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Stewart Mountain Dam - Petroglyphs, AZ

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HAZ reminds you to respect the ruins. Please read the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 & Ruins Etiquette
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Difficulty 2 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance Loop 3 miles
Trailhead Elevation 1,464 feet
Elevation Gain 296 feet
Accumulated Gain 460 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 1.5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 5.3
Interest Ruins & Historic
Backpack Possible - Not Popular
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22  2019-03-16
Stewart Mountain Dam - Horse Trails
13  2018-10-21 Steph_and_Blake
21  2018-01-02 topohiker
25  2017-10-17
Stewart Mountain Dam Loop
18  2017-09-02 adilling
15  2017-04-29
Bulldog Canyon-Steward Dam-Goldfield Ovens
14  2016-05-07 topohiker
5  2016-03-31 gummo
Page 1,  2,  3,  4
Author AZLOT69
author avatar Guides 168
Routes 247
Photos 7,293
Trips 1,818 map ( 15,596 miles )
Age 68 Male Gender
Location Gold Canyon, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Nov, Dec, Jan, Feb → 10 AM
Seasons   Late Summer to Late Spring
Sun  6:11am - 6:30pm
Official Route
3 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Geology Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Big Dam Ancient Art
by AZLOT69

The Official Route for this guide starts on private property. See directions for details about fee and other options.

Few if any can recall the appearance of the valley at this location when the Salt River flowed naturally. Precious few photos exist of that time. A time when a ranch occupied the valley where Saguaro Lake now sits. It was owned by the Stewart family. The demise of the Stewart ranch was brought about by the further harnessing of the Salt River by building the Stewart Mountain Dam. The Dam which was constructed from 1928-1930 is 208 feet high and the total length is 1260 feet. Obviously a great deal of changes were made to the area in the construction of the dam. The small resort by the trailhead, called Saguaro Lake Ranch was originally a work camp with a bunkhouse and cabins for the dam workers. This hike will combine a great scenic old growth area of the Sonoran desert. Mix in a birds eye view of the modern marvel of the Stewart Mountain Dam, and round out the experience with a little exploration leading to petroglyph writings of people who lived here long before the Stewarts.

The trail can be accomplished in either direction but is described here counterclockwise. The trail starts near a mesquite tree about forty feet in front of where you parked your car. It serpentines its way up the hill with immediate views east across the Salt River of the dramatic Goldfield Mountains. When you get to the top of the hill the trail levels off and comes to a Y. Take a side trip to the right, where there is a sign saying the trail ends in 500 feet. Take this faint trail several hundred feet to a large rock outcropping. Explore the rock outcropping for petroglyphs. The outcropping overlooks Stewart Mountain Dam, with Four Peaks in the distance beyond the dam and the Goldfields to your right. Continue on the path to the right to the end of the trail and look directly down on the dam.

Return to the main trail and turn right. The trail makes another climb and meanders around the natural curves of the mountain offering great views of the dam, mountains and soon Saguaro Lake and marina. This view is at the next hilltop. Take the Y trail to the right for fifty feet to a nice overlook. Returning to the trail continue right thru old desert growth with some spectacular plant specimens. The terrain becomes quite interesting with boulder outcroppings. As you approach the Bush Highway the trail bends left without crossing. After about a hundred yards of following the road you will come to a crossing. Its on a bend so listen for cars and hustle across the road as there is no control. Boulders and scenic rock outcroppings are everywhere making for great photo opportunities. The trail comes to another Y. Bear left here. Soon an unusual site appears off to the right. At first it seems to be a geological anomaly. Tucked into the valley in a vast field of white granite. Closer exam shows this to be a dump site for excavated material.

The trail continues down into a wash. The wash, known as Horse Thief Wash, received its name back in the Stewart Ranch era for obvious reasons. The wash becomes steep walled with old growth ironwoods maintaining strategic footholds. Eventually you come to a palm tree growing alongside the wash putting you on notice that civilization can not be far away. Coming around a corner two gigantic culverts lie ahead. They are about twenty feet in diameter giving you some idea of the amount of water that can potentially come thru this wash. Walk thru the culvert under the Bush Highway and continue in the wash on the other side. Soon you arrive at the old alignment of the Bush Highway which is closed. Take it to the left to where it joins the Stewart Mountain Dam Road you parked on. Go thru the gate and walk along the road about a quarter mile to your car completing the loop.

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.

2009-11-23 AZLOT69
    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
    Stewart Mountain Dam - Petroglyphs
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    I wanted to go to Butcher Jones, but the road construction left me sitting in a line of cars for over 10 minutes due to road construction, so I opted to do this hike. I started where the tubers go into the river. I don't remember the name of the rec site. I walked a long the river and got bored. I still haven't fully recovered from being sick either. I also wore my old shoes that are very worn and hurt my feet. :(

    On the way back, I spotted a gopher snake near the river. I wasn't going to photograph it, but I did anyway. I actually don't like photographing snakes. I only photograph snakes because you all like them so much and wish you would encounter more on your hikes and near your home or office.
    Stewart Mountain Dam - Petroglyphs
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    Ryan is having his house painted so something close was in order so that he could check in with the crew in the afternoon, so this loop fit the bill, close and something new. Plan A also included hiking Sunrise Arch if the river was cross-able, plan B was to hit Lone Mountain on the way home.

