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Saddle Mountain - Tonopah, AZ

no permit
391 49 2
Guide 49 Triplogs  2 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Southwest > Buckeye W
4.3 of 5 by 24
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Difficulty 3.5 of 5
Route Finding 3 of 5
Distance Round Trip 2.9 miles
Trailhead Elevation 1,800 feet
Elevation Gain 1,598 feet
Accumulated Gain 1,700 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 4.5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 11.4
Interest Off Trail Hiking & Peak
Backpack Yes
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
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11  2018-01-01
7th Annual New Year's Day Hike
45  2018-01-01
7th Annual New Year's Day Hike
12  2018-01-01
7th Annual New Year's Day Hike
18  2018-01-01
7th Annual New Year's Day Hike
45  2018-01-01
7th Annual New Year's Day Hike
26  2018-01-01
7th Annual New Year's Day Hike
11  2017-12-31 RowdyandMe
16  2017-11-09 Jim_H
Page 1,  2,  3,  4,  5
Author TerrySwicegood
author avatar Guides 5
Routes 0
Photos 52
Trips 4 map ( 35 miles )
Age 74 Male Gender
Location Litchfield Park, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Nov, Dec, Jan, Feb → Early
Seasons   Late Autumn
Sun  6:20am - 6:29pm
Official Route
4 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Geology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Off Trail Rugged Adventure
by TerrySwicegood

Approach is arbitrary. Posted "Official Route" is from the north for easiest drive. Description below is from the west.

About 40 miles (65 km.) west of Phoenix to the south of Interstate 10 at Tonopah are a pair of volcanic mountains linked by a saddle of lower hills. The more dramatic western peak is Saddle Mountain. It is composed of lighter-colored lava, tuff and rhyolite. The eastern peaks are nearly black basaltic lava of Quaternary Age. The Bureau of Land Management controls the major portions but there are a number of private holdings surrounding the mountains and there are quite a few mining claims (none of which appear to be active). As the Tonopah area grows this will be an important asset for recreation.

This area is heaven for rock hounds. The BLM has also documented the existence of Big Horn Sheep in the area.

I had been thinking about this hike for well over two years. In the summer of 2004 my hiking partner, Paula Handrup and I, hiked, scrambled and clawed our way to the summit from the west side. There were three technical sections on this route, including a 50 foot class five climb to the summit. Not having a rope we came down a circuitous way to the saddle on the south side of the mountain. This down climbing involved long, frustrating, and dangerous route finding. We got back to the car out of water, sore, and looking like pin cushions from the evil and ubiquitous cholla.

I wondered if there was a better and easier way up this rugged peak.

I talked to everyone I knew who had been in the area. I had met BLM volunteer, Rich Wilmes, who has circled the peak on foot and explored several petroglyph sites. Rich joined Bob Bell, Dave Erickson and me on February 24th to explore possible routes from the eastern side of the mountain.

The route I am about to describe is completely "off trail" and involves a lot of climbing on steep, loose rock. However, there are no "technical" sections and there are no sections as steep as one finds on Brown's Peak or Flat Iron. Hiking poles, in my estimation, are almost essential, especially coming down the first gully, which is filled with loose rocks.

After studying our map, we left the car (GPS reading: 33 degrees 26.005' N, 113 degrees 01.150'W) and headed due west toward the summit. The first .85 miles of the route is a pleasant amble across the desert, climbing gently upward as the route heads directly into a sheer cliff. Looking back to where you parked your car you can see the Palo Verde Nuclear Plant puffing away in the distance.

At this point (elevation 1863 feet, GPS reading : 33 degrees 26.215' N, 113 degrees 02.047' W; you come to a bench composed of light-covered lava directly in front of you,. The bench, some 60 feet high, and approximately 300 feet across, is an important landmark in the climb. Here three options confront you. There are three steep gullies, one to your left, one straight in front of you, and one to your right. Stay beneath the bench and head up the gully to your right. This gully bears southward and becomes steeper as you climb toward a saddle at 2418 feet (1. 52 miles). This is the ugliest and most difficult part of the climb. Every rock moves or appears to be poised to shift. The saddle is marked by a 30 foot saguaro.

From this first saddle you climb up and westward toward the summit. The angle of climbing eases off here. You climb through a short, steep section of black lava rock and emerge at a second saddle, elevation 2636'. For the first time you can now see the true summit to your west. Stay to your left approaching the summit, climbing the ridge that veers first left to the edge of steep cliff bands then veer gradually back right. Note the cave in a rock formation to your left.

