Shaw Butte • Phoenix Mountains
• Maricopa County

Shaw Butte as seen from Trail 100

Here's North Mountain, seen from the same vantage point

It was still kind of dark as I hiked to the top, so I colleceted these photos together

North Mountain and surrounding peaks are backlit by the rising sun

This is why I hike, for the amazing scenery

North view from summit cairn

The real summit

South ridge with the foundations of the old Cloud Nine restaurant

The foundations close up

Looking up at the summit from just below the foundations (the hill to the left)

Lower down now, the summit and ridge are greener than expected

The pleasant walk back to the trailhead

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Prominence Peaks


Date: September 21, 2014 • Elevation: 2,179 feet • Prominence: 689 feet • Distance: 4.7 miles • Time: 90 minutes • Gain: 800 feet • Conditions: Warm, a little humid, not too bad

Shaw Butte is one of the peaks in the Phoenix Mountains Preserve, located south of Thunderbird Avenue a little east of Interstate-17. I was here two weeks ago to hike North Mountain, which, ironically, is about a half-mile to the southeast of Shaw Butte. I decided to come back and hike to Shaw Butte's top as part of a longer loop hike which included a stop at the old Cloud Nine restaurant foundations, located on the north slopes of the peak.

The weather was still generally warm and slightly humid, but overnight lows were in the 70s, so conditions were improving, ever so slowly. If I got an early start, I could hike the whole loop while temperatures were comfortable. I left our home and drove west to the North Mountain Visitor's Center and trailhead, near the corner of 16th Street and Thunderbird. I arrived just before 6 a.m., the sun still behind the mountains on the east horizon. There were high clouds and a few small puffy ones, and it was noticeably humid, but not too bad.

I followed Trail 100 into a drainage plain formed by Shaw Butte and North Mountain. The trail was wide, lined by thick stands of palo verde and creosote, so much so that the surrounding landscape looked very green. At a Y-split, I went right, then merged in with Trail 306. Here, a number of hikers were starting up this trail coming in from a different trailhead. Trail 306 leads up and over Shaw Butte's summit, and is mostly an old service road with some sections still exhibiting old asphalt, now badly degraded over time.

The trail now hugs the west side of a long ridge, with the summit's communication towers visible ahead after the first main bend. The sun was still low and I had plenty of shade nearly the whole way up. I kept a steady pace, passing a few people and a few others passing me. Toward the top, I followed a spur to the summit. There is a large cairn presumably representing the highest point, but the highpoint is easily found near the summit's south rim. When I arrived to tag the top rock, there were a couple others already there. The majority of hikers apparently do not concern themselves with the tippy-top. Most turned around at the spur road, or continued on the main Trail 306.

The top was ugly as hell. I expected communications towers, but this was particularly homely. Too many random buildings and guy-wires and fencing. But, the views were nice, and I snapped a few photos for the record. I didn't stay up top very long. I descended down the spur road to the main loop road, and continued southbound.

The trail drops steeply to a saddle connecting the summit to its lower western sub-summit. I came upon the ruins of the Cloud Nine restaurant about 10 minutes later. Today, it's just concrete slabs, some steps and some mortar-and-stone walls, but nothing else. The Cloud Nine was apparently a ritzy place to eat, perched high up on the ridge line. It burned 50 years ago, in 1964. People were ferried up and down by drivers in Jeeps, the roads too narrow to handle any normal traffic and certainly beyond the skill set of most drivers.

Below the ruins, the road drops steeply some more. I angled left onto an actual trail, still on Trail 306. This portion drops steeply aiming for the plain between Shaw Butte and North Mountain. I made good time here, and followed the trail up and down through some smaller hills and passes to finally come upon Trail 100 again. From here, I hiked about a mile back to my truck. By now, there were dozens of hikers and bicyclists. I was back to my truck at 7:30 a.m., a 90 minute round trip. The day was warming, but it was still reasonably nice.

Going by the mileage figures on the trailhead sign, I covered 4.7 miles. This turned out to be a rather nice, energetic hike, and I saw (and learned) a little bit of Phoenix history while at it.

(c) 2014 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.