    Nice easy loop hike although hiking through the loose sand in the wash was a bit tiring. Saw 4 deer off at a distance while checking out the oven. Added in the Stewart Mountain Dam loop to check out the petroglyphs which included hiking though the Saguaro Lake Ranch. I saw a young man cleaning the pool so just gave him a shout out letting him know we were just hiking through, and received a confirmation back that that was OK. Although the river was low, crossing it would have meant wading through water so we opted for plan B. The hike from the Water Users parking lot to Blue Point brought back memories of hiking the road with tubes in tow back in the day before they modernized the area. Added plus, other than at the ranch, and the parking areas, we saw absolutely no others on the trail.
    Stewart Mountain Dam - Petroglyphs
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    Did a figure 8 of the northern half of Goldfield Ovens, all of Stewart Mountain Dam Petroglyphs, then the southern half of the Goldfield Ovens loop (azdesertfather's alternate route). Picked up rockadoodledude about 0615, to avoid rush hour traffic, and it was a wise decision. On speed limit-obeying drive east on Bush Highway, pointed out presence of MCSO substation. On way back west, hiking along Bush Highway, saw MCSO traffic stop. Few minutes later heard a siren blip for another stop, and a few minutes after that, MCSO going lights and siren east on highway. Coyotes just off to our right started yipping. Unfortunately I did not get my iPhone out and videotaping quick enough to record the coyote chorus. On speed limit-obeying drive back along Bush HIghway, was passed by three more MCSO units, which caused me to point out to Mike that they have the ability to zap even while moving, even in the opposite direction. (I got nailed doing 80 in a 65 zone that way, near Dudleyville.) And *then* there was a Mesa PD car waiting *just* inside city limits as Bush Highway turns into Power Rd. Freaking gauntlet. You have been warned.


    Hike Video:
    Stewart Mountain Dam - Petroglyphs
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    The New Year's Day Tradition Continues.....
    After spending New Year's Eve with the Yotes in Glendale, needed the New Year's Day "leg stretcher" with a Dirty Dozen HAZer's. Thanks Pam for hosting and will be looking forward to next year's peak bagging... :D

    After Schulhauser's Pub and Grill closed down for the day, headed over to Stewart Dam to check out the rock art... :D :D
    Stewart Mountain Dam - Petroglyphs
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    Started out with a 10 mile bike ride, sounds healthy eh? Yeah, well considering we rode to Village Inn and PIGGED OUT we figured we better go hike some of it off. The cool part about living in NE Mesa is being so close to so many gems like this. Beautiful day for a nice little hike near Saguaro Lake.
    Stewart Mountain Dam - Petroglyphs
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    Directions: Red Mountain Freeway (202), exit Power Rd. (Go south on Power to McDowell to get a Tonto day pass at the Valero or Shell, even at 6:00 a.m.) North on Power / Bush Hwy 9.5 miles. Slow as you aproach the Salt River bridge, turning left immediately after into the Blue Point recreation area. It's very dark out there early, so watch out for critters and cops. (There's a sheriff's sub station at the Usery Pass Rd intersection.)


    Time out: 7:00 a.m. Weather: Supposedly 45 at dawn, but felt like 40. Pretty chilly. Rising to sunny low 60s. Drank coffee until it got light enough to walk without a head lamp. Took two steps ... son of a buck. Forgot my hiking shoes. I was in loafers. ](*,) Quickly survey my options: 1) Drive 90 minutes home and call it a day. Shortest hike ever. 2) Drive 90 minutes home, get shoes, drive back, hike. Pain in the tutkis. 3) Hike anyway. Monty, I'll take door #3. : rambo : Trail surface was rocky. It was a bit slippery with non-hiking soles, but actually kind of comfortable. Had to be careful though not stub my toes on any rocks, lest I tear the loafers open. Birds were chirping in the reeds, and I heard, but did not see, one dive into the river for dinner. Red Mountain looked gorgeous as the first sun hit it.

    Turned north into the main wash. Deep sand, slow going. It was that way for the next three miles. Maybe mid-way up the wash was a very large, inbred looking "Kentucky Cactus". (So called because it is descended from sister-cousins and mother-uncles.) Where the wash begins opening up, just before it turns east, is the lime kiln.

    After the lime kiln, the wash splits, and you actually want to take the northerly split. The easterly split, which I accidentally got onto, turns south into the mountains' inner bowl. (If you see a little red barrel cactus in the middle of the wash, you you got on the easterly bit.) Might make for interesting exploration, but I wanted to stay on track. Turned north, cutting across a flat ridge, staying just west of Hill 2259. It was actually quicker going, because it was granite, not sand. Lots of cactus there, but easy to negotiate. Got back onto the main trail.