As always, the views from the summit (elevation 3037') are magnificent, and there is a summit register revealing that hardy souls climb this peak at the rate of one climb per month.

Although rugged and requiring some attention to route finding, I concluded that this is a most worthwhile effort. Not many can complete this climb, and the solitude and rugged beauty are sheer joy.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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

2006-02-26 TerrySwicegood
  • Wide view of area Overview Saddle Mountain Close-Up
    guide related
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 23 deeper Triplog Reviews
Saddle Mountain - Tonopah
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7th Annual New Year's Day Hike
Not really much to add to the other trip logs for this hike. Simply a nice hike and get together for New Year's day.

Was happy to put some faces to names and get a chance to meet some new people. I apologize to Donovan, can't find your name in the search bar though.

Saddle Mountain is one of my favorites, close to town, great views, just challenging enough to keep it interesting and no crowds.
Saddle Mountain - Tonopah
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7th Annual New Year's Day Hike
Pam worked hard to get me on this one as the elevation gain freaked me out but I reluctantly agreed knowing that champagne and chocolate covered strawberries and cookies were worthy of the climb up that beautiful mountain.

The drive on the 101 to the south presented with the most incredible smog I have ever seen. My camera was just not in a good position to grab for a quick picture. And when I got out of the car, the smell was more like smoke. Joe and I had a chance to converse in the cold until Pam showed up for our drive out to the TH.

Everyone on the list showed up and Terry and James with a +1. And per usual, a great group of people, most of whom I did not hike with because as per usual, I was bringing up the tail :lol: . I somewhat felt bad for those that would have to wait on top for awhile so I was grateful the weather couldn't have been better for that.

The climb was indeed challenging almost the entire way up and the entire way down. But I got 'er done. We did get to see sheep four times so that in and of itself made it an even more rewarding day. The views really are pretty good all the way but from the first saddle up they are spectacular; especially with the inversion layer hanging low to reveal only the tips of mountains to our southeast. The trail choices were a bit of a mystery at times too but I guess that's the fun of it. After the next little flat section you get to do the climb up to the northwest summit. I like those kind of climbs as it's through a rocky area and little ups and downs. It was really cool when I first spotted the group off in the distance.

I had the glasses so I'm sure everyone was glad we finally arrived. Pam's rule is no popping champagne or eating until everyone is aboard. The views were just so spectacular all the way around. And because we got up there late, it didn't seem we got to enjoy it long enough for my tastes. We made sure for everyone to sign the summit log. I took pictures of the log including the entry from @Dude.

And now it was time to get off this mountain but not before we got a view of another sheep before we descended. We were all dreading this and as has been previously mentioned, it wasn't as bad as we thot. Not to say it was a walk in the park as there were some slippery and steep places as well as a discussion before the little saddle on the best route to there from where a few of us had gathered. It was rather comical watching those at the saddle suggesting the best way to come down.

After a short time to re-group, we finished off the hike except I took one wrong route and ended up coming straight down a scree field and ended up on my tush and broke my nail on my little finger half way down, ouch!; Otherwise a nice soft landing. And a little while later, we got to see the sheep again. What fun!

Soon we finally arrived back at the parking lot. And after forcing several people to try the peanut brittle ale from AZ Wilderness Brewery, well mostly Olivia :lol: , we all went our separate ways. It was a fun day though my knee didn't think so. Hopefully it's just tired.

Thanks again Pam for putting this together and insisting that I come. I am working on the video now and I used some of the pictures other folks took to enhance the quality of the production. The only thing is when I load the pics by time, there are a few pics of the group way ahead so that required additional titling so as not to confuse the viewers. I'll put the links up later this week when they're ready to go. The other thing that takes time of course, is picking the music to go with this foray.

HAPPY NEW YEAR everyone!
Part 1 to the top: [ youtube video ]
Part 2 at the top for festivities and back down: [ youtube video ] more bighorn sheep
Saddle Mountain - Tonopah
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7th Annual New Year's Day Hike
Another Good One in the Books... Great Way to Kickstart a New Year. Joined by our Fearless Leader, (so good to see you Joe!) and some 4 Legged Friends as well... Awesome to Reconnect with Old Friends and meet a couple of New Ones... :DANCE: Always a Good Time Partying at the Peak.

