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Lookout Mountain Park
Phoenix, Arizona


Lookout Mountain, one of the smaller units of the Phoenix Mountains Preserve, is south of Greenway Rd. and west of Cave Creek Road. There are trailheads from the north at 16th Street and from the southeast at Lookout Mountain Park. As the name implies, the slopes are rather precipitous and the summit offers nice views of the city scapes below.

Much of this mountain is composed of the remains of volcanic eruptions that occurred late in the Tertiary Period, some 25 MYBP.

A large water storage tank embedded on the north flank is apparently leaking some water as evidenced by the large shrubs growing nearby.

Adapted from Phoenix Parks & Rec. Map.

Field Trip Report:
Feb. 20, 2000

Trail south from the 16th Street trailhead. From this trailhead one can either hike straight up to the summit or else take a perimeter hike. About 300 meters west of the trailhead, the hiker will pass through a small desert wash where the Foothill Palo Verdes are larger and many play host to dense mistletoe plants. The mistletoe were beginning to bloom, putting forth a very sweet fragrance. About half way up the summit trail there is a little spur on the east with a broad open lookout area. Near this spot I found several large Desert Lavender in full bloom. The gray-green foliage has a pungent sage aroma. Lichens and mosses can be found growing upon old volcanic lava and pyroclastic flow around the north face of the summit.

At the top of the Mountain there was a pair of Harris' Antelope Squirrels. These might have been anticipating handouts of junk food from hikers. Two Rock Wrens sang and bobbed from boulder top perches.


More common species listed first:

  1. Rock Wren -- S,F,W,Sp -- Very common little birds which frequently give spirited high pitched trills while perched atop prominants especially near high points. Their drab gray and brown color blends perfectly with the desert colors.
  2. Anna's Hummingbird -- S,F,W,Sp -- These are the most common hummingbirds seen at Lookout Mountain. Green back; forehead and throat of males magenta.
  3. Black-throated Sparrow -- S,F,W,Sp --  Lovely birds with a jet-black throat and bib contrasted by bright white eye brows. Beautiful singers. A very nice description of the black-throated sparrow can be found at Twentynine Palms Cyberzine (California).
  4. Verdin -- S,F,W,Sp -- Tiny birds, barely larger than a hummingbird. Gray/brown with a majestic yellow head
  5. Gila Woodpecker -- S,F,W,Sp -- Common woodpecker that builds nest holes in the Saguaro Cactus.
  6. House Finch -- S,F,W,Sp -- I was surprised to see a group of four fledglings feeding on creosote bush seeds
  7. Northern Mockingbird -- S,F,W,Sp --
  8. Gambel's Quail -- S,F,W,Sp --
  9. Red-tailed Hawk -- F,W,Sp -- The steep cliffs often provide the uplifting winds that soaring birds seek.
  10. Common Raven -- W -- Conspicuous, fairly large, jet black birds that soar above looking for food. Most likely during the winter months.
  11. White-crowned Sparrow -- W,Sp -- look for these during winter and early spring.
  12. American Kestrel -- S,F,W,Sp -- This small falcon was seen cruising along ridge February 2000. Probably feeding on birds drawn to neighborhood yards and their handouts of seed.
  13. Curve-billed Thrasher -- S,F,W,Sp --
  14. Abert's Towhee -- S,F,W,Sp -- mostly at the edges of preserve near residential houses
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photo © Mike Plagens

Black-throated Sparrow (Amphispiza bilineata) Photo by Mike Plagens.

photo © Mike Plagens

Audubon's Cottontail
(Sylvilagus auduboni) Photo by Mike Plagens.


  1. Harris' Antelope Squirrel -- Common squirrels the size of chipmunks with large bushy tails that are held above like a parasol.
  2. Desert Cottontail -- Common.
  3. Coyote -- These animals often forage for rodents, rabbits, stray cats and fruit in the surrounding neighborhoods.
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In order of Abundance:
  1. Compass Barrel Cactus (Ferocactus acanthodes) -- Spines tinged with red and yellow.
  2. Teddy Bear Cholla (Opuntia bigelovii) -- Several groves growing on the southeast flanks of the mountain.
  3. Buckhorn Cholla (Opuntia acanthocarpa) -- These chollas are much scarcer here than in adjacent preserves.
  4. Saguaro Cactus (Cereus giganteus) -- These cacti are noticeably scarce on Lookout Mountain; many have been repeatedly vandalized by rock-throwers.

photo © Mike Plagens

Compass Barrel Cactus (Ferrocactus acanthodes). Photo by Mike Plagens.

