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Sandy Saddle Trail #231, AZ

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Guide 11 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Payson > Payson W
1.2 of 5 by 5
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Difficulty 4 of 5
Route Finding 4 of 5
Distance One Way 3 miles
Trailhead Elevation 5,917 feet
Elevation Gain 500 feet
Accumulated Gain 900 feet
Avg Time One Way 3 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 6
Backpack Possible & Connecting
varies or not certain dogs are allowed
editedit > ops > dogs to adjust
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Inaugural Calculation on Button Tap!
15  2018-06-03
Barnhardt - Sandy Saddle Loop
12  2018-03-30
Barnhardt Trail #43
33  2017-09-01
Club Cabin
26  2017-03-25
Deadman Falls
5  2014-08-03
Barnhardt - Sandy Saddle Loop
15  2014-07-13
Y Bar Sandy Sandy Saddle Barnhardt Loop
Author jacobemerick
author avatar Guides 31
Routes 71
Photos 795
Trips 96 map ( 1,037 miles )
Age 34 Male Gender
Location Gilbert, AZ
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Preferred   Oct, Apr, May, Sep
Sun  6:10am - 6:30pm
Official Route
6 Alternative
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Flora Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
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Painful Option to Upper Barnhardt
by jacobemerick

Likely In-Season!
This trail provides an option to the upper two miles of Barnhardt Trail and makes a connection along the Mazatzal Divide that is perfect for hikers aiming for Horse Camp Seep and/or Deadman Falls. It can be combined with Barnhardt to do a challenging 15 mile dayhike or any number of longer loops involving Rock Creek Trail or even some of the western trails (see Club Cabin for inspiration).

This trail was damaged in the Willow Fire of '04 and has not seen maintenance in a long time. Sections of tread are washed out and most of the path is overgrown with manzanita. There are few cairns and practically no traffic to assist with route-finding. Do not expect to travel faster than a mile/hour.

Sandy Saddle Trail starts about 3.5 miles along the Barnhardt Trail (from Barnhardt Trailhead). The junction is marked with a few cairns and, for the first few dozen yards, the trail is easy to follow down the slope. It turns west and swings inwards, crossing a drainage, and steadily worsens as it follows the heavily vegetated hillside in and out. At 0.4 miles it turns north and follows a large drainage towards Castersen Seep. Dropping into this drainage may prove easier than route-finding along the bank.

Beyond the seep the trail hauls up the north bank, then begins twisting around the tip of a ridge, staying mostly level as it offers good views to the east. Things are much easier to track here thanks to low brush and a few helpful cairns. Brush tends to get a little thick on the shaded side of the ridge, and then the trail drops down to a drainage on the north side at 1.1 miles. A spotty trail may be traceable on the south bank, or else the drainage offers an obvious way forward. At 1.3 miles a rocky tributary shows up and marks the beginning of the climb.

Follow the tributary a few dozen yards and keep an eye out for a good place to cut up the ridge to the right, as the trail is faint here. Once you cut up aim for the edge of the ridge and follow that uphill, following the path when it's passable and keeping to the edge when it's not. This climb is about 780' and goes through some thick vegetation so... enjoy. Near 1.8 miles the trail will start bending to the right, away from the edge, and began to level off. There is one deep cut to cross before the last little climb to Sandy Saddle, a small, sandy clearing with some camping potential and limited views.

Go west across Sandy Saddle and look for a trail leading downhill through the brush, as it is well-defined and worth finding. It follows a rocky little drainage for a bit before meeting a larger one at 2.4 miles. Here the trail fades out and it is easier just to stick to the drainage as it tumbles downhill, which it does over a mix of easy sandy flats and rockier sections. A path may be traceable near the end on the south bank. Either way, the Mazatzal Divide Trail shows up soon enough and will feel like a highway in comparison.

Water Sources
Castersen Seep may have some water, especially in the tanks downstream of the trail crossing. Also, there are some rock tanks just west of Sandy Saddle, along the trail. Neither one of these should be depended upon.

Sandy Saddle provides a relatively flat area for camping with a twisted, half-dead tree or two for atmosphere. Coupled with the rock tanks to the west this could be a decent overnight spot off the beaten path of the Mazatzal Divide. Castersen Seep is rumored to be used as a campsite as well, though I've yet to see a reasonable spot along the drainage.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

This is a moderately difficult hike.

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

2017-09-28 jacobemerick

    One-Way Notice
    This hike is listed as One-Way.

