Located just an hour northeast of Phoenix, the Black Mountain Trail is a great option to get out of the big city for a challenging little hike. Pair it with a day of touring the western town of Cave Creek and it’ll be well worth the drive.
This trail is nestled within a beautiful neighborhood in Cave Creek and is not to be underestimated for it climbs over 1000 feet in 1.1 miles giving you a leg burner of a workout! Black Mountain is a great sunrise or sunset hike option, and if you’re a night photographer looking for some city light views, this may be a great spot.
In this post I go over all of the trail details so you know exactly where to go and what to expect. Are you up for the challenge?!
BLACK MOUNTAIN TRAIL STATS
Distance: 2.2 miles RT
Type: Out and Back
Elevation Gain: 1,052 feet
Location: Cave Creek, AZ
Trailhead: Black Mountain Trail
Parking: Black Mountain Trail Parking Lot
Dogs Allowed: Yes
HOW TO GET TO BLACK MOUNTAIN TRAIL IN CAVE CREEK
You can map your directions here or follow them below!
If you’re heading from the Phoenix/Mesa area you’ll most likely get on the I-17 North and you’ll want to take the Carefree Highway Exit. Drive for roughly 8.5 miles until you reach Cave Creek Road. You’ll turn left onto Cave Creek Road and follow it until you reach Schoolhouse Road. This intersection is a four way stop, and you’ll turn right onto Schoolhouse Road.
Drive down Schoolhouse road for a couple hundred yards and you’ll reach another intersection. You’ll be facing a residential road that has a dead end sign (pictured above). The trailhead is up at the end of this road but there is no parking so you’ll need to park in one of the dirt pull offs along Schoolhouse Road.
The dirt lots are small and only have enough space for roughly 10 cars. If they are full do not park along the roads for you may be ticketed or towed. If we don’t follow the rules here we may lose access to the trail in the future!
WHEN TO HIKE
Even though Black Mountain Trail is located in Cave Creek, it still isn’t far enough North to escape the desert heat during the summer. The entire trail is exposed to the sun so I’d still suggest only hiking it during the months of November-March.
If you plan on hiking Black Mountain for sunrise or during the dark, however, then hiking during the hot summer months are definitely do-able. I can only imagine the locals using this trail as an early morning routine workout much like that of Cambelback in Phoenix.
I did not see anything regarding open and close trail hours, but since it is nestled in a neighborhood, please do be considerate of the people that reside in the area!
I always recommend tracking yourself or following an already made track so you can check in and be sure you’re on the right path. Below is a screenshot of my track from Black Mountain Trail!
Preparation saves lives. Know where you are going ahead of time and always have a way to keep yourself on trail. One way to do this is with a GPS system or app.
You can download my Black Mountain track and gain access to my library of all tracked hikes. Once downloaded, you can load it into your own trusty device for ease of mind!
HIKING BLACK MOUNTAIN TRAIL
Once you’ve parked you’ll head up the paved dead end road. There is a brown sign on the right side of the road with Black Mountain trail on it so you’ll know you are headed in the right direction. The beginning of the hike is up the paved hill, but once at the end of the road you’ll see a sign marking the Black Mountain Trail (pictured below).
The trail cuts between two private driveways but it won’t take you long to hike past the homes. Even though the trail technically begins here and the sign says 2.2 miles, the 2.2 miles total is actually from back where you parked at the intersection. So no need to worry, it isn’t any longer than what you expected!
It doesn’t take long to realize why this one is rated difficult. You’ll begin climbing elevation almost immediately and I hate to break it to you, but it stays steep the entire way!
Eventually you’ll hike upon some exposed, jagged rocks sticking out that are tainted black. I can only assume this is why the mountain is called Black Mountain. You can tell where the traffic has worn down the black rocks so be sure to stay on the trail as much as possible to prevent this from happening some more.
At times it can be difficult to tell if you are even on the right path. It is easy to lose the Black Mountain Trail since there are areas of just rock and not dirt, and also due to the million other trails that lead off into different directions. There were a couple times I went ‘off trail’, following another little trail.
In all honesty most of these little trails end up connecting back with the actual Black Mountain Trial and end up leading you to the top of the mountain anyway. To ease my mind, though, I did keep checking my GAIA app just to be sure I was heading the right way.
Once you make it to the top, the trail flattens for a bit as you hike along the ridgeline to the end. You’ll know you’ve made it to Black Mountain when you reach the American flag!
The peak itself is pretty jagged in areas, but there are a few spots of flat dirt and rock to set your stuff down on and take a break. There were 3 other individual parties at the top when I arrived but there was plenty of space for us all to spread out. Each one of us had a professional camera so I can imagine this is a great local spot for some night shots.
Black Mountain provides 360 degrees so no matter if you come for sunrise or sunset you’ll have unobstructed views in every direction. I stayed long enough for the sun to go down and the city lights to turn on below. It was very peaceful for I didn’t even hear much traffic off in the distance.
Once you’ve gotten your fill of views then you’ll head back down the way you came! I found it easier to follow the trail down than it was up. I didn’t go off trail as often and just followed my exact track on my GAIA GPS app that I took up.
When my German Sheperd, Monty, and I descended we got stuck in the dark as excepted. Surprisingly there was enough moon and starlight to where I didn’t have to use my headlamp. Monty still had on his collar light, however, so the hikers that were still heading up the trail in the dark could see him.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON BLACK MOUNTAIN TRAIL
I enjoyed the short and steep challenge that Black Mountain Trail provides. If traveling from Phoenix it may be a far drive for such a short hike, but if paired with some activities or dinner in Cave Creek, it would make for a great day trip out of the big city!
Hiking at sunset definitely allowed for beautiful lighting the entire way to the top. You get excellent unobstructed views for both sunrise or sunset at the peak. Of course this means you’d need to be comfortable hiking either up or down in the dark so don’t forget your headlamp!
Regardless of when you hike the Black Mountain Trail you’re sure to get a leg burner workout with 360 degree views as a reward at the top.
As always, please be considerate of the environment so we can keep enjoying it and remember to leave no trace.
You may also enjoy:
- 12 BEST Phoenix Holiday events to attend this year
- Hike Pinnacle Peak Trail in Pinnacle Peak Park, Scottsdale
- Tom’s Thumb Trail in Scottsdale, AZ- all you need to know
- How to find Soldier Pass Cave- Sedona, AZ