I grew up about a two minutes walk from the main section of the Phoenix Mountain Preserve; that place shaped my childhood, and was the stage for my earliest hiking experiences. In a lot of ways, it also spoiled me in terms of city hiking, because when I got my first glimpse of Shadow Mountain, I was really underwhelmed. The main section of the preserve is large enough to hide Phoenix in at least one direction, and while hiking through trails at lower elevations, you don’t feel like you’re in the city at all. Shadow Mountain, however, is a tiny island in an urban sea, and it hardly seemed to be worth exploring.
Needless to say, my initial impressions of this place were easily proven wrong. Shadow Mountain, and its partner, Lookout Mountain, are quieter places to hike in comparison to some of the more popular trails near Piestewa Peak in the main part of the preserve. In particular, Shadow Mountain seems to be primarily used by neighborhood people, and is thus a peaceful place to spend an early morning or afternoon.
Shadow Mountain has two named trails- #310 Big Loop and #312 Small Loop, however, these trails aren’t as clearly marked as many of the Phoenix Mountain Preserve trails are, and, in fact, even after being a regular visitor to the mountain, I wasn’t even sure that there were labeled trails there. The same is not true for Lookout Mountain, which also has two main trails- #308 Circumference Trail and #150 Lookout Summit Trail. The summit trail is the more popular of the two, most likely due to the work out value of the incline, but the circumference trail has a lot to offer in both views and some interestingly authentic looking graffiti (I took it to be petroglyphs on my first hike through, but I haven’t been able to find any proof to support that theory).
Lookout Mountain has it’s primary trailhead at 15800 N. 16th Street, but Shadow Mountain’s only access will be through the neighborhoods, there is no parking lot that I know of for this small section of the Phoenix Mountain Preserve.