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North Butte - Gila River, AZ

no permit
54 6 0
Guide 6 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Globe > Superior SW
3.6 of 5 by 5
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Difficulty 3 of 5
Route Finding 4 of 5
Distance Round Trip 2.85 miles
Trailhead Elevation 1,720 feet
Elevation Gain 1,275 feet
Accumulated Gain 1,600 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 4 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 10.85
Interest Off Trail Hiking & Peak
Backpack Possible - Not Popular
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32  2016-02-13
Gila River:Cochran to Tunnel to Dam
21  2013-02-23
North Butte-South Butte Loop
15  2013-02-23
North Butte-South Butte Loop
29  2012-11-12 FLYING_FLIVER
25  2005-09-12 joebartels
Author joebartels
author avatar Guides 213
Routes 824
Photos 10,825
Trips 4,257 map ( 21,432 miles )
Age 49 Male Gender
Location Phoenix, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Feb, Jan, Dec, Nov → 8 AM
Seasons   Late Autumn to Early Spring
Sun  6:10am - 6:27pm
Official Route
2 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
A river runs near it
by joebartels

Having recently hiked South Butte it's only natural I wanted to hike North Butte. This butte viewed from South Butte is gorgeous! It's also more eye pleasing from Florence. Like Sedona and the Grand Canyon it's eroding and seems to have more color and steep terrain variation.

The beauty comes at a price. In which you pay in short steep slopes to near climbing. Nothing is really technical. Going up is fun in the fact that there are no trails or even cairns about. Route options appear to be plentiful. The only down side being the terrain itself. It's pretty unstable, so be careful. On my late summer trek, the mostly dead vegetation was cranking out micro thorns of some sort. These micro needles are similar to the fine needles on prickly pair cactus. I'm don't know where they came from but they sure did itch.

The top of North Butte consist of three high points. The lowest being on the north to the highest on the south. Most people likely head straight for the southern high point as it's the peak. I headed straight up to the middle high point. It seemed impossible getting closer but proved to be fairly simple requiring only minimal hand assist.

Once on top, I took in the views all around. The terrain is small boulders and large plates of rock, many of which are unstable. I didn't venture out to the north edge, but thinking back it may have offered the best views. I moved on south to the peak. The views were a little disappointing compared to South Butte but it was hard to complain on such a beautiful day.

South Butte is definitely the best of the two buttes as far as views go. South Butte also has a nicer cliff edge. The terrain is easier to negotiate too. However, if you're looking for something a little more challenging off the beaten path then North Butte is worth a visit. I recommend wearing long pants or gaiters at the least.

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2005-09-12 joebartels
    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.

    Most recent Triplog Reviews
    North Butte - Gila River
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    North Butte-South Butte Loop
    The Eagle threw together two short hikes I did back in the summer of 2005. Pink Louie and JJ Spicy Snack joined in on the adventure. Each butte has it's own highlights. North Butte feels less traveled. Our ascent was cold and windy. The views at the southern tip were not "as" great as I recalled but figure the weather played into it.

    We looked for a route down the east and tracked north in doing so. These views were awesome. The descent wasn't too difficult into a magnificent unnamed? ravine. This creek/canyon etches all the way back to White Canyon Wilderness. Definitely explore-worthy and easy to follow up.

    JJ spotted a ramp etched on the east side of North Butte. I ended up getting suckered into the near death trap. Going up was a blast! It turned out to be 3 to 15? feet wide. Right after I passed a questionable spot halfway up the ramp JJ dislodged a rock which sounded like a machine gun for four seconds taking out a small army. As inviting as it looked my nerves went from rock solid to soup in 2.2 seconds.

    Turned around and realized it was kinna steep. Did I mention the crumbly rock. Gravel would have been more inviting, at least it doesn't appear solid. What took me a second to go up took ten minutes to figure out going down. The rest was just steep as heck. It was the highlight of my day... whew

    Donnelly is still loaded with sand. South Butte is a maze ing.

    We took the chain-gang route back. Through the mesquites, forged the mighty Gila and hobo'd the tracks back to Switzerland.

    Mexican popies covered a couple small slopes. Smaller in size compared to a bumper crop year starting in January. A few itty bitty lupines are making an appearance. Might be pretty nice out here for the next month!
    North Butte - Gila River
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    North Butte-South Butte Loop
    Nice Plan B hike.

    Had seen these Buttes from the AZT and always wanted to explore.

    Started out cold and the forecast 5-7 mph winds were closer to 25-27 mph.

    Scrambled/Boulder hopped up North Butte to some excellent 360 views of the area, including our next climb, South Butte. Decided to find a route off the East side of North Butte, and after one false start, found a manageable route down.

    The Wash / Canyon we choose as a route to the Gila panned out, with only one place we had to climb out of the canyon around an obstruction. Now we were on our way across the river and to South Butte.

    There was actually a use trail for the easy part of this track. Then it was some more climbing, to the peak, where we had some lunch.

    After much deliberation, we picked a route back, that would get us wet crossing the Gila. Turned out to be no big deal where we crossed, the water only being calf high.

    Great day with a bunch of goofs...

    Video Summary ===>

    Thanks for driving down there JJ and for introducing me to the Pink Flamingo's
    North Butte - Gila River
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    My incentive for hiking up North Butte was to find & log the NORTH BUTTE Triangulation Benchmark, its 2 Reference Marks (#1 & #2), and NORTH BUTTE Azimuth Benchmark. I found those 4 disks, plus 2 geocaches, and also found the Summit log. The earliest login I found in the summit log was 1984. (I made a log entry & added more paper, as the existing paper was so dried out, it crumbled in my hand).

    This climb was from the west side. There's no trail anywhere, so it's up to your vision & common sense, as to the best & safest bushwhacking way to the top. Ironically, I did a good job choosing my way up, as opposed to the 2 or 3 "backtracks" I had to do coming back down. (For me, it's normally the other way around). So, I can recommend my route "up" for your ascent & for your descent too.

    The top is about 1/2 mile long from north to south, and is quite unique, as it varies in width and surface type. The south portion is wider & higher, with a more typical mix of small rocks & desert terra firma. The mid section has huge rock plates, that are difficult to maneuver, as some are quite unstable. The north end is lower and narrower than the south end. It's full of boulders, yet the boulders are easy to navigate on and around.

    The NORTH BUTTE Triangulation Benchmark, and its 2 Reference Marks (#1 & #2), are located close to the higher, south edge. The surveyors installed ("monumented") those 3 benchmarks in 1935. The NORTH BUTTE Azimuth Benchmark is at the very far north end of North Butte & was monumented in 1936. The Azimuth mark is a bit tricky to find, but I had the surveyors' datasheet to assist my search.

    From the south end, you have wonderful views of the Gila river & South Butte, which lies just across the Gila. South Butte is much lower and smaller than North Butte. The north end of North Butte also has excellent vistas.

    The climb down was slow due to all the loose rock, and it was longer due to my backtracking.
    All in all, it was a very successful hike. I found all the things I set out to find, and had a great time.

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    High Clearance possible when dry

    To hike
    From Florence go north on SR79 over the usually dry Gila River. Perhaps within a quarter mile comes the first right turn. This is E Price Station Road. Take this generally unmarked dirt road east. When the road turns into a sandy wash you will be heading up N Box Canyon Road. The junction is subtle and unmarked. The trailhead, a cleared swath of desert on your left, is just over 12.2 miles from SR79. There's enough parking for about 10-15 vehicles. The sandy wash which becomes the road is too deep for cars. High clearance is probably fine.
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