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Little Saddle Mountain Trail #244, AZ

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Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Phoenix > Phoenix NE
3.3 of 5 by 22
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Difficulty 2.5 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance Round Trip 8.4 miles
Trailhead Elevation 3,700 feet
Elevation Gain 1,400 feet
Accumulated Gain 1,900 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 17.9
Interest Seasonal Creek & Perennial Creek
Backpack Possible - Not Popular
varies or not certain dogs are allowed
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3  2019-09-07 mazatzal
8  2019-03-22
Saddle Mountain - AZT #22
9  2019-01-01
Little Saddle Mountain Loop
8  2018-12-11
Saddle Mountain - AZT #22
9  2018-11-08
Saddle Mountain - AZT #22
8  2018-11-04
AZT #21 and #22
15  2018-08-15
Saddle Mountain - AZT #22
11  2018-08-12
Black Ridge Loop - Mazatzal
Page 1,  2,  3,  4,  5 ... 7
Author gpsjoe
author avatar Guides 16
Routes 123
Photos 2,810
Trips 140 map ( 1,516 miles )
Age 77 Male Gender
Location Mesa, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Nov, Dec, Jan, Feb → 8 AM
Seasons   Autumn to Spring
Sun  6:15am - 6:21pm
Official Route
12 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
The other TH to Saddle Mountain
by gpsjoe

The LSM or Little Saddle Mountain Trail (244) is the only trail in this area that starts right off of a paved road (old highway 87) allowing access by all types of vehicles. In addition it goes for 4.2 miles and 1,900 feet of cumulative elevation to its endpoint at the intersection with the Saddle Mountain trail (91). At this intersection the hike can be continued almost indefinitely. On this site you will find other hikes that go through this intersection. They are Saddle Mountain via Mormon Grove TH and Saddle Mountain To Plateau Overlook Point. Other nearby hikes include Saddle Mountain Mine Tour from FR25A and Cornucopia-Thicket Spring Loop and Mazatzal Divide: Peely to Y-Bar from the Mount Peely trailhead at the end of FR201.

The LSM is a nice scenic hike that starts from the Cross F trailhead at Sycamore Creek. After 0.75 miles you come to the intersection of the Sunflower trail (344) with the LSM and both trails are incorporated into the Arizona Trail. Continuing on the LSM you will be following the path of an intermittent stream that had plenty of rapidly flowing water when I did this hike in January 2008. The LSM climbs gently to expose great views of the mountains ahead and at your back as well as the Sunflower valley floor and Sycamore creek. You pass through a few gates and come upon a red prickly pear cactus field and an unusual cactus I can't identify. You will pass through 3 gates and after a mile or so you will do your first of many (more than 12) stream crossings. These are fairly easy but you will have fun on some of them finding where the trail picks up again. Sometimes it is directly across and sometimes a little upstream. I loved the fact that right now there is plenty of water there.

Water was near me for most of the first 2.5 miles. As I got higher the trail became slightly overgrown with Manzanita but not cat claw or any of the picky sticky types of growth so the bushwhacking was easy. At 2.8 miles there are 2 cairns and a couple of choices of ways to go. Hike right between these two and the trail goes downhill for a short while and turns right. At 3.0 miles you come to an old jeep trail that goes left and right. Turn right here (but do look back and note this area since it's easy to hike right by this turn on the return trip). The remainder of the trail is in the open and easy to follow. Throughout the hike there are cairns and red streamers in the trees which are more visible than cairns when hiking in vegetated areas. Both of these markers are reliable.

At the intersection of LSM and Saddle Mountain trails you can go back the way you came or continue the hike by turning left onto the Saddle Mountain trail which is easy to hike and navigate. It is an old mining road. The Saddle mountain trail will also expose many great views along the way. Have fun!! I love this area.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

Gate Policy: If a gate is closed upon arrival, leave it closed after you go through. If it is open, leave it open. Leaving a closed gate open may put cattle in danger. Closing an open gate may cut them off from water. Please be respectful, leave gates as found.

Leave No Trace and +Add a Triplog after your hike to support this local community.

