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Hayden Butte Overview

If you’re new to hiking, or if you are looking for a short, urban mountaintop escape, Tempe’s  Hayden Butte (“A” Mountain) is a great destination. While I was in undergrad at Arizona State University, I lived at the base of this mountain. It turned into my quick and easy “escape from it all” destination; it’s a great spot for thinking or for just listening to the hum of the city, and it’s a great place to be at sunrise or sunset (reference below sunrise photo). Plus, it is an AWESOME spot for viewing fireworks on the Fourth of July as shown in the above photo. (There are nearby fireworks on New Year’s Eve, too, but that can be a bit cold and is obviously a late night!)

The butte is right next to Arizona State University’s football stadium, and the “A” on the mountain represents the school. Fun fact: every year, before the school’s football game against their rival team from the University of Arizona, ASU students “guard the A” to protect it from being painted in the rival school’s colors. It’s an annual ritual that has gone on for years! Sometimes police helicopters with spotlights join in on the fun… 😉


The hike itself only has a 280’ elevation gain and is one-third of a mile one-way (not including any distance you walk from parking). As such, it’s a good option for families, even those with very young children. There is a stopping point below the “A” that will provide pretty good views with a less intense hike, but the best views will be at the top. This hike is a quick escape and because of the relatively short distance and steep path, some use this trail for hiking interval training, completing the route multiple times. If you are training for another, longer hike -perhaps Humphreys Peak or Havasupai – Hayden Butte can be great for doing shorter period intervals. Because the trail is relatively steep and short, you can get the up/down cycles in faster. Sometimes I will see people carrying packs up and down, or even alternating with walking backwards uphill to train a different set of muscles.

There are a multitude of parking locations in the vicinity, but I typically park at the paid parking lot at the northeast corner of 3rd Street and Mill Avenue. Alternately, you could park at Tempe Beach Park for free and walk to the trailhead. If you want, you could also take the Light Rail to the Mill Avenue & 3rd Street station and walk to the trailhead from there.

Hayden Butte Tempe Arizona Sunrise

A glorious sunrise as viewed from Hayden Butte.

Gear & Gadgets

Make sure you have a good pair of shoes that will grip to the steep asphalt paving that is present for the majority of the ascent. The last bit of the trail is a dirt/rock trail with handrails and some stairs. It is best to have good hiking shoes, though decent walking shoes would be fine as well (I have seen people do it in flip-flops…not recommended, but possible).

If I am not hiking this trail in the summer, I typically don’t even bother bringing a water bottle along because it is such a short and quick hike. If you are going in the summer, or if you are new to hiking, be sure to bring plenty of water.

If you are looking to do some fun time lapse photography, it can be a lot of fun capturing the light trails of the jets passing overhead as they fly into Sky Harbor Airport. Check out the Photography Gear and Gadgets Guide for some inspiration.

Further Reading

Day Trip Gear Guide

Photography Gear and Gadgets

Leave No Trace Principles