Just outside of the town of Hemet, California, there is a boulder with an ancient petroglyph on it that has baffled historians for more than a century. Known as the Hemet Maze Stone, researchers aren’t sure who created the mysterious symbol on the rock. Theories have included everything from ancient Chinese mariners who got lost at sea to alien visitors from another planet.
The Hemet Maze Stone is a 46-inch square petroglyph carved into a boulder in Reinhardt Canyon west of Hemet. The petroglyph’s design is that of a maze formed out of interlocking swastikas surrounded by a box.
There is also a separate swastika in the lower-left corner of the maze, but vandals added that sometime after the 1930s.
The Hemet Maze Stone is probably best known for the mystery surrounding its origin.
The Hemet Maze Stone was rediscovered in 1914 when a rancher named Meyers was hauling wood in the area and came across it. He told his neighbors about the stone he found, and eventually, the Hemet and Perris women’s clubs induced archeologists to come and examine it in hopes of solving the mystery. The experts themselves were baffled.
By the 1920s, the Maze Stone became somewhat of a tourist attraction in the area. A dirt road traveled the three miles from the main boulevard to the Maze Stones, with signs provided by the Automobile Club of Southern California.
In 1956 the then-current owners of the site where the Maze Stone is located, Mr. and Mrs. Rodger E. Miller, gave the Maze Stone and over five acres of land surrounding the stone to the County of Riverside, provided they would turn it into a park.
The most likely source of the Maze Stone’s petroglyph is Native Americans. The design of the Maze Stone resembles a swastika, which is a symbol that was used in Native American art for over 1000 years. Similar rock art has been found elsewhere in Riverside and San Diego counties and is known as the Rancho Bernardo style.
The Rancho Bernardo style is known for having numerous rectilinear shapes made of parallel lines that come together at right angles. Archaeologists have not been able to connect the maze style to any particular indigenous culture yet, though some connection to the Kumeyaay people is a leading theory right now.
While you used to be able to drive right up to the Hemet Maze Stone, visiting it now requires a short 0.6-mile hike from the parking area.
To get to the Hemet Maze Stone, you take California State Route 74 to California Avenue, then drive down California Avenue for 3 miles until the road ends at a gate. You can park near the gate to begin the hike to the Maze Stone.
The trail follows the former road up to where the Hemet Maze Stone is located. The road is somewhat steep, gaining about 100 feet of elevation over the half-mile hike.
Eventually, a small path off the road on the right leads to the stone. A chain-link fence surrounds the Hemet Maze Stone in order to protect it. There is a historical marker at the stone as well. It takes about 15 minutes to do the hike.
The Hemet Maze Stone is open year-round, and there is no admission fee or parking charge.