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Shawmut Trainspotting Loop, AZ

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Guide 15 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Phoenix > Phoenix SW
2.5 of 5 by 2
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Difficulty 1.5 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance Round Trip 3.81 miles
Trailhead Elevation 1,340 feet
Elevation Gain -57 feet
Accumulated Gain 114 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 2 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 4.38
Interest Historic
Backpack No
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
Inaugural Calculation on Button Tap!
15  2017-03-04
Shawmut Trainspotting Ridgeline Loop
10  2017-03-04
Shawmut Trainspotting Ridgeline Loop
25  2014-11-14
Memorial Drive
13  2011-12-18
Along the Gila Trail - Dec2011
7  2011-03-27 Randal_Schulhaus
5  2010-03-06 Randal_Schulhaus
8  2010-01-17 Randal_Schulhaus
5  2009-12-22 Randal_Schulhaus
Page 1,  2
Author Randal_Schulhauser
author avatar Guides 71
Routes 98
Photos 9,967
Trips 1,009 map ( 9,248 miles )
Age 59 Male Gender
Location Ahwatukee, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Jan, Dec, Feb, Nov → 4 PM
Sun  6:15am - 6:34pm
Official Route
2 Alternative
Flora Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
by Randal_Schulhauser

Some History
In 1850, James Gadsden, president of the South Carolina Railroad Company, dreamed of a southern transcontinental railroad to California, linking the West directly with the Southern states. The best route lay south of the new U.S. border. This prompted the "Gadsden Purchase", in which the Mexican government was paid $10M for a strip of land south of the Gila River. Gadsden didn't live to see the line built, but Central Pacific president Colis Huntington saw the value of the route. He ordered his Southern Pacific Railroad to begin building east from Los Angeles in 1877 with rails reaching Tucson in March, 1880 and then El Paso in May, 1881. It was quickly dubbed the "Sunset Route", and the Southern Pacific circular logo showing a setting sun over a railroad track became the company's trademark. Southern Pacific's premier passenger train on the route was named the "Sunset Limited." Copper deposits in Southern Arizona comprised most of the initial traffic, but by the mid 1890's affluent vacationers filled the passenger trains destined for winter resorts in Tucson, Phoenix and Pasadena. Vegetables grown in California's Imperial Valley soon became an important commodity. Southern Pacific ran the first refrigerator trains loaded with produce from the valley in 1884.

As growing freight traffic created longer and heavier trains, the steady 1% grade up out of the Gila Valley and through the Maricopa Mountains required "pusher" locomotives to assist trains through the pass. A series of "Y-spurs" off the main line allowed the engines to turn-around and get behind the next train. The small community of Shawmut soon sprouted to service these "pusher" locomotives. You can locate the abandoned roadbeds of some of the "Y-spurs" where Maricopa Road juts away from the existing rail line.

With the advent of more powerful diesel locomotives ushering an end of the steam era, the need for "pusher" locomotives was obviated. This led to the decline and abandonment of the Shawmut community. The precise date of the abandonment is unknown.

Today's rail traffic looks very different from that past era with double-decker containers from the Pacific Rim creating more and more congestion along the Sunset Route. Less than one quarter of the Sunset Route was double-track when Union Pacific acquired it in 1996 as part of the merger with Southern Pacific. Since then, Union Pacific has built more than 100 miles of new main line double-track. The ultimate goal is to double-track the entire route, but the 1% grade through the Maricopa Mountains near the abandoned settlement of Shawmut remains largely single-track. This congested area creates a trainspotters delight! You'll notice that Maricopa Road near Shawmut is sponsored by "Arizona Railfans" and "Arizona Rail History Buffs"... a testament to its esteemed trainspotter status.

The Hike
Shawmut is surrounded on all sides by the Sonoran Desert National Monument. The Maricopa Mountains naturally part here funneling traffic through the pass. This mountain pass and nearby Butterfield Pass, have been leveraged throughout the centuries as a significant transportation route.

From the turn-out along Maricopa Road, park your vehicle. Any doubt about your location is removed by the signage on the railway signals. Respect the railroad right-of-way and use the bridged wash to pass under the railway tracks to the south side. Immediately to the south is a small mountain with a ridgeline providing a fine vista for trainspotting.

There is no discernable trail along the ridgeline, but the route is obvious. As you look to the east, the double-track sharp S-curve dominates the view. Although rail traffic is heavy along this route, there was a disappointing lull while I was up on the ridgeline. With the sun beginning to set and me unable to snap a photo of a train within the S-curve, I've used an Arizona Railfans stock photo to convey the image. Guess I have a reason for a return hike!

