Compared to every other part of the City of Phoenix mountain preserve system Lookout Mountain and Shadow Mountain are both exceedingly small. They won’t be on the top of anyone’s Arizona bucketlist. But don’t let that fool you, if you are looking for a shorter, but challenging hike, both have something to offer. These are also great options for anyone in North Central Phoenix who is looking to avoid at least some of the crowds else where in the city.
Lookout Mountain has it’s primary trailhead at 15800 N. 16th Street, but Shadow Mountain’s only access is through the neighborhoods; there is no parking lot that I know of for this small section of the Phoenix Mountain Preserve.
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. 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.