2008-01-12 gpsjoe
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WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

Most recent of 29 deeper Triplog Reviews
Little Saddle Mountain Trail #244
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Four of us went to clear the deadfall on AZT #22 - reported by @KBKB (thanks). We cleared 4-5 deadfall and a few other encroachers. We went up to the junction with Black Ridge loop hike and then back.

It was very humid but not too hot - good day in a great wilderness!

Little Saddle Mountain Trail #244
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For my Sunday hike, I was looking for a hike with a fair amount of solitude, but which was also fairly close to home as I got a late start. The Black Ridge Loop in the Mazatzals satisfied these criteria.

As for solitude, I saw no one else during my hike - perfect.

The first three miles or so - up to Brunson Tank - were enjoyable. The trail seems to have gotten more use and, for the most part, the path was pretty well beaten in. I had no trouble following it and didn't need to refer to the GPS track. Of course, it helped that I had done it a few times already.

Brunson Tank was totally dry. The center of the tank was churned up, possibly by animals hoping to find water there. In both 2016 and 2017, Brunson Tank had a lot of water; on both occasions I had to skirt the edge to avoid getting my feet muddy.

Things went downhill, both literally and figuratively after Brunson Tank. The path was still easy to follow, but the way down to Sheep Creek looked like cattle had been driven down to the creek. There were multiple paths in this area and it was just as loose as it had always been. However, at least this time, I found the trail on my first try - though it was pretty easy since it had been so heavily traveled. In hindsight, I guess the conditions that I found were better than the alternative of being so grown over to require lots of bushwhacking.

When I got to the creek - which was dry - I took what appeared to be a good path which led me well away from where I wanted to be. I backtracked until I got back to the correct path. It may have eventually led to the trail that would have led me back up to LSM, but I didn't pursue it long enough to find out.

Things improved somewhat on the way back up from Sheep Creek to the Little Saddle Mountain Trail, though it still seemed to me that there were more paths than necessary. Perhaps more cattle had been here?

It appears that Little Saddle Mountain Trail has seen some work. It seemed less rocky than I remember. I also found new sections of trail just a few feet from an older rockier section. I think it's likely that rain will erode these new sections making them just as rocky as the older sections, but they made hiking easier for now. There were some sections too where steps appear to have been added. I also saw a new Wilderness Area sign as well as a new sign at the intersection of the Little Saddle Mountain Trail and the Sunflower Trail.

After perhaps a mile of hiking down Little Saddle Mountain Trail from the intersection with ranching trails of the Black Ridge Loop, I noticed periodic water in the drainage next to the trail. (Does it have a name? - I can't find it on any map that I've looked at.) I think the water in this area is provided by springs. There's definitely enough here to filter, if needed.

Despite finding some water alongside LSM Trail, the entire area was quite a lot drier than I've ever seen it. I saw a single flowering Indian Paintbrush plant and only a few other tiny flowers. Usually at this time of year, I would easily lose count of the number of flowers seen.

Indian Paintbrush
Little Saddle Mountain Trail #244
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NOBO to Peeley TH on very well maintained trails. Minimal water - saw small pools and slight trickle flows: 1) north of the Cross F trail junction, 2) McFarland Canyon 3) lower end of Cornucopia.

