Southwestern USA Hiking Trails including Scottsdale, Phoenix, Northern Arizona

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Papago West Park - Big Butte Loop Phoenix, AZ


Directions: From Fountain Hills take 87-S towards Phoenix

  1. Shea Blvd., use the right 2 lanes to turn right onto AZ-87 S.

  2. Drive 11 miles turning right onto E McDowell Rd towards Phoenix

  3. Drive 5.8 miles, turning left onto N Galvin Pkwy

  4. At the traffic circle, take the 1st exit and stay on N Galvin Pkwy

  5. Travel 0.5 miles turning right onto Papago Park Rd, turn right into the parking lot

About the Hike: Big Butte Loop Trail is 0.8 miles with a mild elevation gain of 150 feet. I rated this hike easy, but if you want more exercise there are four other hikes within the park.


This was the first time I have hiked Papago Park West. I was unsure where to start hiking. They have an excellent trail map available in the parking area.


The map indicated that most of the trails were along the buttes. To my right was a paved path leading me towards the two large buttes off in the distance.

Along the trail stood this funny cactus that reminder me of Alpha from the Little Rascals with that one spine sticking straight up from the cactus' crown.




See what I mean?


These two large buttes stared down at me at the end of the paved trail. My choices were to go right or left, but I faced the problem of not knowing which way to go. Instead, I chose to investigate this Ramada also known as Elliot Ramada.



Sunrays hit the Ramada stonework, emphasizing the powerful color tones of each individual rock. Hiking early in the mornings has two benefits. The first and my favorite is how the sun's rays throw shadows and colors across the horizon. The second is that rattlesnakes usually do not come out on chilly fall mornings because it is too cold. The snakes wait for the sun to warm up the ground before slithering about.

You get a beautiful view of the Central Phoenix Corridor on the south side of the Ramada.

Another early bird hiker could see I looked a little unsure about which way to go next and offered advice on which hike to tackle. She recommended Big Butte Loop because it was short and looped around, so I had a minimal chance of getting lost.


I discovered the trail following a quick scramble up the hillside.




The path was level and easy to follow as it meandered around the two large buttes.

I stopped to take in the geological forms of these buttes. Small caverns were sprinkled through the rocks. I started imagining all sorts of creepy crawly things that might be lurking up there.

On the west side, I glanced back over my shoulder taking in the city skyline off in the distance.





I could not believe my eyes, right around the corner was the most amazing outdoor gym with the perfect stair climber. A girl was engrossed in her workout going up and down those steps.


The sun was peaking above the horizon, lighting up the steps. It is not really a gym, but an Amphitheater built-in 1933 by the Corp of Engineers. This Amphitheater was used until 1950 when McDowell Road was built. Usage of the Amphitheatre stopped once the parking area was reduced to 3 - 4 car spaces along the side of McDowell road. The most memorable use of the Amphitheatre was for the early morning Easter Service. Just imagine how serene that was with the sun rising in the east during the service.














It was a bit tricky finding the correct trail just past the Amphitheater. When facing east, take the left path continuing along the butte edges. Right around the corner of the butte was a sign warning you about bees.


Those darn bees had an active honeycomb shimmering from the sunlight nestled snuggly in the rock face of the butte.

I took a quick snapshot with my camera. I certainly did not want to linger too long in this spot!


A beautiful specimen of a saguaro spine glisten against the backdrop of the sun rising higher in the sky.


The path back towards the parking lot is flat and not very exciting. I started playing with shadows to spice up the remainder of my hike.

The sun silhouetted a lone saguaro growing among the scrub brush. A beautiful shadow was cast across the desert floor.


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