One of the most recognizable land formations in the Fountain Hills area is Red Mountain. The mountain stands high above the desert floor at the confluence of the Salt and Verde Rivers on the Fort McDowell Reservation. The signature Arizona sunsets transform the mountain’s red sandstone into a fiery orange and rust color that can be enjoyed from much of Fountain Hills.
Red Mountain, or as it is formally named, Mount McDowell, sits on private lands owned by the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation. The mountain is protected and off-limits to climbers and hikers. Though hiking the mountain would be a real pleasure, just viewing the mountain at sunset from Fountain Hills is a treat in itself.
Two very distinct natural features of Red Mountain are visible from Fountain Hills. The first, a formation called the “Gunsite” is a wide slit in the red rock located at the southwestern end of the mountain. The rock slopes downward toward the desert floor along a distinct, narrow ridgeline. The deep cut in the rock interrupts this descent allowing the background sky to show through.
The second is only visible in the afternoon. When the sun passes high noon, shadows on the mountain begin to create the shape of a human face. By late afternoon the image is well defined. The ‘face’ can be seen by looking at the rock structure at the peak of Red Mountain. Some say it resembles that of an Indian maiden with long flowing hair. One depiction of the mountain published in the local newspaper showed the face resembling that of Officer Robert K. Martin, a state patrol officer who was killed in the line of duty while on a routine traffic stop along the Beeline Highway in 1995. Others believe the face is that of Jesus.
Red Mountain is a beautiful treasure. Just as The Fountain is Fountain Hills most recognizable man-made landmark, Red Mountain is the area’s most instantly recognizable natural landmark, with Four Peaks coming in a close second.