Exited down DC45. Intermittent / light water flow starts about a mile down from Peeley and persist nicely until near the canyon mouth. The first ~3 miles of trail have had some recent maintenance and are very pleasant, after that it's moderate thrash until you near the canyon mouth.
Little Saddle Mountain Trail #244
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What a fantastic day to hike in the Mazatzal Wildness! My hike buddies Maria, Yolanda, and Jan joined me today for some bushwacking fun. We parked just off Old Beeline Hwy in the parking area just before you get to the 393 road. We followed the loop clockwise today. GPS highly recommended as we missed turns and we off trail many times. We started up the 393 road, saw the AZT sign and continued right past it. Checked the GPS, and yep, that was us. Jumped on the AZT and headed north. Enjoying both the trail and the conversation, we walked right past the left turn. Again, checking the GPS, I saw we missed the turn. There's is a giant pile of rocks at the turn, but not much of something that looks like a trail. There is a wash of sorts there that heads in the correct direction, west/northwest, so we followed that for a ways until we jumped out of the wash and followed parallel. The grade starts getting steep and a discernible trail develops. This trail was easy enough to follow and takes you all the way to the top of the mesa. Once on top we took some off trail side trips to the east for views down into the canyon below. Following the GPS track west down the mesa to Brunson Tank the trail is mostly easy to follow but disappears here and there for a short stretches. From the Bronson Tank down to Little Saddle Trail there is barely any trail. Just a spider web of cow trails and the associated poop. We stayed close to the GPS route and were rewarded with trail here and there and a stash of cattle bones. Long pants recommended as it's death by 1000 cuts pushing through the scrub oak and cat claw down to Little Saddle. There's a big pile of rocks when you hit Little Saddle trail which appears well traveled and well cairned. Little Saddle, part of the AZT, is a real treat of criss crossing the creek, with occasional pools of water, and lush green vegetation. Jumped the side trail back down to Old Beeline Hwy, which also follows a creek and is lush and green. Nice remote area only 40 minutes from Fountain Hills. We saw no one along the trail and enjoyed having Old Beeline Hwy all to ourselves.
Little Saddle Mountain Trail #244
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Took LSMT up to Saddle Mtn #91 and then over to Mormon Grove and down the road. The old partly burnt corral at Mormon Grove TH is no more and there is a new vehicle barrier. That’s good because I've seen tire tracks going into the Wilderness here.

Saw a couple of deer on the opposite hillside from where I was climbing up, 6 ATVs near Sycamore Creek along FR 25 and met two hunters back at the Cross F Ranch trailhead. Pretty overcast most of the day, got a few sprinkles a couple of times.
Little Saddle Mountain Trail #244
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Made a trip with the AZT Mazatzal Regional steward :o we met up with an AZ Conservation Corps crew to show them a couple of trail areas that needed some work. The main area being where the trail leaves the creek and switchbacks up the slope and continues along the side. Also took care of one deadfall.
Little Saddle Mountain Trail #244
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Mazatzals: Sunflower to City Creek
Back in the Mazzies this weekend to revisit one of my favorite stretches of the AZT. Tested out a couple new pieces of gear: a 40L Palante Simple Pack and ZPacks Altaplex tarp.

The forecast almost drove us elsewhere but with a bit of grit (and a good fire), the cold wasn't too bad.

Day 1 was sunny and warm. We didn't see anyone from the 87 up until the last couple miles before the Mt. Peeley TH, where we ran into Doug, the trail steward for the end of the Saddle Mountain segment. The drainages along this segment in the fall are pretty amazing, I only wish I had come a week or two earlier when they were in their prime. The Divide may offer the big views along this stretch, but the Saddle Mountain segment has a character to it that I like a lot. We camped at the Peeley TH and were left alone for the most part. A couple of visitors drove through just before and after sunset.

Hit Peeley first thing in the morning on Day 2. We decided not to follow the cairns and make our own path to the top. A little harder coming back down. I had to pull out Route Scout to get us back on track. We veered a little too far to the east and started to hit the really steep stuff. It was cloudy and windy from the beginning of the day, all the way to the end. In fact, it felt like it got colder instead of warmer as we headed into the afternoon. High winds along the ridges between Peeley and Bear Spring had us shivering. Great views along this stretch, as to be expected. We had Horse Camp all to ourselves the second night, with an awesome sunset. Very high winds and some rain/hail after we headed to bed.

Day 3 was the coldest, but with less wind. I hiked out with my base layer that I usually sleep with still on. We made it out just as the dark clouds started to roll in, according to plan. I forgot how endless the downhill from the Red Hills JCT to City Creek can feel.

Now the important stuff...

Trail Conditions
From the 87 to Horse Camp Seep is in near immaculate condition. Seriously, it almost feels like a new trail. No brush, new signs, and in some places completely reworked tread. A big thanks to everyone who helped get these sections up to snuff, it's pretty amazing to see the difference not even a year can make. From Horse Camp Seep to the Red Hills JCT remains untouched but it is mildly brushy, and should present only minor navigational hiccups, if any.

