Hohokam Village in Lake Pleasant Regional Park Area

It’s always interesting to step out of our busy lives for a moment and consider how people lived a thousand years ago. Where did they find food and water? How did they build their homes? At Lake Pleasant and Scorpion Bay, we’re fortunate to have historic Hohokam ruins where archaeologists have studied artifacts that provide insight into the way the people in this area lived many years ago.

The Indian Mesa ruins at Lake Pleasant Regional Park are on a mesa, a flat-top hill, by the shores of the lake and Agua Fria River. There is a steep, narrow path, which begins at the skirt of the hill and leads to the top of the mesa. On top are ruins of a village built by the Hohokam Puebloans, who lived in the Sonoran Desert.

The ruins of the village, built between A.D. 1000 and A.D. 1200, are considered an important archaeological site by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. The community housed 100 to 200 people. The location presented an easily defensible position for the Hohokam if attacked by intruders.

Pottery shards still can be found at Indian Mesa. An important part of the culture centered around manufacturing pottery, which was made from clay gathered on the shore of the Agua Fria River. The Hohokam also produced jewelry made of raw shells imported from northern Mexico, for which they traded.

The Hohokam culture didn’t vanish overnight. It is believed that after several generations, what remained of their culture was passed on to their descendants, the Pima and Tohono O’odham peoples. The ruins in the mesa are some of the best-preserved pieces left behind by this Indian community and now are under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and monitored by the Arizona Site Stewards.

If you go:

A permit is not required to hike the mesa. The entrance is reached from Phoenix by travelling north on Interstate 17, exiting at Table Mesa Road, which becomes Boulder Creek Ranch Road. The hike to the mesa is three miles from the designated vehicle parking area. The hike consists of six miles round trip. It is rated moderate over rocky terrain, which is made up of a blend of desert and semi-desert ecosystems.

The climb to the top of the 400-foot mesa is reached via a steep and narrow path that has a dangerous hundred-foot drop. The final ascent on the north slope is short but a real workout, reminding us of the hardiness of ancient Native Americans. Removal of artifacts is strictly forbidden. The view from the top is breathtakingly beautiful.


Photos by Ron Scott

Scorpion Bay is Arizona’s premier floating playground, offering everything from daily pontoon and ski boat rentals to slips for harboring your yacht (or dinghy). Come for the fishing or come for the frolicking—either way, incredible mountain views, fantastic dining and world-class marina services await less than an hour out of Phoenix.