I had a little Trepidation about the Steepness of this Hike. It's a way's up in a very short Time. I was pleasantly surprised at how good I felt going both Up and Down. Going Up, I was thinking, ok this isn't so bad, but I was also thinking, crap, we gotta come down this.... :sweat: Turns out, going down wasn't bad either really, although you certainly didn't want to screw up or you'd be all the way down to the Bottom much sooner, rather than later... Running down like one of the Bighorns we encountered, just didn't seem like an Appealing Option. :sweat: The only Reason that single Bighorn was Running was because it was on the Ridgline with us and our Lead Hikers were headed right for it. That Particular Solo Sheep decided to beat them to the Punch and just kept going down the Ravine at a Run... The Rest of the Bighorns we encountered, on the way up and on the way down, just hung out and Posed for all of us... It was a really Sweet Bonus to an already great Hike.

I was absolutely Flabbergasted at the Air Quality in Town... As an Arizona Native and having lived here for 41 Years, it's the Worst I have ever, ever seen and so disheartening... I was sooo Relieved that it was clear around the Mountain, although everything in the Distance was a Haze of what appeared to be a combo of Smoke, Smog and Dust... No Trouble Breathing on our Hike which I knew was a Relief for at least one Member, if not more... I'm glad I picked one so far out this Year.... I have Joe to thank for confirming that this would be a good one for my Annual Event.

It wasn't too bad of a Drive, although Google would have had us in a Drainage. Thank Goodness for Route Scout, and Joe's Navigation, we only Overshot the TH by 100 feet. Joe also helped me learn Route Scout a bit, although I still think he did something that was making my Phone fart at me... :sl:

Thanks to Larry for being my Sweeper on this Hike, he did a Great Job! :D Thank You Everyone for joining me to Ring in the New Year in Style...

Good Times... :y:
Saddle Mountain - Tonopah
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7th Annual New Year's Day Hike
This is one of my recent favorite destinations. I was excited to meet a few new members. Pam, Tibber and myself headed for 411th Ave. We crossed paths with Donovan looking for the trailhead. If there is an ounce of truth in first impressions he's a natural. One sentence out had us laughing.

After four hours of chit chat we got on trail. Slight exaggeration and I'm in the minority that nearly freezes at 50 degrees. Besides, cut me some slack... I'm not the famous Groupapelli!

The slippery section is just within my current balance reaction range. jochal helped me figure out the best lines of travel in the worst areas. He obviously holds a notable lead for member of the year!

Weather was fab. Lots of bighorn activity. Met two climbers that approached brute force. Fun group. Most concluded descending wasn't as bad as anticipated. Happy New Years HAZ'ers!
Saddle Mountain - Tonopah
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7th Annual New Year's Day Hike
Very cool peak. Even though much of the phoenix area was blanketed with smoke/pollution, this area was clear.

First time I've seen bighorn in the wild.

Nice to meet everyone.

Thanks for putting this together, Pam, and thanks for bringing the treats.
Saddle Mountain - Tonopah
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Perfect fall weather and a map made this a piece of cake today. People were in the area, but there were no other real hikers out. I saw 3 or 4 sheep, or more, near the summit, in the saddle, and then above the saddle, so this was a pretty cool hike. A perfect winter hike!

Actually, it is still fall, but the sun says winter, and except for the humidity/ dew point being unusually high the sun angle is low and the air was clear and calm. It was also in the low to middle 80s, so 10 to 20 degrees too warm for winter, but I loved it all the same.

Great summit views. I was able to see Castle Dome Peak, which is neat. It seems that aside from a few other summits, most mountains west of the Phoenix periphery ranges are not that high. There are a lot of small hills, some very rugged, and many maybe inaccessible, but aside from maybe a 1/2 dozen big summits, there aren't really many large mountains between the coastal ranges, and Phoenix, in the swath visible from Saddle MT. A few summits in the Kofa, this, Woolsey, Big Horn, Harquahala, and what else? Just a thought.
Saddle Mountain - Tonopah
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Go west young man if you want to avoid crowds. Headed back to the seldom hiked far, far west valley to bag a peak that I haven't been to in a while. Left downtown Phoenix at 8:30 and was on the trail a little over an hour later. The road to Saddle Mountain is passenger car accessible, but I doubt I would want to take a new car back there.

Pulled into the parking lot at the trailhead and was surprised to find Chumley's rig sitting there. Bumped into Chumley and Skatchkins on the way down, exchanged pleasantries and headed up the mountain. Chumley told us that there was a small flock of desert big horn sheep just before the summit and sure enough they were still there waiting for us.