Ok to rely on Bear Spring (obvious) and Horse Camp Seep for the foreseeable future. Smalls pools with light flow around mile 6 of the Saddle Mountain segment. Pools in McFarland past the trail jct, keep an eye open or you might miss them. Small pools along Cornucopia which would be hard to pull from but clear and usable if you can scoop it up. The wash before Chilson Spring is dry at the crossing, but large pools can be found further down the wash. Some small pools in the drainages between Chilson and Horse Camp Seep. Practically nothing between Horse Camp Seep and City Creek TH. We saw multiple water caches along the trail. A couple of gallons at the Peeley TH, a cache along the ridges between Peeley and Bear Spring (probably left by trail workers), and a cache just after the Barnhardt/Divide JCT in the cedars near the campsite on the right.


I love everything about the new pack, but the fit wasn't quite right. I will be sending it back for a bigger torso length. I'm excited to finally enter the realm of sub-10lb base weight (weight of everything, except food and water). True ultralight backpacking.

The tarp held up admirable despite my novice pitching skills. The high winds and hail on the second night was basically my worst fear regarding using a tarp instead of a tent, but it worked fine and I stayed completely dry. Going ultralight doesn't have to be an exchange of comfort for less weight, if you're willing to invest some time (and frankly, some money) developing and refining the skills needed to properly use the equipment.

The show is pretty much over. Most of what's left is on the ground. Some good spots with leaves still on the trees along the Saddle Mountain segment in the washes.
Little Saddle Mountain Trail #244
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Little Saddle Mtn & Mt Ord
Nice easy going morning with Lily and a friend. We headed out to the Cross F trailhead for Little Saddle Mountain. We meandered in there for a bit and then turned back around. I had never driven the road up Mt. Ord before so we decided to hit that. It was a nice drive and then we hiked the final stretch to the top for lunch.
Little Saddle Mountain Trail #244
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AZT Trail: Picketpost to Pine
I was kind of looking to see where I was at for another big trek this summer and Karl was looking to experiment with a lighter weight higher mileage backpack, so I proposed Picketpost Mountain, or the beginning of section 18 of the Arizona Trail to Pine and the end of section 26 of the Arizona Trail. Karl was down for four days and had a somewhat flexible plan for ending his trip when he needed to. Meanwhile, I was about 50-50 if I could do the entire hike and was content with just seeing how far Karl and I could get and then playing the rest of my trip by ear, or I should say by body.

Day 1: 29.92 miles 6268 aeg

We made it to our planned first night's campsite on day one, Walnut Spring. Section 18 really exceeded my expectations. This is about the best time of year to be walking though that desert right now and Whitford proved to be a real treat with the flowing water and abundance of green. The climb was grueling and relentless but it offered some very solid views of the area and was really made manageable by liberal use of switchbacks. Karl was so confident with our performance at that point in the day that he insisted we bag Montana Mountain while we were up there. I agreed, but only because I was born in Montana and I said it had to count it as our break. Reavis Ranch looked like Daytona Beech and I had not apprehensions about making the short trip past it to my cozy little campsite at Walnut Spring. Got to Walnut just at headlamp time. Blew through camp chores, made a fire, ate and got to bed as soon as we could.

Day 2: 25.67 miles 6392 aeg

We came up a little short on our proposed campsite on this day, but the hiking was great so no worries. No stranger to the Eastern Supes, but Sunday still offered me all new areas after Two Bar Ridge. Cottonwood Canyon was great! No shortage of water in there and some cool little sites in this random little riparian jungle in the far corners of the northwestern Supes. A little bit of road and then it was the traverse from hell along the 188 waiting for that damn bridge to come into sight. From the bridge it was up the stairway to heaven. Where fittingly we had a trail angel waiting for us with tons of snacks and H20. After our sugar, hops, and caffeine binge at Mills Ridge we decided to just push for Buckhorn Creek. However, on that side of Four Peaks, pushing for a few extra miles usually entails a nice chunk of aeg as well, so we earned it. I did find a set of Indian ruins though along the way, so that was cool. We were both excited to learn that after carrying all that fresh water from Mills Ridge, there was water flowing in Buckhorn Creek. Oh well no filtering to do, quicker camp set-up, quick fire and in bed even earlier than previous night.

