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Desert Trekking: Skeleton Ridge

Miners named Skeleton Ridge after the skeleton of a red-headed woman who was found in one of the caves in the 1930′s.1 The skeleton is long gone but other features along this trail are the caves and the petroglyph.

Calamity WashDennis Orr and I began our trek at the trailhead where Constellation road crosses Calamity Wash. The Wash is two miles East of Wickenburg on Constellation road. The two and one-quarter mile trail circles around Skeleton Ridge and takes about two hours to complete–not counting a picnic break. It is well marked with cairns but does require a “sharp eye” since the cairns tend to blend in with all the other volcanic rocks, seemingly when you need them most where the trail fades away due to weathering.

Shortly after starting up the wash we were confronted with narrow rocky passages, but they were easily negotiated. The first point of interest, a cave (waypoint cave-1) that, with its smoke-blackened roof, shows the remaining evidence of early Indian use. We found no artifacts during our cursory inspection of the area. If there were any, they unfortunately were “claimed” by previous hikers.

CaveContinuing up the left-hand wash, we came to a many-symboled petroglyph on a large rock off to the right. It is still visible but time is taking its toll. There are several places along the trail up to this point where vandals have spray painted various markings on the rocks (21st century petroglyphs?). Fortunately the ancient petroglyph remains unscathed.

We continued up the wash to where two cairns on the left bank mark the trail. Here the trail departs from the wash and winds up the hill. We had to closely watch for trail markings along the way. The trail is well marked with cairns, but they are difficult to spot in this section and it is easy to “drift off course”. Eventually the trail “re-appeared” and led us on to Altar Rock. From here we admired the view of the wash below and the town of Wickenburg to the West. This pleasant spot was where these two hungry hikers enjoyed a leisurely lunch.

CaveFrom Altar Rock, the trail drops down through a wash and then up the hill to Monrovia Cave. Again, we did not find any artifacts after a cursory search of the area. The trail then continues along the left side of Monrovia Cave until it comes to a small wash where we clambered through a fence. I’m always amazed at the time and effort that people expended to fence this country, no easy chore.

Once again the trail became nearly non-existent and tough to follow but it is marked with difficult to find cairns. No matter though—it is a relatively level and open area where we made our way back to the trailhead completing the hike.

Cave

Trip Details

Distance: Two miles from Wickenburg AZ on Constellation road to the trailhead. Constellation is asphalt in Maricopa County and a well graded gravel in Yavapai County; There is limited parking on firm ground in the wash. The trail is 2 1/4 miles long.

Difficulty: Some “scrambling” in the wash areas and up to Monrovia Cave but otherwise is a leisurely walk in the desert.

Time: 2 hours

Features: Caves with smoke blackened roofs used by early Indians, petroglyphs and fascinating scenery.

Equipment: Water, camera and lunch for a picnic.

Data: A PDF map file and GPX file of waypoints and tracking data is available for download. A utility program, GPSbable, can be downloaded from www.gpsbable.com which converts waypoints, tracks, and routes from one format to another, whether that format is a common mapping format like Delorme, Streets and Trips, or even a serial or USB upload or download to a GPS receiver such as those from Garmin and Magellan.

Other Resource: Desert Hiking Out Wickenburg Way by Dana W. Burden, Library of Congress Control Number 2004095910.

Last 5 posts by Lee Pearson

2 comments to Desert Trekking: Skeleton Ridge

  • Gail

    I am interested in finding a campground between Wickenburg going the back way to Crown King. Any Suggestions? I haven’t been able to find one. Our group will have 5 Adults and 10 Kids

  • polly saltonstall

    The fence you mention in your piece is on property belonging to my family. We also own the land from alter rock on down to Monrovia Cave and along the Wickenburg side of Skeleton Ridge. We do not mind hikers on our land, but ask that they respect fences, leave any Indian artifacts alone, not litter and understand they are on private not state owned land.