    When hiking several trails on a single "hike", log it with a generic name that describes the hike. Then link the trails traveled, check out the example.
    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 Triplog Reviews
    Sandy Saddle Trail #231
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    The planned route was an attempt to follow @Lizard's original Club Cabin description with two key differences: I wanted to reverse it and use Sandy Saddle to go up (instead of Half Moon / Rock Creek). However, things didn't go well and I ended up bailing on the last leg.

    Barnhardt #43
    First time heading up this trail in daylight. Starting to get a bit overgrown in sections, all friendly green stuff that never hurt nobody. Bumped into a yuge group (12+) from Prescott Comm. who were doing a 3-week trip from here to Fossil Creek. These would be the last people I'd see in... a long time.

    Sandy Saddle #231
    Good grief. Even getting to Castersen Seep involved trekking-poles-above-head wading through the manzanita. There are sections of defined tread and clear track, they are just few and far between. Castersen was okay, few tanks w/ skunky water. Had a hard time tracking trail over to the next wash, and that last climb doesn't believe in switchbacks. Made it to the saddle proper with the sunset, a solid hour behind schedule. This would make a decent camp, plus there were tanks few hundred yards to the west for water. Unsure of how dependable they are.

    Anyways, didn't even try to look for tread coming down the west side, just dropped in the drainage and followed it down. The wash was easy enough to navigate in the twilight / moonlight and I made it to Divide Trail, then Horse Camp Seep, without needing headlamp. Rehydrated and snoozing in hammock by ten.

    Mazatzal Divide #23
    As usual, big views. Was cool to look down from the ridge above the Park and try to track where Willow Spring plays on 6351'. Trail is in great shape. Thought about pushing on to Pete's Pond to camel up and didn't - stupid mistake.

    Willow Spring #223
    Heh. That first mile is turrible. Deadfall wasn't really a problem, more the manzanita and loose rocks underfoot. Found no cairn or tread along the way. Got a gnarly bloody nose here too thanks to a face-whacking branch, took way too long to stem the flow. Things got better on the ridge, with old tread and game trails providing an easier way forward through the shorter brush. Views across Maverick Basin were ridiculously awesome, too.

    The dance along the side of 6351' was annoying, with the trail fading in and out of existence and too few cairns to connect the dots, and a pretty steep hillside to work along. Short section of good trail on the drop until it faded out again and I ended up taking a rocky drainage down to wash below. At this point I was starting to run low on water and decided to stick to the sandy wash in hopes of finding water (and maybe to avoid the manzanita/deadfall mix that waited on the southern bank). Found a decent tank (though I suspect it was only there from last night's rain) and filtered up, spooked an elk while packing up, and then hacked my way back up to trail.

    Things gradually got easier along the ridge and, by the time I bumped into the Midnight Mesa Junction, the trail was straightforward to pick out. Dancing along the side of Midnight Mesa was downright fun, and the rest of the hike to Mountain Spring was enjoyable as well. Reached the spring with two hours of daylight for camp chores and treated myself to some homemade thai curry mix and a quick trough-side rinse-off.

    Aside from the second night: at about ten at night that elk showed up for a drink. Darn thing was less than ten feet away before I realized he wasn't another tiny nocturnal rodent. Seeing a giant rack upside down, looking down on you as you cowboy-camp, is a hell of a way to wake up. Spooked him off and then fell back asleep to his annoyed bugles. Elk sound silly when they're angry.

    Deadman #25
    Getting to the junction is easy to follow, and there is a good path w/ cairns that lead down to Horse Creek. And then it disappears. Tried going up and down the banks a few time to find where it climbs and eventually just hacked up the hill. It's frustrating, because there are two old barbed fences to cross, and one would think that there'd be a gate or cairn or something to mark where you're supposed to pass through them - nothing. Got to practice my Zeta-Jones skills squeezing underneath the wires, at least. Tread shows up at the next drainage crossing and is easy to follow for the next mile, then gets faint on the long drop to Deadman Creek.

    Deadman Creek seems to be dependable here, with lots of friendly trees and some reeds growing around the trickling waters. Trail was hard to track on the other side - I crossed, got to the corral, and then followed the fence east, and then lost it. Think I should have gone further east. Anyways, hacked my own way up some turrible brush and then picked a route up the hill. Found a few cairns but the tread wasn't trackable for too long. Felt like it took forever to climb up to the saddle. Once I reached the top, feeling a bit light-headed from the growing heat, I was immediately stung several times by a wasp. Made it down to the junction w/ Davenport Trail before the reaction started getting serious.