Day 3: 31.24 miles 5239 aeg

Day three was all new ground for me. Four Peaks makes you work, but alas the beauty of nature is enhanced by the ardor of the journey. I really enjoyed this section, an instant new favorite! I hiked through perhaps one of my nicest sunrises in a long time and marked several rock pile sites along the trail for future exploring. This section just kept getting better for me as we neared Four Peaks and started contouring towards Pigeon Spring. The lingering and previous snow had some of the creeks flowing nicely along this stretch and the trail got very nice as we approached its end. The road felt a little like Mad Max with the amount of Jeeps, trucks and atvs out. However, I must say not one negative experience with any driver and I do not think I have been offered as much water in such a short amount of time as I was along that 11 mile stretch of road. One guy asked, "is there anything else I could give you?" I said I could use some sunscreen and he offered up the whole bottle. The hike down into Sycamore was also very nice, again a great time to be in the lowlands, a little water, some flowers and green. However, it was hard to appreciate at times with the fatigue and anxiety over coordinating a last minute drop off of some additional things I felt I needed, if I was going to have any chance of reaching Pine. The drop and pick went smooth, a small adventure, but relatively smooth. We did not get an ideal spot to camp, but spirits were high after our resupply.

Day 4: 24.7 miles 6297 aeg

This was the day Karl and I would be saying our goodbyes. Karl decided on a Peely exit and I would push on to Bear Spring from there. More new trail for me to start the day and again I was not disappointed. The canyons on the way up to Saddle Ridge were picturesque, there was a lot of water and signs of some pretty extensive trail work in spots. I will admit things got a little dicey after we left the quaint McFarland Spring area, but we endured. The trails definitely need some work in there. I found myself kind of embracing the ruggedness and challenge the area presented. However, I could see that area becoming another hiker's hell if they were not expecting it. Karl and I parted at Peely. Losing Karl sucked, as he and I had a good thing going the first few days. Karl was keeping our pace in the areas where I tend to day dream and I was doing what I could do to keep us at a respectable place for some of the more stout climbs. But no time to dwell, I was solo now and needed to reach Bear Spring, just another 2000 feet of aeg and a shade under ten miles. There is no sense harping on the point, but the Divide Trail is getting nasty along there and I did make it to Bear Spring before head lamp conditions, but I was obliterated from that last little push from Peely. I replaced Karl with another Carl at Bear Spring. I am going to assume he spells his with a C. Anyways, I ran into Carl, better known as Spiced Rum on HAZ. He was on the final night of a backpack to gather some information for future work in the area. We chatted it up for awhile and I am not ashamed to admit I took some extra snacks from him. He was leaving a day early and I could not believe the amount of food I was going through on these long days, so I had no problem taking the charity. Superb stuff too, some great dried fruit, trail-mix and a Rice Crispy treat. Good guy all around and a source of wealth on some other major trails that I am interested in. And what a nice little spot to camp near Bear Spring, that saddle is great, I see why toughboots is fond of the place.

Day 5: 26.9 miles 4051 aeg

This was my make or break day. I had my city creek trailhead bailout option if needed, or I was pushing for the East Verde via the dreaded Red Hills and making my final push for Pine from there. The divide trail has its ups and downs, both in terrain and condition, but overall it was pretty smooth going. There is a section of Divide Trail that is now immaculate from about the intersection with Brody Seep to the intersection with Barnhardt. Kudos to that trail crew. I stopped for way too long to soak my legs and filter water and then realized I was looking at about ten more miles to include the worst part of the Red Hills and it was nearly three. My rational side said, "set up camp here, hike out LF or Saddle Ridge tomorrow," however, my other side said, "quit making excuses and finish the original plan." I am not sure what it was, but I was really dreading the last half of the Red Hills. Out of paranoia of being too exhausted to complete the entire section and having to dry camp somewhere I carried way too much water. This weighed me down and annoyed me even more as several of the creeks and main valleys I crossed had running water in them. As it turned out, while my worries were warranted, I did just fine and to be honest felt the area did not seem as bad as it had before and I must give props to the horse(s) whose tracks I followed through the entire Red Hills section, a doable stretch, just may require more time and detail. Camped at the Verde where I was serenaded to sleep by cows, frogs, chickens, maybe peacocks, cats and perhaps even a species of monkey. A very lively river at night.

