Poston Butte • City of Florence
• Pinal County


Poston Butte with its "F"
 

View from the start of the hike
 

The pyramid
 

Poston's Pyramid
 

An interesting cairn, with Florence and its prisons behind
 

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Date: December 20, 2017 • Elevation: 1,748 feet • Prominence: 218 feet • Distance: 1 mile • Time: 30 minutes • Gain: 260 feet • Conditions: Clear

Poston Butte is a small hill in the flats surrounding Florence. It has just 220 feet of prominence, but it is a compact, pyramid-shaped hill that stands out given how flat the surrounding areas are. There's a white "F" on the hill's slopes, presumably for Florence.

The hill is named after Charles Poston, a lawyer who moved west, learned the mining trade and became a successful miner in what was still the New Mexico Territory, near the current-day city of Tubac, near Nogales (Techicnally, this would have been part of Mexico back then, but in reality it was a no-man's land ruled de-facto by the Apaches). By the early 1860s, he was working in Washington D.C., and played a significant role in convincing the Federal government to create the Arizona Territory, which it did in 1863. This page has a more detailed summary of Mr. Poston and how he got around.

Long story short, he lived and worked in Florence for many years. He had become a convert to Zoroastrianism years earlier, and had purchased the hill, then called Primrose Hill, with the intention to build a temple atop it. However, he died a pauper in Phoenix in 1902, and never completed his project. He was buried in Phoenix.

Given his important role in helping create Arizona, and his many other roles in and around the territory during his lifetime, he was recognized as the "Father of Arizona". In 1925, his remains were re-interred within a stone-and-mortar pyramid atop the renamed Poston's Butte (now just called Poston Butte). The pyramid is visible from below, as it stands about 15 feet tall.

These days, Poston Butte is a minor attraction when visiting Florence. It's the only "real" hike in the city, and there's a small parking area off of the Hunt Highway that runs south of the hill. It's not a hike I would drive 70 miles to do, but if I was in the area (which is rare), I would look into hiking it, assuming I had the time and it wasn't 110 degrees.

Well, I was here today because I had been hiking some peaks down south, Jeffords Peak and Suizo Mountain. I was done with Suizo Mountain by 3 p.m., so I headed north into Florence and decided to stop and hike Poston Butte, once and for all.

I pulled into the meager parking lot at 3:40 p.m., one other vehicle there already. I packed light: just my camera and a bottle of water. I walked underneath the railroad bridge, then a few more feet to a gate. Passing through the gate, I followed footprints a few yards west to put myself at the base of the hill. I could stay straight and go up a steep eroded old road, or go right and follow a newer trail. The road looked ugly, so I chose the trail.

I walked along the meandering trail as it went north, but it seemed to meander unnecessarily, like the builders deliberately put in curves for the fun of it. I grew impatient, and walked cross-country up about 50 feet to catch the old road. The road's tread was abysmal, with loose rocks and bad footing, but at least it went up. Soon, I was where the trail met the road. I noted a few interesting cairns, each about 18 inches tall and composed of about ten delicately-balanced rocks.

The road makes a left bend, then one last right turn and ends at the pyramid. It had taken me 15 minutes to get here, covering about a half mile. A man and his two sons were up at the pyramid so I paused and let them do their thing. They were starting down anyway. Then, it was just me. I looked at the pyramid, shot some images, inspected a small concrete structure nearby, and looked around the surrounding area. Today was clear and chilly, with fine views in all directions. The prisons in town glistened in the waning daylight.

A plaque on the pyramid says it was erected by the territory in 1907, five years after his death. Sources say his remains were moved to the site in 1925, what would have been his 100th birthday. I am not sure why there is an 18-year lag between building the pyramid and then interring his remains there. It seems to me wiser to build the pyramid after his remains are placed there. The mystery remains.

Once done with my inspections, I headed down, and was back to my car quickly, my total time gone about 30 minutes. Today had been a productive day but I was sore, tired and hungry by now. I drove home by following Hunt Highway through San Tan Valley into Queen Creek, catching the Loop-202 Freeway there. I very rarely get to this part of the state, so I was surprised to see how much it has grown. Traffic was unbelievable.

Poston Butte is not much of a hike for a singular destination, but I recommend it if you happen to be in the area and like Arizona history. The hike is fast and logical and takes little time.

(c) 2017 Scott Surgent. For entertainment purposes only. This report is not meant to replace maps, compass, gps and other common sense hiking/navigation items. Neither I nor the webhost can be held responsible for unfortunate situations that may arise based on these trip reports. Conditions (physical and legal) change over time! Some of these hikes are major mountaineering or backpacking endeavors that require skill, proper gear, proper fitness and general experience.