Fitness & OutdoorsTravel

Skyler’s First Hike: Shaw Butte (Phoenix, AZ)

Fabian, Skyler, and I headed down to Phoenix, Arizona last weekend for several things.  Despite all the activity (visiting with family, wedding appointments, Skyler’s birthday party, etc.), the defining event of the trip was definitely Skyler’s first real hike!

Skyler has been doing small “hikes” with me and Fabian more often as of late.  However, these have actually been something closer to trail walks, as our current location isn’t very dense with mountainous landscapes.  He completed his first real hike last weekend, as it was the only hike he’s done that actually ended in a summit!  It was in the Phoenix Mountain Preserve, on the Shaw Butte Trail.  I was a little concerned prior to the hike; I didn’t want to spend the whole ascent listening to Skyler whine about the difficulty or the heat.  However, the overall experience ended up being moderately painless!  Skyler had a great time, and I do believe we’ve turned him into a hiker (at least for the time being!).  Continue below to decide if Shaw Butte Trail should be your next conquest :).

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Quick Stats

Distance: 4 mi.  total, but we only went about 1.5 mi.

Peak Elevation: 2149 ft. above sea level

Duration: 1.5+ hrs.

Overall Difficulty: Moderate/Difficult


Shaw Butte Trail is located in the Phoenix Mountains Preserve, and it can be found near the crossroads of Peoria and 7th Avenue.  Just north of these crossroads is a small parking lot, from which hikers can walk towards the trailhead.  Anyone who lives in the nearby Glendale and Phoenix areas should find this mountain to be relatively easy to get to in terms of both time and accessibility.

Click here for the full map from the City of Phoenix.

Difficulty & Duration

There is a short walk to reach the trailhead, allowing for a small warm up before the incline begins.  For Skyler, this was somewhat of a downfall.  I’m sure he went into this hike expecting it to be similar to our previous “hikes,” which is why he RAN for the entire first stretch of flat path before reaching the actual trailhead.

For Skyler, the remaining climb was somewhat difficult because he had already tired himself out at the beginning.  For everyone else, the ascent was nothing out of the ordinary.  I rated this trail as moderate to difficult because of its beginning path, which is dominated by loose gravel and large rocks.  These two things make much it harder to keep stable footing, and make the initial hike a lot like climbing stairs, as opposed to a slow and steady incline.  For hikers who have done the trail before and are generally familiar with hiking, this was not a huge problem (moderate difficulty).  For inexperienced hikers, or those without the leg strength to handle the beginning of the trail, it’s another story (high level of difficulty).

Luckily, the length of this hike can be adjusted.  It is meant to be a loop with the summit in the middle before the descent. However, there is a lower summit that comes first, at the Cloud Nine restaurant ruins.  For hikers who need something a little shorter, this is a great place to stop before heading back down. This is the point that we made it to, as the entire four miles would have been too much for our five-year-old.

With Skyler and four adults (me, Fabian, and two friends), this hike took us about an hour and a half round trip, including the extended break we took to explore at the top. If we had done the entire thing straight through, I expect that I would have taken only about an hour to complete (a mighty feat with the smalls tagging along!).

Unique Traits & Memorable Moments

The View: The view from the Shaw Butte trail is nice because it offers the best of both worlds.  In one direction, hikers get a great look at the other mountains in the Phoenix Mountain Preserve.  In the other direction, they get a view of much of Glendale, Phoenix, and the Downtown area.  As a Phoenix native, there’s not a lot better than a bird’s eye view of the valley!

Wildlife: No big cats or scary critters on this trail!* However, Skyler was fortunate enough to see a velvet ant and a black beetle.  He’s a total bug nerd, so this was a big deal for our troop!  We’re all about teachable moments, so Fabian and I often use these discoveries to educate Skyler about nature and its creatures.

History: Halfway up this mountain (where we paused before heading back down) are the ruins of a restaurant called Cloud Nine.  The restaurant was popular in the 60’s for its great views of the city, but burned down after only a few years of service.  Hikers on the Shaw Butte Trail can visit the remains of Cloud Nine, which features a set of concrete stairs, a stone wall, and a circular foundation.  For anyone with an interest in history or an imagination that loves a little scenery, this is a great place to stop by and just take everything in (or play pretend).

FlexibilityThanks to those Cloud Nine ruins, the Shaw Butte Trail is adjustable to various needs!  Of course, hikers can always turn around during trails and head back down if the full distance is too long.  However, this means that they’ll miss out on reaching that satisfactory summit!  The Cloud Nine spot allows for a shorter hike and that special summit moment, making Shaw Butte a uniquely flexible trail.

In sum, this is a great hike in so many ways!  It was challenging for Skyler, but he still greatly enjoyed the views, the insects, and the ruins, as did everyone else.  Check it out sometime and share your experiences below! (:

*This comment is made based on my experience hiking this particular trail.  When hiking, always be aware of the wildlife that could be present on a trail, and take the necessary precautions.  Just because I haven’t seen it yet doesn’t mean it isn’t there, or that you won’t see it!  Be prepared.

Medical disclaimer: As always, consult a physician before you and/or your child begin an exercise regimen or engage in rigorous outdoor activity. The general information above is not meant to replace the advice of a medical professional.  If you experience any problems or have concerns when engaging in physical activity, stop and contact a doctor before proceeding with additional workouts.

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