Saddle Mountain Loop
Travel a lightly used trail around Saddle Mountain west of Phoenix. Saddle Mountain is known for its especially beautiful scenery and ruggedness. This area is also popular for rock-hounders who will find both fire agate and chalcedony on the north side of the range. The first portion of the trail is short and rocky with the more difficult and washed out loop around Saddle Mountain providing more of a challenge.
Where to go:
From the interchange of I-10 & Loop 101, head west on I-10. After 39 miles, take exit 94 (Tonopah) and turn left onto 411th avenue. After 3 miles, turn right onto Salome Highway. Travel west on Salome Highway for 5.2 miles until you come to Courthouse Road, then turn left. Stay on Courthouse Road for 1.8 miles until you come to a dirt road on the left. The best parking is found beside the trail just after turning left of the pavement.
Begin heading south on the moderately used dirt trail. After 0.9 miles, turn right at the intersection. At 1.4 miles, bear left and cross through a somewhat difficult wash.
Continue straight at 1.9 miles where left leads to some nice rock hounding and camping closer to Saddle Mountain. The trail passes through two additional washouts, both of which have a bypass that is less difficult. You’ll pass through a gate at 2.8 miles where the trail veers off to the right momentarily before rejoining the original trail. At 3.6 miles you’ll reach the most serious washout. While there is a bypass, from this point on the trail is moderately difficult. Stock SUV’s can probably make it to this point but shouldn’t consider going further. OHV’s and aggressive vehicles can proceed through this bypass and complete the rest of the trail. The trail gets more rugged and more remote at its southernmost point. Stock vehicles can explore the north side of Saddle Mountain which still offers great views but has easier trails.
After navigating through the bypass at 3.6 miles, the trail rejoins the original trail. At 4.2, the trail enters a wash and roughens. Again at 4.7, the trail narrows and continues. After another 0.2 miles, the trail enters a wide wash and at 5.5 the trail heads east. At 6 miles, the trail swings north and then gets rough again at 6.3. The trail swings back east and turns to two track at 6.6 miles and gets very faint around 6.7. At 7.7, the trail enters a rocky wash and then bears right at 8.4 miles. Stay left as the trail curves through wash and a washed out area at 9.0 miles and then rejoins the main trail at 9.1 miles. Stay right at 10.1 as the trail forks and then stay left at 10.6 as the trail rejoins a more traveled trail. From this point on the trail gets progressively easier and more traveled. Stay straight at 11.6 miles and again at 12.3 miles. There used to be a way that connected this point back to the staging area and main 4-way intersection near the beginning of the trail, but with new trails built to service the power line, those appear to be gone. We looked but a fence prevents you from remaining on dirt back to the staging area. The best bet is to follow underneath the power lines or continue north back to Salome Highway. When back on Salome Highway, continue west turning left again onto Courthouse Road and then left again to get back to your staging area.
Notes & Trail Ratings:
Overall, this trail is extremely scenic and can be the basis for a great day or weekend trip. If you don’t feel like a big challenge, stick to the initial 3.6 mile trail. However, if you’re up for a longer and more remote trip, take the whole 15 mile loop around Saddle Mountain. Allow for at least half a day to do this trail. The first trails on the north side of Saddle Mountain are rated a ‘3’ because they contain some washouts, can get narrow at times, and are rocky. The whole look is rated a ‘6.5’ due to many washouts, careful wheel placement needed at times, remoteness, and rockiness.