    Lots of horse tracks, and other animals too. Positively identified deer tracks, others not sure. Where the trail finally leaves the wash, and begins a very slight climb, there are several very large ocotillos. Just after this the trail splits: North towards Stewart Mountain, south along the ridgeline. In a few hundred meters will be your first view of Saguaro Lake. The trail descends into a series of small slot canyons, before intersecting with the Petroglyph Loop. Turn south into the "Garden of Eden". :budrose: (I call it that, because it has a date palm -- only one I've seen so far in the wild -- and is otherwise grassy and lush.) Watch out for posses riding up from the ranch. And watch out for their droppings. Normally horse poo does not bother me, but in some places it was so thick it was just gross, and hard to negotiate.

    After the Garden of Eden, there is a huge culvert under the Bush Highway. The official description is clear if you are just doing the 7-mile Goldfield Ovens Loop, but its not obvious what to do if you are also doing the Petroglyphs Loop counter-clockwise. As a result, I went straight, going through the riparian area south of the SRP housing area. (Watch out for guard dogs surprising you from inside the fence.) This is a pleasant extra half mile or so, but if you want to stay "on trail", turn east along the pavement. If you go through the riparian area, the trail ends at the corral. Cross the fence to get back on the road. Go east past Saguaro Lake Ranch Resort -- Kellerman's it ain't -- until just after last metal shack. Go up the horse trail, the only climb of any sort, really, of the whole morning. Great view of Stewart Mountain Dam from the top of the climb.

    Cross west back over the Bush Highway. Just after the Petroglyph Loop turns south, there is a small granite quarry. I was looking all along the trail for petroglyphs, but did not see any. Bummer. Rejoined the Goldfield Ovens Loop, pass back through the Garden of Eden, back through the culvert, and this time turned west reconnecting with the official description.

    Loafers got a bit wore down on the surface, but otherwise held up fine, and feet did not feel any more beat up than normal. Would not recommend it for everyone, though. Time In: 11:33 p.m. Duration: 4h 33m. Hike time, minus breaks, map reading, etc.: 3h 17m. Distance: 18.1 km. Pace: 5.52 km/h.


    Hike Video:
    Stewart Mountain Dam - Petroglyphs
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    Thanks to AZLOT69 for recently posting this hike. It way exceeded my expectations! Thanks to Tortoise Hiker & rally_toad for the company, a good morning out.

    We did this hike as a figure 8, along with the Stewart Mountain Dam Petroglyphs hike, doing the Goldfield Ovens clockwise and the SMD Petroglyphs counterclockwise. I recommend this route, works pretty well.

    We actually started at the Sunrise Arch TH, went up Bush Hwy. over the river and through the parking lot to the trailhead. The oven was pretty cool to see, amazed how big and tall it was! Would love to know the story behind it.

    One of the greatest highlights was the abundance of wildflowers on the Goldfield Ovens trail, especially the northern half. By far the best display of wildflowers I've seen all year! Get out there if you can and enjoy them. On the eastern end of the trail was a good sized palm tree, which was kind of out of place and a surprise.

    Instead of looping back west to make this the normal loop, we took the turn to the left to do the SMD Petroglyphs hike. Nice views of the lake, dam, and Salt River. Be forewarned, the eastern half of this hike (basically the half on the east side of Bush Highway) is GNAT CITY. Rally_toad swallowed a fly and we all probably took in a gnat or two. They're especially thick around the petroglyphs and just northwest of there. You'll want to keep up a good pace on this piece and get through it. It was worth it to see the glyphs though. Nothing breathtaking, but definitely some nice ones. I think I enjoyed the view of the dam more than anything else!

    Saw a couple of tours from Saguaro Lake Ranch taking people out on horseback today on this trail.

    Permit $$
    Tonto Pass is required.

    Map Drive
    Paved - Car Okay

    To Stewart Mountain Dam Trailhead
    Access - Private Property
    Saguaro Lake Ranch might allow you to park & hike for a $15 fee as the Official Route suggests. Check in at the ranch guest house to obtain permission.

    Bush Highway Northeast of Usery, just past milepost 31 turn right on Stewart Mountain Dam Road. This leads to Saguaro Lake Ranch. Proceed past the ranch towards the fenced in gated access to the Dam. There is an off road turn around at the end of the road on the left. There is room for a few cars to park here. Pay attention to warning signs and do not block gate access.

    Access - Water Users Recreation Area
    Guaranteed legal if you get a Tonto Pass in advance. This adds 0.4 miles walking along the highway each way. Potentially unsafe by nature, virtually guaranteed to be undesirable.

    Access - Park Along Highway
    HAZ does not recommend such without consulting the law. That said it might be an option if...
    - you are NOT near a fire hydrant
    - NOT on a curve
    - VISIBLE from 150 feet in both directions
    - parked in the DIRECTION of flow
    - OFF the highway on a natural dirt apron
    - do NOT kill even a nuisance weed exiting & merging
    - 50 feet away from other stationary vehicles

    From PHX (I-10 & AZ-51) 41 min (36.3 miles)
    From TUC (Jct 1-10 & Grant) 2 h 1 min (125 miles)
    From FLG (Jct I-17 & I-40) 2 h 36 min (170 miles)
    page created by AZLOT69 on Nov 23 2009 9:02 am
    3 pack - loud whistle
    go prepared
    help comment issue

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