If Piestewa Peak and Camelback Mountain had a baby, it would be Hayden Butte, a.k.a. "A" Mountain. This pint-size peak next to Arizona State University's Sun Devil Stadium provides a quick fix for nuts like us that can't stand flat ground. The best way to start the hike is to take College Avenue north toward the mountain to where the road ends at a parking lot, just west of the stadium. Keep going through the parking lot to the marked trailhead. After a nice, gentle section, hikers must trudge up an ultra-steep, asphalt service road that leads to a series of stairs and handrails. The summit area requires a tiny bit of scrambling to let you know you're on a real mountain.
In total, it's about a half-mile from base to peak — not very much distance, but the inclines are steep enough to stir our calf muscles. If we're feeling particularly energetic, we'll run up and down two or three times. Besides the workout, though, Hayden Butte offers the delights — albeit smaller-scale — of the Valley's burlier hikes. Namely, the temporary relief from urbanism and the picturesque view from on high.
True, there are those unsightly antennas and utility boxes surrounded by a chain-link fence that take up some of the space on the peak. For now, think of it as a bit of history — the equipment has been there for 60 years. But purists, take heart — that stuff is expected to be moved to the top of the new condo towers in downtown Tempe in the next year or two, allowing for a slightly more natural-looking summit.
The view of downtown Tempe and the Town Lake merits, at the very least, a one-time pilgrimage up Hayden Butte's flanks, especially for Valley newcomers and ASU students. Try it at night, when the summer heat's cooled off and you can see the lights strung over the Mill Avenue Bridge reflected in the lake. Two words describe this hike perfectly: Short and sweet.