Overview: San Juan "Road" Trailhead onto the National Trail from marker 51 up past marker 38. Ending at the high point of the Gila Range which is Goat Hill. Trail data here is for an out and back trip. If wildflowers are in season go a little further and make a loop out of this with the Ranger & Bajada trails. Please Note: San Juan Road is only open sunrise to sunset. You need to be out of the park by sunset or risk getting towed. The gates as of this writing opened at 5am, okay 5:12 to be exact.
Hike: San Juan "Road" Trailhead is located between the Bajada and West Alta trailheads. From the trailhead follow San Juan road west a couple hundred feet and you'll see the National Trail crossing the road. Pick up the National Trail on the left/south side of the road. Within a few steps you'll pass marker 51 which is the Bajada Trail junction. Continue right on the National. The trail is flat as a pancake. In the old days the trail trudged straight up to the ridge. Now it takes a lazy approach shooting wide to gain a low saddle at the tail end of the range. I'm not sure why but maybe to accommodate mountain bikes. It might also have something to do with all the mine activity in the area. So maybe it was to divert the public from troubled spots.
Continuing on there seems to be a marker at every little jag in the trail. 50 you make a minor turn. 49 you approach a wash. You'll see what looks like a gauging station to your right. My first thoughts were, damn, if this entire valley fills up with enough water to make a noticeable difference on that water gauge I'd be impressed! Post 48 is immediately across the wash. 47 comes by quick too. At which point I realized it was more of a weather station as opposed to a creek/river water gauge. Little rocks line the trail. This isn't spectacular desert. It appears to be an old 4x4 romping grounds. What is spectacular is the morning sun hitting on the ever close Estrella Range! At marker 46 you just start gaining elevation. You go over this low saddle on the ridge thinking you'll be heading straight up. However, at marker 45 you turn left and head back down the other side? The trail shoots through a mini valley and instead ascends on a fork ridge. Marker 44 is down in the little valley. Looking west towards the Estrella Range you notice homes or something very nearby. Mountain biking up to this point would be a breeze. The trail now turns gravelly, thick and loose. Personally I wouldn't mountain bike up this trail ever, maybe down, but I doubt it. Anyhow, marker 44 is down in the little valley at one side of a ravine. You cross this ravine and marker 43 greets you. Basically the trail follows the fork ridge above the ravine up to the main ridge. Lots of Palo Verde grow in this area, due to the ravine. Nearing July it was rather warmy even at daybreak, you'd be best off tackling this in December. Of course you know strange things happen in the desert. I encountered the worlds largest wasp (I think). The thing was huge it could have eaten a bat!
Marker 42 is a bend in the trail or something. I remember it best by the ten plus javelina scattering every which way. They're funny to watch. They kind of gallop aimlessly. I took a couple quick photos. I was putting the camera away when another one jolted right beside me. It wasn't until the return trip that I noticed what they were doing. Also saw one skinny rabbit which made me wonder how in the world they get by without water.
Marker 41 is in the middle of the connector ridge. Between here and 40 is a section of trail fairly tough for a hiker, forget mountain biking it. It's steep loose gravel. Got me thinking, you know, you'd think there'd be a large bare spot at the top cause this gravel is only going DOWN! At any rate, by marker 40 you're getting to the good stuff. The trail zigs all over the place. This isn't a clean cut point A to point B clothesline ridge. It's wide, then narrow, then who knows. If you did make it to this point on a bike it's joy riding all the way from here to the Mormon trail.
The views atop Goat Hill are pretty good. You have a nice wide view of the valley. The radio towers are due east. Return the way you came. You might also opt to make this a loop trip. Continue on the National Trail 0.3 miles further and head on down to the Bajada Trail. Which as you recall goes back to marker 51.
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.