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Described below as an out and back, but a loop on trail #44 is nearly identical mileage from the northwest ramada. The north route to the high point is a popular out and back hike. The south route has some loose sections on a 0.14-mile section that's a steep 44-degree grade.
If you're looking for a nice, short, inner-city family hike, this isn't your bag. The average grade on this trail is 15 degrees. Camelback or the Flatiron blow this trail away in grade and distance. At least when you approach those, you expect it. Heading into this short 0.71-mile lure to the summit, you don't expect the punch.
From the Maricopa Picnic Ramada, Trail #44 takes off north. A steep (0.13 mile, 24-degree grade) ascent leads you up to a set of steps on your left. This short set of steps takes you to a road. Follow this road up the majority of the hike. You may be disappointed as the road takes out the natural aspect of hiking. Although you may not rate this as your favorite hike, a change of pace is nice.
Once near the radio towers, Trail #44 continues a short distance up. Looking south, you almost have a direct view straight down Central Avenue. Not quite though, you're more in line with what would be 1st or 2nd street. Having driven through 22 miles of city to get to North Mountain, I began to wonder. What gives this mountain the honor of being the 'North' mountain? Especially knowing the city doesn't even begin to end here, I checked it out. Lookout Mountain is further north and falls into the Phoenix Mountain Preserves too, so forget that theory. When the city was small, and Central Avenue dominated the landscape, this was north. Way back when North Mountain was a camping area for the Phoenix Indian School.
Other views include: to the south is, you guessed it, South Mountain with the Estrellas behind and west, to the east and a bit south is an excellent view of Piestewa Peak, looking north northeast is Lookout Mountain, the mountain directly northwest is Shaw Butte. Shaw Butte appears to be considerably less in elevation. In reality, it's a few feet higher.
Return by the same way or... Continue down the ridgeline and enjoy the views of Phoenix. Steep sections are encountered along the way. Follow the North Mountain Loop Drive back to the Maricopa picnic ramada.
Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.