Day 6: 23.08 miles 4329 aeg

This was the one I was waiting for, the "easy" day. A nice early start, I don't think there is a better place to be in the world than a half hour before light in the mountains somewhere, just pure serenity. There were ankle breakers abound on this day of Whiterock and Hard Scrabble. A nice steady pace was all I tried to keep and I followed a liberal break plan, as I crawled into Pine. The final two sections were not my favorite, but they were also the last two sections of a 160 mile trek so they would have had to have been perfect to really capture my imagination. Nevertheless, I got through both of them and endured the lava rock tread and bland road. I did find the last few miles to be more redeeming with the scenic Oak Spring and Bradshaw tank area. It was a reunion at the trailhead with Jackie and the pups, Del Taco and then home.

Final Notes

I need to work on a better nutrition plan for these big ones. I simply did not bring enough caloric energy for the type of days I was doing and the amount of energy I was putting out. I need to go healthier and more efficient, just a good lesson to learn.

Karl played a huge role in getting me through those first four days, very glad to have him through there, he was missed later.

A good song to have stuck in your head while hiking is Passion Pit, "Take a Walk."

I can definitely go lighter on these ones too, I packed light, but by no means did I make any attempts to go ultra-light. In the future, that may be needed to knock out some of these more ambitious multi day treks.

The hardest days by far were Day four with its nearly 7000 feet gained and day five with its 27 legit miles through the Mazzies without as much as a foot of road relief until the very end.

About normal to not so great, to really good in spots. Most action in the first few sections though.
Little Saddle Mountain Trail #244
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South from Mormon Grove. The Arizona Trail Section Crew headed out from Mormon Grove in the Mazatzal Mountains after setting up a shuttle by leaving one vehicle at Bushnell Tanks TH. It was a good day for a hike though it got a bit warm from time to time. Shawn also knocked out four trees in the first less than four miles so the trail is now clear on the southern half.

I am sure this area was pretty spectacular before the fire. And of course this time of year, it doesn't lend itself to being real pretty since the trees are naked. Nonetheless, it had its moments and the older and newer trail work was much appreciated. We took out the 1/4 mile section stakes; I think we ended up with almost a dozen. We did run into Mazatzal and Sarah out here so that was our excitement for the day and the only hikers we encountered other than some hunters at a little before the 1/2 way point. Sarah said there was a tree on the trail and shortly after, we ran into it. It was a double-trunker and Shawn thinks he should get credit for two trees; that is still under debate by the Section Crew. We would run into another one of those down in the creek bed too.

There is quite a road walk once you come out of the creek area but I don't mind as you can freely enjoy the scenery without worrying where you're walking. Once off the road and up the hill, it pulls a Passage 18 when you're heading south to where the TH is only to be pulled to the west far away from there and under the road and finally swinging back to where you're parked. We did enjoy the hike on the connector trail through Sycamore Creek.

Here are the videos that also include the pictures:
Part 1 to Little Saddle Mountain Trail [ youtube video ]
Part 2 continuing on Little Saddle Trail [ youtube video ]
Part 3 Little Saddle Trail to AZT sign [ youtube video ]
Part 4 toward FR 393 on Trail 344, Road Walk, toward 87 [ youtube video ]
Part 5 finishing off the southern half to AZT 21 Jct and Sycamore Creek [ youtube video ]

Permit $$

Map Drive
Paved - Car Okay

To hike
Go north on route 87 and turn left at the sign for Sycamore Creek at mile marker 222.5. Stay on the paved road (old 87) until a short distance past the sign saying 1 mile to end of the road. On the left there is a large Arizona Trail sign. Pull in there (room for maybe 5 cars) and park. This is the Cross F trailhead. Directly across the paved road you will spot the trail and a trail sign.
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