As you scramble east along the ridgeline it will suddenly drop down into a wash. Follow the wash back to the rail bridge completing the loop hike. As I crossed under the rail bridge I could hear an approaching train. That's a great way to end a trainspotting hike!

Summary: Although this may not be considered a hike in the classic sense, I welcome variety in my outdoor adventures. I find this hike a curious contrast with transportation technology the focal point, but yet you are standing within a national monument with wilderness area to the immediate north and south. There seems to be a constant affinity between boys and trains and I don't think I've ever lost it... Enjoy!

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

Leave No Trace and +Add a Triplog after your hike to support this local community.

2006-12-24 Randal_Schulhauser
    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
    Shawmut Trainspotting Loop
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    Shawmut Trainspotting Ridgeline Loop
    Got out to a new area of the state to throw a new dot on my map.

    With the promise for Poppies (or was it Puppies?) Joe put together this loop.

    We had a train parked in front of where we had to start our hike, but it shortly moved out of our way.

    The beginning of this hike is a walk across the mainly flat desert.
    This is not a place I'd want to be in the summer months.

    We started our ridgeline roller coaster hike of 3 numbered and 3 unnumbered peaks, starting to 2264 and ending with 2654. We took a break at the top in took in the views all around. Great visibility up here.

    Our escape route followed a steep ridge line down to the North, until we dumped into a Ravine. We found it curious that we started seeing other footprints, but could not tell which way they were going.

    It became obvious shortly after when we ran into a very recently used camp. Empty gallon water bottles, clothes, blankets, a large tuperware storage tub and the first time I'd actually seen Carpet Shoes.
    There had to be 20 pairs scattered around. [ photo ]

    Once down we flat-landed it back to the Truck and went through numerous small Poppy patches on the way.
    Also, we did see probably the largest Ocotillo I'd ever seen.

    Good choice of hikes Joe (Poppy Poser) Bartels

    Mainly Poppies here
    Shawmut Trainspotting Loop
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    Along the Gila Trail - Dec2011
    Along the Gila Trail - Dec2011

    Put some miles on the F-150 today dodging rain showers and retracing a section of the GILA TRAIL while on the "trail of the ancients" from;

    Casa Grande Ruins National Monument =>
    Hohokam Pima National Monument (aka "Snaketown") =>
    Patio Area Petroglyph Site =>
    Gatlin Site - Gila Bend =>
    Painted Rocks Petroglyph Site =>
    Sears Point Petroglyph Site =>
    Antelope Hill Petroglyph Site =>
    Confluence of Gila River with Colorado River near Yuma AZ? => Unexplored territory for this author (but suspect the area is rich in ancient artifacts...)

    Missed out on a "drive-by" of the Fortaleza Ruins between the Gatlin Site and Painted Rocks Petroglyph Site => viewtopic.php?t=2915#p32656

    I've embedded in a HAZ FORUM post a reference document I used researching the GILA TRAIL => viewtopic.php?t=6627 . Thought I would share with HAZ members.

    I'd appreciate hearing from anyone with some "insights" on rock art near the confluence of the Gila and Colorado Rivers. I've never had a chance to explore this area and suspect there are some significant sites. :wrt:

    Started the day heading down the I-10 towards Casa Grande searching out the "Snaketown" site near Gila River bridge. From the NPS website;

    "Hohokam Pima National Monument was authorized by Congress on October 21, 1972, to protect an ancient Hohokam village known today as "Snaketown." Excavations in the 1930's and again in the 1960's revealed the site was inhabited from about 300 BC to around 1200 AD and may have had up to 2,000 inhabitants. Following the last excavations, the site was completely recovered with earth, leaving nothing visible above ground. The Monument is located on the Gila River Indian Reservation and is under tribal ownership. The Gila River Indian Community has decided not to open the extremely sensitive area to the public. There is no park brochure, passport stamp, picture stamp or other free literature available. Snaketown was first excavated in 1934 by the Gila Pueblo Foundation, under the direction of Harold S. Gladwin. Between 1964-1965, a second excavation was led by Emil Haury. The two expeditions discovered that the site contained more than sixty midden mounds. A central plaza and two ovel shaped fields were surrounded by pit houses, and an elaborate irrigation system fed the nearby fields in which beans, maize and squash were grown."

