Overlooked Overlook & Lookout
Overview: Red Butte is the most prominent feature on the landscape between Flagstaff, Williams and the Grand Canyon. Most people rush by it on their way to and from the Grand Canyon and pay it no mind. The National Forest Service description is excellent so I will mostly just give you my musings and observations.
A friend recommended this hike so I read about it in "50 Hikes in Arizona: Walks, Hikes, and Backpacks through Sky Islands and Deserts in the Grand Canyon State" by Martin Tessmer and decided to hike it.
Red Butte is a unique geological formation created by a basalt cap that prevented it from eroding. The Havasupai Nation refers to it as Wii'i Gdwiisa, "clenched fist mountain", and regard it as a sacred site. Please treat it with the respect that you would give to a sacred site. The silence and solitude here was very refreshing.
The Kaibab forest in this area is comprised of juniper trees and some fir as you get higher. The climate is a little cooler than the Grand Canyon South Rim which is about 20 miles north. There are campsites scattered throughout the forest. I have seen elk throughout this forest and I saw elk hoofprints on the trail.
Hike: A well-defined and maintained trail starts on the western base. You start up in a series of gentle switchbacks. You have vistas stretching for at least a hundred miles in all directions. The junipers provide some shade and a forest feeling. At about 3/4 mile, the switchbacks become a little steeper and you get some cardio workout. At 1 1/4 mile you top out on the butte and see the Forest Service Lookout Tower. A notice on the lookout tower identifies it as a National Historic Site. This is a working fire lookout so please don't disturb the Ranger. There is a picnic table so relax and enjoy the views. The views in all directions are magnificent, especially to the San Francisco Peaks to the southeast. You really can't see much of the Grand Canyon from here.
This should be a great hike with children and/or dogs.
Kaibab FS Reports Red Butte is a unique geological formation of the Coconino Plateau in northern Arizona. The dark layer of rock at its top is a basaltic cap that is a remnant of past volcanic activity. It has protected the butte from the erosion experienced by the surrounding landscape. The plateau on which the butte is located consists primarily of Kaibab limestone, the rock that forms the top layer of the cliffs in the Grand Canyon. The lower portion of the butte is composed of the Moenkopi formation, a strata that is exposed in the Painted Desert. On top of this lies the Shinarump conglomerate, another Painted Desert Rock and then the cap of basalt. The top of Red Butte provides an excellent 360 degree view of the surrounding area, including the San Francisco Peaks. Caution should be taken in the summer months when rattlesnakes may be present on or along the trail.
Red Butte is sacred to the Havasupai Indian Tribe, the only permanent residents of the Grand Canyon. Treat it with respect.
Trail Layout: The Red Butte Trail climbs from 6,460 ft. (1970M) elevation at the trailhead to 7,326 ft. (2233M) elevation on top of Red Butte. For the first .75 mile, the trail climbs moderately and has only a few switchbacks. The last .5 mile ascends the steep, upper slopes of the butte and has several switchbacks and steep grades. The trail is well-marked and easy to follow.
USGS Map: Red Butte
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.