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Devil’s Chasm Overview

Devil’s Chasm is quite the hike! It is an accessible, but strenuous hike that leads you to the best-known of the ruins in Cherry Creek Canyon. The chasm’s namesake is widely accepted as being a reference to the infestation of rattlesnakes in the chasm, which are out and active in the late spring and through the summer. Unless you really love rattlesnakes (they certainly don’t love you!), you should only make this hike in autumn and winter months, snow and ice conditions permitting.

With incredibly steep and slippery slopes (most of the dirt on the slopes is not stabilized), this hike is certainly not for the faint of heart; you will be doing a bit of scrambling up those slopes. For this reason, bringing children along on this hike is not advisable. In fact, leave any childlike adults at home as well (admit it, you know at least one!). You will ascend approximately 2,000 feet in elevation in 2 miles of hiking (~4 miles round trip hiking).

The ruins themselves are incredible to see, and are considered some of the most well-preserved in the Southwest that are accessible. The dwellings are believed to have been constructed by the Salado people between 1280 and 1350 A.D. When visiting, remember the Leave No Trace principles and do your part in preserving this stunning piece of Arizona history.

Devil's Chasm Arizona Ruins

The final approach to Devil’s Chasm.

Logistics

The drive to the trailhead is an adventure in and of itself. You will pass through some beautiful Sonoran landscapes and have spectacular views of the Sierra Ancha Wilderness that surrounds you. To get to the trail, take Highway 288 to Cherry Creek Road (in the vicinity of Roosevelt Lake – see map below). Continue on Cherry Creek Road for approximately 22 miles, of which the last mile is absolutely horrible; it is extremely rocky and bumpy. The pin on the map below marks the trailhead parking area. A high clearance vehicle is definitely required and four-wheel drive is highly recommended. I personally would not make this trip without four-wheel drive (I am risk averse). If that isn’t enough to convince you, you will definitely want the high clearance for the three creek crossings along the way. This is another reason to make this trip in the autumn or winter: creek flows will be at their lowest.

Devil’s Chasm can be completed in a day trip format or you could camp near the trailhead the night before. Camping would allow you to catch some dramatic lighting in the chasm first thing in the morning!

Gear & Gadgets

Devil's Chasm Ruins Arizona

View from inside the ruins with cliffs above.

Utilizing the Day Trip Gear Guide will take care of most of your needs for this trip. That said, it is highly recommended to wear long pants to avoid scratches from brush and cacti. You would also do well to have gloves of some type to protect hands during scrambling. Additionally, consider bringing some rope along to help with the steep slopes. When I visited in the autumn of 2015, ropes were installed by previous hikers at two strategic locations. Be sure to thoroughly test rope strength before using ropes you find installed on the trail (or ignore them altogether and use your own sturdy ropes)!

Depending on your group size, it also may be advisable to wear helmets for protection from falling rocks. On our trip, there were eight of us in the group and I was bringing up the rear with a couple people that needed further assistance. Someone in the front lost their footing on the steep, unstable slope and sent some large rocks plummeting our way, narrowly missing my head. No one was hurt, but it could have gotten ugly fast!

Remember the “Three Points of Contact” rule of rock climbing; similar rules of thumb apply here for the steeper section of the trails.

Further Reading

Day Trip Gear Guide

Outdoors and Wilderness First Aid

Hiking Ruins Seldom Seen by Dave Wilson

Banner photo provided complements of Tom Corey Images: http://tomcoreyimages.zenfolio.com

About The Author

Jeremy Meek is a native Arizonan with a passion for adventure and discovery of unique experiences. Whether exploring Arizona or setting out on an adventure abroad, Jeremy is constantly scouting truly great adventures and experiences.

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