    My home library has many historical photos from the principal archeologists from the "Snaketown digs" and I recall some of the artifacts are on display at the Casa Grande Ruins National Monument. I conduct a drive-by of the Snaketown site bounded by the I-10 on the east, the Gila River on the south, Maricopa Road on the west and Riggs Road on the north. The site is completely buried, unkown, and returned to nature. Check out the 2009 video archive posted by University of Arizona commemorating the excavation's 75th anniversary =>

    I now head towards the village of Maricopa and Hwy 238 in search of the Patio Area Petroglyph Site => A chance to explore before a squall line comes in from the south bringing some serious rain. Time to head out.

    A stop at the Shawmutt Trainspotting Loop yields some interesting clouds. The dogs are appreciative of the chance to stretch their legs after that bumpy escape along the 4x4 tracks from the Patio Area.

    Next up is the Gatlin Site. A sad, lonely spot after the acrimonious divorce between the Town of Gila Bend and the Arizona Archeological Society.

    A stop in Gila Bend to pick up some 'burgs and we make the trek out to the Painted Rocks Petroglyph Site to enjoy lunch in the pouring rain!

    Sears Point and Antelope Hill (was also going to check the nearby Texas Hill rock art site, but had enough rain for one day) are up next before the stretch run home to catch the 2nd half and OT of the Cards game...
    Shawmut Trainspotting Loop
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    Spring Flower Quest 2011

    Having suffered through a Saturday evening of Sharks dining on Coyote meat, I needed to get outdoors and complete what seems to have become a Spring-Time ritual since moving to the desert - chasing the desert wildflower display!

    2011 wildflower reports have been underwhelming so far, with Boyce Thompson (see => and ) being the epicenter for the best displays. With rain earlier in the week, I thought I'd check out some of my more reliable spots. Loaded up the F-150 and Skippy and I were off checking out irrigated river walk network at Wild Horse Pass (see => ... esort.html ).

    Obligatory brittlebush and desert marigold blooms with the occasional orange globe mallow. Nothing to get excited about saw pretty much the same displays at South Mountain the day before.

    Onto Hwy 347 (aka Queen Creek Road) which has always been a bell weather for wildflower conditions for me. Obligatory brittlebush and desert marigold blooms along the roadside, but I can pick out the odd Mexican poppy and African daisy - this is looking promising!

    Onto Hwy 238 (aka Maricopa Road) and we bounced (when is Phoenix going to repair this road? The daily garbage transfer trucks are sure eating this road away!) our way towards the Shawmut Trainspotting Loop trail head. Couple of trains passed by before I could get Skippy and my cameras readied - no problem, there's sure to be more.

    We cross the tracks and head into the main wash - plenty of isolated poppies here! Crest over the mountain and find lots of hedgehog cacti in bloom here. Into the basin to the copious brittlebush fields - nothing happening here this year! Circled around the mountains and back to the wash and waited by the bridge to capture some Trainspotting images.

    Skippy and I wait. And wait. And wait. Patience expires and we head back to the truck without a Trainspotting image. As we angle onto the highway, I can see the distinctive dual headlights of a train...

    Shawmut Trainspotting Loop => , 3.82 mile figure eight loop with Skippy checking out the dearth of wildflowers.
    Shawmut Trainspotting Loop
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    With Lynn and Skippy on a late morning hike after racking up about 5K of airmiles this week. Took an old Jeep trail that heads north into the Maricopa Mountains. Eventually turns into a wash that meanders through the mountains. We passed a cluster of boulders with some smooth panels covered with desert varnish - primo surfaces for rock art but none was to be found (rats!). :( I was hoping for a promising wildflower display after the tease driving along the highway into the town of Maricopa. Lots of poppies, desert marigolds and brittlebush blooms along that stretch from Wildhorse Pass to Maricopa. Very little west of Maricopa... :( :(
    Shawmut Trainspotting Loop
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    Desert loop with Hannah and Dom visiting from Flagstaff. Needed a spot to get the dogs (Pauli and Skippy) out for some exercise without any crowds on the trail. This was the first time I've ever had a human encounter out on these trails/FRs - a couple of ATV'ers passed by...

    Posted REDUX loop into the basin and return via the wash...

    Finished the trek with an early dinner meal at Marescos' Pulpo Loco in Maricopa AZ (located near the railway tracks with large Blue Octopus on the sign). Two thumbs up on this authentic little dive (and we were the only "gringos" in the place)...
    Shawmut Trainspotting Loop
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    Shawmut Trainspotting Loop

    Went out to "test drive" my Xmas present - a Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 wide angle lens. I've admired some images one of my co-workers, Brad Clayton, has been taking of the Colorado Rockies plus some tips from Norbert15 capturing some Arizona "big skies". Seems a 10-22mm wide angle is one of the "keys"...