Perfect weather for hiking, great views and best of all only ran into two other people on the trail. Simply love the solitude that the peaks out west offer.
Saddle Mountain - Tonopah
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I felt like a guy's night on a mountain with a campfire was in order. My A-list friends were all hurt and my B-list friends kept me waiting until the last minute to cancel. I got a Chumley.
We got to see 4 small bighorns on the way up and the same 4+2 on the way down.
I figured on a little wind and we got some during sunset and sunrise. It died enough down during the night.
We got up there with plenty of time to gather firewood and stand around. It took a little time too to smooth out where our sleeping bags would go.
All in all it was a good relatively quick getaway to the outskirts. The views, half moon, company and fire were great. Once we made it back to the vehicles in the morn, we went messing around the desert on some backroads we had scoped from above. Even found some mud to play in and something rusty to photograph on the way home.
Saddle Mountain - Tonopah
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Seems like this is the time of year for Saddle Mountain, so with absolutely zero communication and a whole lot of non-committal planning, we headed west for a quick overnight on the summit.

It got a little bit windy in the wee hours but was pretty nice overall. Not much flat ground up there, but we each did some landscaping and made it work. Managed to burn old dead palo verde, ocotillo, and cholla to a surprising amount of success. PV lets off a funky scent, so it's not a first choice.

The views up here were phenomenal. At night, 80 miles of streaming traffic on I-10 was a sight to behold. It's like sitting at a mountain spring and wondering where the water comes from and how it just keeps going without ever stopping. The direct alignment with the north runway at Sky Harbor provided a cool perspective on landing aircraft 60 miles away.

In the morning, visibility was great and the summits of all four peaks were visible over the White Tanks. (Browns is exactly 100.0 miles from the summit of Saddle!) A slight haze settled into the valley but the skyscrapers :lol: of downtown and mid-town popped through as though they were built on a cloud. Sixty miles west, Signal Peak and the Kofas dominated, while the iconic Castle Dome stood out on the horizon nearly 70 miles away. A bunch of other landmarks are in view here too: Harquahala, Big Horn, and Woolsey to name just a few.

I like this peak. Maybe it's the musk. :sweat:
Saddle Mountain - Tonopah
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This hike did not have my attention period until we got closer driving up. Oh I don't know. Do we really need to hike peaks out in the desert just because they exist? Well, it looked mildly interesting and I was at least in the hey let's check it out state of mind.

Then we were sweating up a storm. It's just up up up. The key to any notable hike is sweat! Okay maybe slight nonsense. The hike went from yadda yadda yadda to yeah baby when the wall loomed overhead. Up at the saddle we scrambled up an unnecessary 10-15 obstacle. Then it happened. The sheer cliff gods sang in beautiful harmony. It's a 400 ft drop to a rolling 1k drop with impressive topography to boot! Did I mention the geology. No, because I know absolutely nothing about it. Luckily HAZ is a fabulous blend like Mrs Dash. Hansenaz mentioned the area is popular with rockhounds & pixelfrog asked about finding fire agate.

The peak was nice. Glen Campbell may have been a rhinestone cowboy. Alex, I'll take scrambles for nothing and my ridges for free! But wait, that's not all, Saddle is a twofer. The hike is only half the fun, read the description then the photosets backwards. That's right, you get scrambles, ridges, world class pioneer history and photosets from every spice on the rack.

Now that I know what happened, we ascended the new easier north route from the red lot. At a moderate-quick pace with easily twenty minutes on the dawdle we almost clipped Sid without knowing it.

Reading the description was an eye opener, Terry had a fantastic adventure. It became crystal clear Sid would smoke the north route in under an hour, one-ten worst case.

It helps to know your spices but the triplogs attached to the photosets are gold. Methodical climber - Ginger the wonderpooch summited without need of her harness. Sour Patch Kids chasing waterfalls. Circumference Steve danced through poppies spooking big horns. Ralpie almost shot his eye out with his Coughlan Dangler!
( he mutters under his voice, that's just stupid - it doesn't even make sense )

I carried a 12oz bottle of water. Plenty for nice December weather staying on route. 2-3 quarts is probably the ticket if you are unsure.

Permit $$

Map Drive
FR / Jeep Road - Car possible when dry

To hike
This location is about 55 miles from Downtown Phoenix and around 8 miles outside of the town of Tonopah. From Phoenix take Interstate 10 west to Exit 94. Exit south on Ave. 411 for 2.7 miles then turn right on Salome Highway. Travel 5.2 miles west on Salome Highway and turn left onto Courthouse Road (as powerlines pass overhead). Travel 0.7 miles on Courthouse Rd and turn left onto an unmarked dirt road. A BLM kiosk welcomes you with maps and information. Stay on this road for 1.1 miles to its terminus where the hike begins. The dirt road is rocky but passable in a car. Other roads in the area can get you there, but this is the easiest and shortest dirt road available.
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