The Mountains of Arizona

Shadow Mountain

Now on the ridge west of the peak

On a rock outcrop next to the top

View east from the summit

North view. Buffalo Ridge, which I also hiked, is the low hill "closest" in, slightly left of center

West view, Lookout Mountain

South view

Mummy Mountain and Piestewa Peak, southeast view

Buffalo Ridge

Approaching the top from the west

Summit rock, looking east

Looking down at the quarry

Southeast view. Shadow Mountain can be seen, with a small white "patch" sitting on its slopes

North view toward Union Hills

All images

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Phoenix Mountains Preserve

Shadow Mountain • Buffalo Ridge

Shadow Mountain and Buffalo Ridge are two hills in north Phoenix about three miles from one another, with Cave Creek Road cutting between both. I was more interested in Shadow Mountain but knew it would be a short hike, so I looked for something else to do in the area. Buffalo Ridge was a perfect second hike. Together, the two hikes covered about 3 miles and took two hours, including drive times.

Shadow Mountain
• Phoenix Mountains Preserve
• City of Phoenix
• Maricopa County

Date: December 3, 2016 • Elevation: 1,923 feet • Prominence: 448 feet • Distance: 1.4 miles • Time: 45 minutes each • Gain: 430 feet • Conditions: Bright blue skies and pleasant temperatures


Shadow Mountain is in north-central Phoenix, east of Cave Creek Road and between Greenway and Cactus Roads. It is part of the Phoenix Mountains Preserve but is not as developed as the other peaks in the preserve. There is no big parking lot. Only a couple trails are marked and very few people come here, mostly locals who can walk here from their homes.

I came here on the spur of the moment. I hadn't planned any hikes today, but the day was bright blue and pleasant, so on the spot, I got my stuff together and drove to one of the let-in points. I live relatively close by, so getting here didn't take too much time. I parked at the Acoma Road let-in point, arriving here about 2 p.m..

The Acoma Road let-in point is basically a patch of desert between two homes. There is no formal parking lot. I parked along the curb, being sure not to be in front of someone's home and ensuring there were no "no parking signs". It all looked cool, so I parked, got my shoes on and watched a little bunny rabbit hop along the sidewalk.

This let-in point features, somewhat curiously, a wheelchair ramp. This lets onto a wide dirt path that runs south a few hundred feet, gaining about twenty feet in the process. This wide path then ends at a drinking fountain and a water trough. Presumably, people can bring their horses here... or cattle.

Where the wide footpath ends, I found a scanter path continuing south, going uphill. The peak rose above me, and I followed the path until it met with a much better-defined path traversing across the slope. I went right and followed this path down into a drainage, then up to a ridge. The path then bent hard left, and traversed the west slopes of the peak, aiming for a rockier ridge higher above. Down below is a triangular-shaped concrete structure, a water tank perhaps. Soon, I was on the main ridge that emanates west from the peak.

The path skirted below and left of a couple rock outcrops, then up to one more, the last main one before the real top. I scooted down the rock directly to the saddle below. The climb to the top follows a path than threads through some rocks down low. Then, there is a few feet of easy scrambling on the rock itself. Past that, the top was just a few yards away, and I was on top after 25 minutes of hiking.

I didn't stay up long. I snapped a few photographs and looked around, but soon was back down to the saddle below. Here, I followed a scant path that looked like it went down to the lower trail. So I get a few feet down it and suddenly a bee is aggressively buzzing me. I waved it away and it came back and so did a couple more. They were bopping into me, really mad. None of them actually landed on me, otherwise I probably would have got stung.

I sensed I may have disturbed a hive and got my ass moving fast down that slope. I didn't take time to actually follow any trail. I moved fast, hopping from rock to rock, doing a little boot-glissade, whatever it took to get down fast. The bees kept up with me for a few more yards. Once on the good trail, I jogged and that's when the bees finally left me alone. This is the only practical defense against bees --- get away as fast as possible, running if necessary. Swatting at them doesn't do a damn thing except rile them.

The trek back to my car didn't take long and I was back after about 50 minutes total on the hike. I knew this hike would be short, so I looked at exploring Buffalo Ridge, a small hill to the north. Getting there took about 10 minutes. Stupid bees.

Buffalo Ridge

Elevation: 1,826 feet • Prominence: 266 feet • Distance: 1.2 miles • Time: 45 minutes • Gain: 370 feet

I went north on Cave Creek Road to Union Hills Road, west a mile to 16th Street, north about a quarter-mile to Westcott Drive, then east to the entrance. The hill lies behind a city-run park, called the Buffalo Ridge Park. The park features basketball courts, restrooms, jogging paths, a torn-up grass field, and a frisbee-golf course. I rolled in about 3 p.m., lots of guys playing basketball and a few joggers and hikers on the fringes.

I walked past the courts, across the grass and onto the unkempt desert flats, aiming in general for the hills but no real plan in mind. I saw a guy exiting a trail with his dog so I figured that would be a good place to start. The trail circumnavigated the hills passing by a series of the frisbee-golf targets. Do people still play frisbee golf?

I kept to the trail for about ten minutes as it curled to the north, then at a Y-junction, went more up than across, following scant paths through the rocks and trees, the area showing signs of severe erosion. There is a trail here, but it can be hard to follow. In minutes, I was on the main ridge north of the presumed summit.

I then walked south through the rocks and gravel to top out on the 1,826-foot peak, which featured some graffiti. I snapped photos, including one of the big quarry on the southeast slopes of the hill. Another 1,820-foot bump to the east appeared lower. I was clearly higher where I stood, which wasn't for very long. It wasn't the prettiest hilltop.

I didn't feel like retracing my path so I descended toward a lowpoint between the two main hills, then walked down and down, sometimes getting "rocked" out before finding a way through the rocks and brush. The slopes were covered in loose gravel which made movement a little precarious. I scooted down rocks and gravel slopes until I was back to some semblance of a path, which I followed back out to my vehicle.

The round trip hike had taken about 45 minutes, and gave me a little exercise. The hill and the surrounding park could use a little upkeep. The surrounding neighborhoods seem clean and kept-up. It's not a bad area. The trail really could use attention. Perhaps some Eagle Scout out there is looking for something to do.

(c) 2022 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. .