Hohokam Pima National Monument: The one national park service site we couldn't visit

Hohokam Pima National Monument: The National Park Site We Couldn’t Visit

Did you know that there’s a unit of the more than 400+ sites in the National Park Service that you cannot visit? While we think every unit has something special to offer, as we were finalizing the plans for our 2019 Arizona road trip, we ran into one of the more ‘unique’ spots in the park service: Hohokam Pima National Monument.

Located about 30 minutes drive south of Phoenix, Hohokam Pima National Monument stands as the one national park unit you can’t technically visit.

There’s no Visitor’s Center.

No hiking trails.

No unigrid or passport stamps to collect.

So what are two Park Chasers on a quest for a visit to every NPS unit supposed to do with that?

Thanks to the National Park Foundation and the National Park Traveler’s Club, here’s what we learned:

Hohokam Pima National Monument Area

About Hohokam Pima National Monument

Hohokam Pima National Monument was established by Congress on October 21, 1972, to protect an ancient Hohokam village known today as “Snaketown.”

Like many of Arizona’s archaeological sites, excavations began in the 1930s and again in the 1960s by Euro-American settlers and researchers. Based on the excavations, it’s believed the Hohokam people inhabited Snaketown during the Pioneer and Early Sedentary stages (approximately 300 BCE to 1100 CE). The excavations revealed pit houses, and a complex system of irrigation for crops like beans, maize and squash. It’s also believed that up to eight areas at the site were used as crematoria, a practice among the Hohokam people.

At the time of the digs, artifacts and essential history of the Hohokam people were removed and taken for museums and private collections. Some of these are on display at nearby Casa Grande Ruins National Monument. After the excavations, Snaketown was covered entirely, leaving nothing of the ruins or city visible above ground.

Today, the Monument rests on the Gila River Indian Reservation. The land is under tribal ownership, and the Gila River Indian Community has decided not to open the area to the public.

The National Park Service includes Hohokam Pima on the official list of park units, but does not include any travel information or location listings elsewhere online.

It’s the one national park unit you can’t technically visit.



How we ‘logged a visit’ to the park

Despite there being no official way to log a visit to the park, thousands of travelers drive through the boundaries of Hohokam Pima National Monument every day. A portion of Interstate 10 travels directly through the monument, near mile marker 170 where Goodyear Road crosses. You can’t stop along the Interstate, so the best that many Park Chasers can do is take a quick photograph of the landscape.

Landscape taken from the road near Hohokam Pima National Monument
Landscape taken from the road near Hohokam Pima National Monument

Also, many members of the National Park Traveler’s Club and fellow Park Chasers recommended a visit to the Gila River Indian Community’s museum and cultural center, the Huhugam Heritage Center as a substitute option for a visit to Hohokam Pima National Monument.

Huhugam Heritage Center Entrance Sign and Blue Sky

Located on the Gila River Indian Reservation (21359 S. Maricopa Rd, Chandler, AZ 85226), the exhibits include some of the original artifacts from the excavations of the monument. Huhugam Heritage Center’s operating hours are variable, and we’ve heard reports from other travelers it can be difficult to plan a visit.

To log our visit, we drove along the sections of Interstate 10, a portion of Goodyear Road and visited the exterior of Huhugam Heritage Center. While not ideal, it’s the best we could come up with for the one park unit that you can’t visit.


View of the Exterior of the Huhugam Heritage Center Building
View of the Exterior of the Huhugam Heritage Center Building

#Parkchasing travel advice for Hohokam Pima National Monument

Other thoughts we have about Hohokam Pima National Monument:

  • The National Park Service is anything but stagnant. It’s possible that in the future, there may be changes to the accessibility of Hohokam Pima. If not, that’s okay too. We believe that we all should have the human right to choose home and make choices about who can and cannot visit that home.
  • Visiting Casa Grande Ruins National Monument in nearby Coolidge, Arizona gave us a similar understanding of how the Hohokam community might have lived.
  • Every National Park Service unit has offered us something unique and special to add to the fabric of our #parkchasing story. As the one park we couldn’t visit, Hohokam Pima National Monument certainly adds to that story!
Hohokam Pima National Monument: The one national park service site we couldn't visit
How would you plan to log your visit to Hohokam Pima National Monument? Share in the comments or on Facebook about your trip!

THE PARK CHASERS

THE PARK CHASERS

Greg & Amy
Chasing a visit to all 400+ units in the NPS
Current Count: 102/423
Next Stop: National Mall & Memorial Parks

WHERE WE ARE NOW

3 thoughts on “Hohokam Pima National Monument: The National Park Site We Couldn’t Visit”

    1. Yucca House has at least a small amount of ruins visible above ground, and although it’s on private property the access is kept available to the public. Additionally, the park service does have guided tours a few times per year.
      Hohokam Pima is SPECIFICALLY not allowed to be visited in almost all circumstances, although I know of a couple of people who have snagged personal tours by a tribal member.

  1. Pingback: Visiting the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson - Park Chasers

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