    This is when things get a bit blurry. I reached out to wife (@klemerick) via inReach and let her know what had happened. I decided to head up to Club Cabin and rest for a while, took every ounce of energy to make it up that hillside - something was definitely off, either from heat or sting or both. Once I got there I remember wandering around, uncertain of what to do next, taking almost an hour before realizing that I should be drinking water given the 100+ temps. @klemerick was in constant contact and she decided that I needed to get out of there the fastest way possible, down Davenport, and that she and @reynchr would help me out along the way. Spent the rest of the day futzing around the cabin, not doing much of anything, mostly trying to get a grip on things. It was terrifying.

    Davenport #89
    Woke up the next morning feeling slightly better, still off. Those little climbs, especially near Rock Spring, kept knocking the wind out of me. At least the path was easy to track after the last few days - think I only lost it twice, and was able to quickly backtrack and get back on it. Don't know how I had such a hard time following it last year lol. Made it about halfway down that last mesa, outside the wilderness boundary, when a USFS truck showed up to give me a ride the rest of the way.

    My rescuers, @klemerick and @reynchr, had spent the night at Sears Trailhead and left a water cache for me there while they went back and tried to find a way to get their vehicle across the Verde. By sheer luck they bumped into a ranger at the camp and explained the situation. He had access to the dam gates and drove over to save me the last four miles of hiking, which was definitely appreciated. Made it out of there in relatively good shape, though I was still shaky and weird from the day before. I have no idea how I would have gotten out of there without their help, though - trying to cross back over to Barnhardt would have been far outside my capabilities in my shape. Am very grateful for them.

    Mazatzal Miles: 164.6/275 (60%)
    Sandy Saddle Trail #231
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    Deadman Falls
    The first thing I heard shortly after starting up Barnhardt was the sound of running water. The snow melt was far past prime, but I was still hopeful that I might see something when I got to Deadman Canyon. Something was about all I got but I was not disappointed. The views from the north fork of Deadman Canyon are awesome and worth the trip. The falls in full force would have been spectacular.

    I didn't get started until after 8:30. The parking area was nearly full and Barnhardt was quite busy. I passed 10 people on the way up and a dozen or more people were enjoying the falls at Big Kahuna when I arrived. After leaving the falls, I took Barnhardt to the Divide trail, then started an off trail straight route up the hill NW of the divide trail.

    Once on top, I meandered over to peak 6952 and then dropped down to Sandy Saddle before the final leg to Deadman Falls. Great views on top of the hill. I took a short break up there, taking in the views to the west, including Deadman Canyon.

    On my descent to Sandy Saddle from the peak, a thicket of old and new growth Manzanita turned what was once a hike worthy of shorts and a tee into a slow bushwhack that might have left some pin striping had I not been wearing long pants and shirt sleeves. From Sandy Saddle, I took the Sandy Saddle trail the rest of the way to Deadman falls. It was slow going.

    By the time I got to Deadman Falls, I was out of time to do anything other than grab a few pictures and eat a late lunch. That area is very cool. My very short time there left me wanting more. I'll have to come back, paying closer attention to the snow melt so I get the most out of the falls on this hike.

    Some lupine at lower elevations. Not much else.
    Sandy Saddle Trail #231
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    Y Bar Sandy Sandy Saddle Barnhardt Loop
    Today was just a relaxing 18 mile jaunt through the Mazzies. However, before going over details of latest venture into an area that is quickly finding itself near the top of my favorite areas to go list, I would like to give a personal thanks to Mazatzal or Richard to most I assume.

    In my infancy on HAZ one day back in November I had a PM titled "Thunder Guy New Ideas." It was after I had completed my somewhat bittersweet quest to hike every mile of every trail (not counting tourist traps) in the Supes. The theme of the PM can be summed up with this quote from Richard.

    you should take look at the mazatzal wilderness. It is a wonderful place and way more remote and challenging (referring to Supes) but so rewarding to those willing to do arduous backpacks.

    I will be 100 percent honest the Mazatzal Wilderness was not even on my radar at that point. However, he had me sold with the use of the words "remote" and "challenging." Since his PM I have not gone crazy in the Mazzies. Yet, I feel that between Twin Buttes, the Gorge, Deadman Mesa and more recently some areas off Barnhardt I am slowly earning my Mazzie stripes. With each hike and backpack I am left wanting more, and I can't wait to really tackle this wilderness in the cooler wetter months. It was a great lead to a new hiking area for me and I am very grateful for that. I should also mention that I bother Kyle about ten times a week with questions and crazy ideas leading up to these Mazzie trips as well. He has also been a great asset and I know he shares a similar affinity for the area. We just have to get out there together for something epic Kyle, let's make that happen come Fall.

    Now back to today's hike.

    Going with Joe's model for this one.