    Weather was "challenging" out on the Sonoran Desert National Monument with blowing dust, gale-force winds, and then came the rains, and LIGHTNING, and HAIL..
    Shawmut Trainspotting Loop
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    Maricopa Mountain Wilderness Wildflower Hunt...

    Shawmut Trainspotting Loop into South Maricopa Mountain Wilderness
    Brittlebush Trail into North Maricopa Mountain Wilderness

    After reviewing wildflower status reports on HAZ and DesertUSA, I decided to make a trek to the much neglected Maricopa Mountain Wildernesses within the Sonoran Desert National Monument. I crossed the Union Pacific main line near the ghost town settlement of Shawmut and headed towards the wash that travels east-west at the base of the ridgeline.

    A yellow carpet of mustard bladderpods and fiddlenecks covered much of the desert floor. Once at the wash, patches of globemallows, lupines, and poppies could be found. Skippy and I scrambled up the ridgeline and staked out some good sitting rocks and scanned the horizon for trains. We waited... And waited... And waited some more... So much for trainspotting from the ridgeline...

    We scrambled back down into the wash and trekked a ways to the east. There were various pockets of wildflowers along the wash and side tributaries. Sure enough an east bound and west bound freight trains show up in the Shawmut curves - just the event we were waiting on the ridgeline for!

    After following the wash east about a mile the wildflowers were thinning out, so we turned around and back-tracked heading west. A couple of hundred yards west of where we scrambled up to the ridgeline, I was stunned to see some new Forest Road signs! The wash we were walking in is now known as FR371. A north - south double track is FR8037A. I'm left scratching my head because I thought I was in the South Maricopa Mountain Wilderness. No motorized vehicles are allowed in a wilderness area, so what are with the new Forest Road signs?

    We follow the FR8037A south over the saddle and into a basin area I've previously explored. In the back of my mind I know I'd seen some old Jeep trails in this basin, but thought they were remnants before the wilderness area was declared in 1990 and the national monument in 2001. All I can think is the wilderness area must be further to the south...

    Once over the saddle and into the basin, wildflower activity certainly picked up. Brittlebushes on southern slopes are in full bloom and massive poppy patches can be found in every wash.

    After wander a couple of miles into the basin area, we retraced our steps and headed back to the truck to go and check out the North Maricopa Mountain Wilderness area from the Brittlebush Trail.

    If you are looking for some wildflowers and solitude, this isolated basin should be on your list!
    Shawmut Trainspotting Loop
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    Spent the morning working on my ride and needed to take it out for a run to make sure I got things right. It's always satisfying to take a vehicle that's running rough (and a couple of items that just flat out weren't working) and with a little DIY getting it back to running "sweet"...

    This was a good spot to stretch the legs and let the car cool down. Dearth of trains on a Sunday morning, but the desert is getting ready to burst into bloom. There's the odd brittlebush flower out already...
    Shawmut Trainspotting Loop
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    Loop hike as the sun was setting. Amazing that no trains passed as I bushwhacked and climbed up the ridgeline. What do you know, as soon as I get off the ridge, two trains pass. I will have to do a return trip to snap a train within the Shawmut S-curve. Purhaps I should pack a lunch/snack to create a little more patience...

    During my research for the hike description, I couldn't locate any old photos of Shawmut. I would appreciate hearing from anyone that may have some old photos, particularly from the steam era...

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    Paved - Car Okay

    To hike
    From Phoenix to the Maricopa Road TH: Take I-10 south towards Tucson until you reach exit 164 for Queen Creek Road/Hwy 347. Travel south on Hwy 347 approximately 23 miles until you reach the burgeoning town of Maricopa. At the intersection with Maricopa Road/Hwy 238, turn right and travel west towards Gila Bend. Drive 28.8 miles arriving at a mountain pass that negotiates a sharp S-curve around the abandoned settlement of Shawmut. As the railway double track converges into a single track just past the sharp S-curve, there is a turn-out at the side of the road near a wash. This turn-out will serve as our trailhead. To remain "legal", use the bridged wash to pass under the railway tracks to the south side.

    My GPS noted 51 miles traveled from my home in Ahwatukee to the Maricopa Road trail head parking. Travel time was less than an hour. GPS coordinates for the trailhead are 32o 59.820'N, 112o 30.725'W.
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