The Mountains of Arizona •
Peak 2111 • Union Hills
• Sonoran Preserve
• City of Phoenix

Peak 2111

Now on its slopes, summit is nigh

Look north at Peak 2144 and a few balloons

Summit of Peak 2111 in front, Union Hills Peak in back

View southwest, looking at the Thunderbird Hills, also Ludden Mountain (the flat-topped one), and other hills and stuff

View northeast into the glare, Cave Buttes Dam

View of Peak 2111 as I exit

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Date: October 20, 2021 • Elevation: 2,111 feet • Prominence: 371 feet • Distance: 8.5 miles • Time: 3 hours, 20 minutes • Gain: 1,110 feet (gross) • Conditions: Cool, cloudless, warming as I exited


Peak 2111 lies within the Sonoran Preserve encompassing the Union Hills and the Cave Buttes Dam area in North Phoenix. The peak is about an air-mile southeast of Union Hills Peak. The developed trail system that allows easy access to most of the hills in the preserve does not include this lonely hill. However, old jeep tracks criss-cross the desert and ridges surrounding the hill so that most of an ascent is on some sort of path. Only the very top hundred feet is off-trail.

Looking at maps, Peak 2111 lies close to where 7th Street and Happy Valley Roads merge. It would appear that one could hike to Peak 2111 from this area, perhaps under an hour. It doesn't look farther than a mile each way. I came here about two months ago, while things were still very hot, to inspect this area and possibly hike it if I could. But the whole area is not conducive to hiking. The fencing along the roads are marked regularly with "no trespassing" signs. One possible way in is off of a road that leads toward a big mine that is slowly taking apart Peak 1927. From that road, I eased onto dirt tracks into open desert, but the roads were in terrible shape and I only got in about a quarter mile. Other possible approaches are blocked by homes and private property. Thus, despite its proximity to major roads, a hike in from the south didn't seem feasible.

In rethinking a way to this peak, I looked at the other obvious alternative, to come in from the main trail network in the Union Hills. This would be a long hike, over 8 miles round trip. At first, it seemed like a lot of work for a mundane peak, but then I thought that the real purpose of an outing here would be the hiking itself, with a peak at the end as a bonus. I had not been back to the Union Hills since April 2017, and only one other time overall (in 2013, when I hiked Union Hills Peak).

I had most of a morning open, so I was up early and on the road by 5 a.m.. The drive took an hour and covered about 30 miles. I rolled into the Desert Vista Trailhead on the west side of the preserve, this being the main let-in point for the trails in the preserve. It was still mostly dark when I arrived, but a few cars were here, and I could see headlamps of people already on the trails, mostly joggers. The full moon was setting in the west as the sun rose in the east. I got my boots on and things packed, and started walking at 6:05 a.m., conditions very mild and pleasant, temperature about 60°. There was just enough ambient dawn-light so that I did not need a flashlight myself.

I walked in on the Hawk's Nest Trail, gaining about a hundred feet, then hung a right on the Desert Tortoise Trail, heading east. This trail goes against the grain of the arroyos and cuts into and out of the lay of the land, overall staying level with a few shorts gains and drops. Once out of the arroyos, it heads into flatter terrain of volcanic rubble and cholla cactus, with Union Hills Peak visible. For now, the sun was still below the horizon and everything was in silhouette.

I then got onto the Valle Vista Trail, heading southeast for 0.6 mile, then onto the Great Horned Owl Trail, which gains steeply up the north flanks of Union Hills Peak. I stopped at its junction with the spur trail to that peak's top, taking a break, the sun now above the horizon. I took a short break to change my shirt and have a drink, and fish out my sunglasses. It was still cool, mid-60s now. To the north, the hot-air balloons were rising, two or three in the air, a few more preparing to alight.

Staying on the Great Horned Owl Trail, it drops a little over 200 feet heading east, then meets the Cactus Wren Trail. According to the trail map at the entrance, this is about 3.3 miles in, and the eastern extent of the trail system. The satellite images show a warren of old roads and tracks to the east, and I quickly found one such road, an old jeep track heading south-southeast, slowly gaining about 60 feet up a soft ridge.

On this low ridge, now with more sun, I could see the valleys below and the many old tracks, and Peak 2111, not far up ahead. I descended down the other side, then followed a track up another ridge. The tracks are not maintained, and are covered in large rocks and in some places, deep erosion gullies. By now, I was essentially on the north-trending ridges off of Peak 2111. I wasn't being too picky either, following whatever track seemed to go the way I needed.

I found myself on a track on one such ridge, aiming directly uphill at the summit dead ahead. The track peters out, but I was just a hundred fifty feet below the top, and the terrain here was gentle, amenable to off-trail hiking. It was low rocks, ankle-high grass, and spaced-out brush, with an occasional palo verde tree. I was soon on top, the summit being a simple mound of rock and grass. There were no cairns or registers, not that I expected any. It was 7:50, meaning a 1 hour and 45 minute hike, covering 4.5 miles (I gauge the last portion from the maintained trails to be about 1.2 miles each way).

I took time up here to relax and shoot images. By now, about ten balloons were aloft, and still more getting ready. I never realized how popular balloon rides are. A helicopter was flying low over the range and landed for a spell at a pad abuting the Cave Buttes Dam, not sure why, but that's what it did. Then it took off again. Maybe training. I spent about ten minutes up top. With the sun slightly higher, things were warming up nicely. It would be a warmer day today, into the high 80s. But for now, it was still cool.

Instead of retracing the exact same route going down, I instead descended the slope to the west of the peak, which dropped about 200 feet, past one old mine shaft, putting me back on some more tracks. I could see better from up top so knew exactly where I was headed. I was soon back on the tracks I had followed in, and I retraced those back to the maintained trails, and from there, back to my car. There were more hikers out now. The closer in to the trailhead, the more people, including a couple large hiking groups. But it wasn't crowded at all, and I made good time. I was back to my car at 9:25 a.m., a 90-minute egress.

I was pleased with the hike and happy I took the longer, more scenic route. I wouldn't necessarily recommend this peak, but the trails are well-groomed and the whole area is lovely. Done, I drove home, then tried my best to keep busy and productive. The net gain from the trailhead to the summit is just over 500 feet, but I figure in a couple major drops and regains, roughly 300 feet in each direction, for an overall figure close to 1,100 feet of elevation gain.

(c) 2021 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.