    Y-Bar: Great trail! Aside from waterfalls that I have yet to see I would put this above Barnhardt actually. Can't go wrong with the little ponderosa forest and trail was in great shape, easy to follow. Felt a little lethargic and fatigued early on, was still working out some lactic acid from a good leg work out on Thursday.

    Mazatzal Divide Trail: Easy sailing, easy to pick up far in distance, a couple of overgrown areas near some side drainages, damn that New Mexican Locust can really swallow a trail in a hurry! I hope I am using correct term for that devil tree/plant.

    Brody Seep Trail: Only mistake I made all day. I should have listened to the hike description author's suggestion of taking slightly longer route to Chilson Spring area via Mazatzal divide. However, the small silver lining is I think I have identified the starting off point for the elusive Fisher Trail.

    Sandy Saddle Trail:
    Thank you NONOT for that great official route! It was spot on! Not the greatest trail, but I love a little challenge, and some rumors of its demise may be slightly exaggerated. However, I would recommend pants in lieu of Nike running shorts..sigh..Sandy Saddle is main attraction, actually a nice little area, perhaps future camp site for this guy, but overall, I don't think most would want to make it a special point to do this trail.

    Barnhardt Trail Joe's Falls are probably more similar to a leaking faucet right now, however, enough water to keep a guy alive, soak your hat, head, satisfy the pups or drown someone with a little effort. ;) Dark humor sorry, its an infantry thing.

    Plenty of water in canyon adjacent to trail, actually flowing strong in spots, but as an ECON teacher I applied the Law of Diminishing Returns and did a little cost benefit analysis of the situation and scrambling down the steep banks for the sake of a quick swim was not worth it to me today.

    No Blanco no Cup today, I think the heat and lack of water may have even got to Blanco today and he is resting up for a quick turnaround to Primitive Blue Range on Wednesday. Likewise, as much as it pains me to say, I am not so inhibited when I go solo and I can really crank out quality miles at a much quicker pace, so it was probably for the best today.

    Consumed a lot of water, donated about a half a pint of blood to wilderness Gods and for a third week in a row finished to some nasty thunder and lightning. I am starting to feel like a storm chaser, except the storms are chasing me! :o

    Final Note: Bring on this "Midnight Mesa Loop" I hear of...I am ready!...well I think I am anyways ;)
    Sandy Saddle Trail #231
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    Fog and clouds throughout the morning acted as a buffer against rising temps for the morning into the early afternoon, though the fog aka humidity, made it somewhat sticky.

    Barnhardt Trail was interesting, I checked out the second of the two waterfalls and found the unsigned junction with Sandy Saddle "Trail". The description is right on, I could not locate the trail near Casterson Seep (and could locate no water near Casterson seep). I found it again on the hill to the north for awhile, but attempting to follow the old map led me into some 45 degree vegetation choked slopes. It is far better to descend into the drainage at this point and to follow the creekbed. I located most of the trail on the climb up the steep ridgeline, curse that section!

    Sandy Saddle was a bit of a disappointment, but I did see some elk tracks. The descent from Sandy Saddle to the northwest is fairly easily found and followed until you reach the main drainage. I found bits and pieces of the trail, but stayed in the creekbed for a good portion. I eventually found a decent section of trail that allowed me to quadruple my speed. Just before reaching the divide, I caught te-wa's group, who had set off earlier in the day.

    I heeded their suggestion and went to see the Deadman Canyon waterfalls, pretty impressive dropping 300-400 feet.

    From there we made our way home on the faint Divide trail (though much better than Sandy Saddle), and brought it home on the Barnhardt. The final 3 miles were a bit warm as the sun was out in full strength and we were losing elevation.

    I'll give Barnhardt a 4
    Sandy Saddle a 0
    Divide a 2
    Deadman Falls a 5

    I guess that averages out somewhere to about 3.

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    Connector trail - Not Applicable

    To Barnhardt Trailhead
    From the corner of SR87 & SR260 in Payson go south on SR87 for 14.5 miles to the signed turnoff for Barnhardt trailhead (forest road 419). Follow FR419 5 miles to its end. The parking area is fairly large. Barnhardt trailhead is located at the west end of the parking area. From Phoenix take SR87 north out of Mesa to Payson. The turnoff to the trailhead is 4mi north of the 188 intersection. (think rest stop)

    From PHX (I-10 & AZ-51) 83.4 mi - about 1 hour 45 mins
    From TUC (Jct 1-10 & Grant) 182 mi - about 3 hours 4 mins
    From FLG (Jct I-17 & I-40) 126 mi - about 2 hours 31 mins
    page created by joebartels on Sep 28 2017 2:41 pm
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