Shrubs and Trees

In order of Abundance:

  1. Triangle-leaf Bursage (Ambrosia deltoidea) -- The most common plant in this desert preserve. Often leafless after periods of drought or hard frost.
  2. Creosote Bush (Larrea tridentata) -- dark evergreen shrub with shiny, resinous leaves and dark wirey twigs.
  3. Foothills Palo Verde (Cercidium microphyllum) -- This is the only tree found growing upon Lookout Mountain, and then most specimens are only shrub-size.
  4. Golden Eye (Viguiera deltoidea) -- fairly common along the trail to the summit. Yellow flowers similar to those of Brittle Bush.
  5. Brittle Bush (Encelia farinosa) -- Leafless after drought or frost. Leaves are silvery green and flowers are bright yellow.
  6. Wolfberry (Lycium sp.) -- a few here and there. 1 to 2 meter tall shrub with noticeably dark reddish brown or black twigs.
  7. Joint Fir -- Ephedra aspera -- A large stand occurs around the summit and its approaches.
  8. Desert Mistletoe (Phoradendron californicum) - Parasitic shrub growing upon various desert trees including Palo Verde and Ironwood.
  9. Desert Tobacco (Nicotiana trigonophylla) growing from cracks and crevices especially in the shelter of north facing cliffs or boulders.
  10. Globe Mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua) - Bears peach colored blooms after periods of rain otherwise it is difficult to find
  11. Ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens) --
  12. Desert Broom (Baccharis sarothroides) - A few large shrubs growing around the water tank near the 16th Street trailhead.
  13. Desert Lavender (Hyptis emoryi) - a few can be seen near the summit.
  14. Shrubby Bedstraw (Galium stellatum) -- growing amongst rocks on the north flanks of the mountain.
  15. Trixis (Trixis californicus) -- look in the shade of desert trees growing along drainages
  16. Wright Buckwheat (Eriogonum wrightii) -- also growing amongst rocks on the north flanks.
  17. Janusia (Janusia gracilis) - a twisty, viney plant also near the top.
  18. Lance-leaf Ditaxis (Argythamnia lanceolata) - non-descript, silvery leaved, small shrub
  19. Rock Daisy (Perityle emoryi) - Small daisy w/palmately-toothed leaves growing along north facing cliffs. On Nov. 4, 2006 I found found these plants heavily damaged by leafhoppers - cicadelidae.
  20. Common Silverbush (Argythamnia neomexicana) -- growing amongst rocks on the north flanks.
  21. Desert Hackberry (Celtis pallida) -- A large desert hackberry grows in the little wash just below the water tank. Watch for an abundance of berries in late spring or early fall.
  22. Ironwood (Olneya tesota) -- a small sapling has been planted near the Sixteenth Street trailhead. Will it flourish?

photo © Mike Plagens

Saguaro Cactus damaged by naked apes throwing rocks.  Photo by Mike Plagens.


March 5, 2005

Following close to three months of much wetter than usual weather this mountain like the rest of the Desert Southwest is green and colorful. Blazing yellow Brittlebush provide the most conspicuous color, but there are orange fiddlenecks, blue phacelias and white popcorn flower. With warm weather the peak flowering will quickly pass here but the traveler can expect lingering blooms for a month or more here and well into June in the higher elevations.

February 20, 2000

The desert habitat was very dry and nearly devoid of any sign of fresh growth or flowers. The mistletoe supported by Palo Verdes in the washes were beginning to bloom, putting forth a very sweet fragrance. About half way up the summit trail there is a little spur on the east with a broad open lookout area. Near this spot I found several large Desert Lavender in full bloom. Then near the summit I found a single Desert Tobacco with two greenish-white flowers.

Wildflower Seasonal Chart

  Month Name Only : no flowers. no live plants.
   : usually no or very few blooms open
   : a few scattered blooms likely to be seen
   : quite a few blooms likely to be seen, depending on past rainfall
   : abundant blooms dependent on favorable rainfall

Common Name Scientific name Color Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Bluedicks Dichelostemma pulchellum May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Open
Red-stemmed Fillaree Erodium cicutarium Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct
Chia Salvia columbariae Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Texas Filaree Erodium texanum Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov
Coastal Bird's-foot Trefoil Lotus salsuginosus Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Orange Fiddleneck Amsinckia intermedia Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov
Desert Lavender Hyptis emoryi
Arch-nutted Comb Bur Pectocarya recurvata Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct
Triangle-leaf Bursage Ambrosia deltoidea
London Rocket (weed) Sisymbrium irio Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov
Meditteranean Grass Schismus barbatus Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Brittle Bush Encelia farinosa
Desert Mistletoe Phoradendron californicum
Lance-leaf Ditaxis Argythamnia lanceolata
Notch-leaved Phacelia Phacelia ambigua Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov
Trixis Trixis californicus
Sweet Bush Bebbia juncea
Creosote Bush Larrea tridentata
Ocotillo Fouquieria splendens
Indianwheat; Woolly Plantain Plantago insularis Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov
American Wild Carrot Daucus pusillus Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov
Pellitory Parietaria hespera Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct
Torrey Eucrypta Eucrypta chrysanthemifolia Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Open
Common Name Scientific name Flower Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec

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