Nestled in the shadows of the Santa Catalina Mountains in a relatively undisturbed stretch of the Sonoran Desert, the Romero Ruin trail in Catalina State Park guides visitors on a short (3/4 mile) walk through several centuries of human history. From the trail, you can see evidence of an ancient Hohokam village and the still-standing walls of an old Tucson family’s nineteenth-century ranch home.
One of several large Hohokam villages in the Tucson Basin, the Romero Ruin is also the largest site in Catalina State Park. At fifteen acres, it spans the entire width of the ridge upon which it sits, and stretches about one-quarter mile from the ridge tip back toward the Santa Catalina Mountains. Based on decorated pottery found at the site, we know that the Hohokam lived at this settlement continuously from A.D. 500 to 1450. As many as 125 to 200 people may have lived here at the peak of settlement (around A.D. 900).
While visiting this site, note the subtle changes in the landscape: if you see a small hill, it is likely an ancient trash mound, and the oval-shaped depression alongside the trail is the smaller of two ballcourts that were likely made and used here between A.D. 750 and 1075. The trail also winds through where their homes once stood. To see a replica of one of these homes (called a pithouse), visit Steam Pump Ranch, about a mile south of the entrance of Catalina State Park.
A little more than four centuries after the Hohokam left this place, Francisco and Victoriana Romero made this site their home. They built several structures right on top of the Hohokam settlement, within the wall that had enclosed the latest phase of the ancient village. The walls of this mid-1800s settlement are still standing today.