Walk in the Path of Ancient Hohokam at Sears-Kay Ruin

Sears-Kay Ruin
Sears-Kay Ruins were inhabited by the ancient Hohokam between 1050 and 1200 AD. Photo Credit: Kevin Korycanek

Just east of Carefree, the Sears-Kay Ruin offers a peek into the lifestyles of ancient Hohokam Indians, ancestors of today’s Pima Indians and the Valley’s first residents.

A 1-mile loop trail guides visitors along a series of 40 rooms in four different compounds. They were believed to be inhabited by about 100 people between 1050 and 1200 AD. The foundations of the rooms are still visible, lined with shallow but sturdy rock walls.

Signs are posted along the trail explaining how the rooms were likely used, as well as construction techniques. The rooms in the upper compound were reportedly constructed with full masonry walls, while the rooms in the lower compounds were built using a combination of stone, wood and adobe. Amazingly, little to no mortar was used to hold the stones together. Renderings show images of what the rooms could have looked like 900 years ago. You’ll see roofs crafted from juniper trees, central fire pits and stone doorways, among other features.

The Sears-Kay Ruin is listed on the National Registrar of Historic Places. It was named after J.M. Sears who founded the nearby Sears-Kay Ranch in 1887.

Sears-Kay Ruin
Sears-Kay Ruin offers a self-guided tour. Signs explain how the ancient Hohokam lived at this compound. Photo Credit: Kevin Korycanek

If You Go

  • Level of difficulty: Easy
  • Amenities: Picnic tables, vault toilets, day use
  • Parking: Tonto pass is required
  • How to get there: From Carefree, take Cave Creek Road/Seven Springs Rd./Forest Road  24 for 14 miles north to Sears Kay. The ruins are located just off the east side of the road.
  • Tonto National Forest: (480) 595-3300


  1. SaraD says

    I was out there several times in the 1906s and ’70s and never knew a thing about that site. Another missed opportunity.

    For about 5 years, my parents owned land west of Cave Creek and east of New River. We found many pot shards, small flints, and a doughnut stone on their property. The soil was very fine in some areas, like gray ash. My mother was taken quite ill, while they lived on that land, but improved when they moved back into town. My father was convinced that it was that ashy soil that made her sick, and decided he’d found the cause for the ultimate demise of the Hohokam people. Ehm… sure, Dad.

    I took some of the artifacts from their property to the Anthro dept. at ASU. They identified them as about 600 years old and Hohokam. I thought they would be interested in where the artifacts were found and might want to take a look around out there, but they seemed quite bored by the whole thing. Too bad. While riding horseback, I also saw many other artifacts back in the basaltic rock hills to the north, as well as the faint remnants of some old stone foundations. There was definitely a lot of early Native American presence in the Cave Creek/Carefree area.

    And rattlesnakes. 😉

  2. says

    I have made many trips and spent much time at the Sears Kay Ruins and know ever inch of the ground. I escorted several researchers from ASU through the site a decade or more ago, and led them to the rolling hills on the North sides which I am certain are the remains of mass burials. Through a somewhat tricky series of rock jumps, it is possible to climb to a massive stone at the top of the hill approximately thirty feet tall which is clearly carved into an enormous face. It only takes a moment to see and release this was a place of sacrifice as the surrounding rocks have been carved down as sitting areas. At the bottom of the face is a very large stone which has been carved into a sacrificial trough where blood would presumably flow down to the cavity below. There are millions of pottery shards surrounding this spot. The area was looted several times before the Parks Department took over. After a great deal of study, I found that the clay used to create the pottery came from many areas throughout the region. That, along with the incredible numbers of shards convinced me these pots were being brought from surrounding areas by different tribes and smashed as sacrifices during rituals. I also believe the area was originally used long before the Hohokam, then reused by them. The massive cuts outs on the rock show weathering possibly thousands of years old. You should have seen the look of horror on the researchers faces who were part of a several years long research team, formerly convinced this was a place of peaceful gatherings. The original plaque, stating so, has now been removed and replaced by one of ambiguity . I have found countless artifacts around the area but please, to anyone visiting, do not remove the shards remaining. They are worth absolutely nothing to any collector but are irreplaceable and vital to future visitors.

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