OverviewRed Butte is an isolated peak and a notable landmark on the Coconino Plateau, about 15 air-miles south of the Grand Canyon South Rim. The plateau is generally flat (low rolling hills and gentle rises), but Red Butte stands tall, nearly 1,000 feet above the countryside, its notable red "Shinarump" cliffs visible from many miles away.
The peak was formed by erosion: while the Coconino Plateau has slowly lost elevation over the eons, a hard basalt caprock forestalled the erosive effects of wind and water. At one time, the Coconino Plateau was as high as the summit of Red Butte.
The red cliffs are called "Shinarump" sandstone, while the layer beneath it, what you will be standing on as you start this hike, is called the Moenkopi layer.
A fine trail offers easy access to the summit, where a manned lookout stands. The hike is short, about 1.25 miles each way, with about 900 feet of gain. The trail is in fantastic shape, snaking through the stark juniper and pinon woodlands to the lightly-wooded top. The views from the summit are tremendous, with the full set of old volcanoes, lava domes and crater vents of the San Francisco Volcanic Field visible south and east. Looking north, you may see the darker Grand Canyon North Rim (Kaibab Plateau) jutting above the horizon.
The peak is sacred to the Hualapai Indians, and the whole area is notable for its rich archeological digs. If you are knowledgable and know what to look for, you may find shards and other items laying about, but you'd probably need to get off the main roads to find artifacts. Leave them be, if you should encounter these items.
Getting ThereFollow state route AZ-64 north from Williams about 35 miles. You'll see the peak as you crest some rises about 20 miles south of the peak. It's all by itself-you can't miss it.
From Flagstaff, follow US-180 to the AZ-64 junction, then north about 6 miles.
The turn-off is Kaibab National Forest Road 320, on the east side of the highway at MP-224. Turn right, go 1.5 miles, then north on FR-320 about a mile, then east on FR-340A to the signed trailhead. There is room for about 5 vehicles, but it is unlikely ever to be full. Most people coming up this way naturally have the Grand Canyon on their mind.
The roads are gravel and hard-pack. Passenger vehicles should be fine in dry conditions. Watch for ruts and erosion.
Red TapeThere is none.
CampingYou could conceivably car-camp somewhere in the area, on Forest property. Developed camping is available in Valle, including at the ridiculous Bedrock City.
External LinksTrip Report (www.surgent.net) 7-9-11
The hikeThe trailhead is well-marked. Just start walking. It meanders in the lower hills, through spotty juniper and pinon. It bends north and gains the western buttress, circling around a small nubbin before dropping to a saddle directly below the main summit body.
Proceed up the switchbacks to the top. The lookout is on the east end, and the highpoint could be any one of many rocks just laying about.
Watch for thunderstorms in summer. The winter snows may shut the access roads.
The round trip is about 2.5 miles and takes about 90 minutes, moving at a moderate pace.