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This is likely a great time to hike this trail!  Check out "Prefered" months below, keep in mind this is an estimate.

Barnhardt - Sandy Saddle Loop, AZ

no permit
140 18 1
Guide 18 Triplogs  1 Topic
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Payson > Payson W
3.3 of 5 by 10
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Difficulty 4.5 of 5
Route Finding 4 of 5
Distance Lasso-Loop 15 miles
Trailhead Elevation 4,200 feet
Elevation Gain 2,200 feet
Accumulated Gain 4,735 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 11 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 38.68
Backpack Yes
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
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15  2018-06-03 jacobemerick
4  2016-10-02 shellmer
5  2014-08-03 JuanJaimeiii
15  2014-07-13
Y Bar Sandy Sandy Saddle Barnhardt Loop
22  2013-05-24 lanewinblade
5  2010-04-24 topohiker
17  2008-09-05 nonot
8  2008-07-24 te_wa
Page 1,  2
Author PrestonSands
author avatar Guides 168
Routes 149
Photos 5,534
Trips 1,317 map ( 6,690 miles )
Age 42 Male Gender
Location Oro Valley, AZ
Co-Author david_allen_3
co-author avatarGuides 1
Routes 0
Photos 854
Trips 57 map (228 Miles)
Age 41 Male Gender
Location Phoenix, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Oct, May, Apr, Sep → 5 AM
Seasons   ALL
Sun  6:14am - 6:23pm
Official Route
3 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Geology Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
The hike that never ends!
by PrestonSands & david_allen_3

Likely In-Season!
Beginning at the Barnhardt Trailhead, follow the Barnhardt Trail #43 west as it climbs up rugged Barnhardt Canyon beneath enormous cliffs of red Mazatzal Quartzite. This area of the Mazatzals is recovering well from the Willow Fire, with new trees and bushes creating an increasingly green landscape. At about the 1.5 mile mark, the trail turns south, and ascends a side canyon through a series of switchbacks. Suicide Ridge looms high above you here, as does the famous seasonal waterfall (which turns to ice during the winter). A half mile beyond the first waterfall, a second is encountered, partially hidden by a wall of rock. Above the waterfalls, the trail loops around the 6044 foot ridge that was once covered in a thicket of giant manzanitas. A short section of the huge manzanitas survived the fire along the trail here. At about 3.5 miles, the Barnhardt Trail arrives at the junction with the Sandy Saddle Trail #231. The sign burned away, and has yet to be replaced as of this writing, but the blackened signpost and side trail leading north make the junction easy to identify.

Turn right onto the Sandy Saddle Trail, and get ready to put your route finding skills to the test! From here to the Mazatzal Divide Trail 3 miles farther on, the trail is non-existent, to very faint at best. Trust the route shown on the Mazatzal Peak topo map, and follow the trail down to Castersen Seep. The trail shows itself briefly as it climbs the slope north of the seep, and makes a steep drop into the north fork of Barnhardt Canyon. Head upstream until the canyon forks, and begin climbing the ridge between the canyon's forks. Soon you will see faint patches of trail as it makes a shadeless 800 foot climb up to Sandy Saddle.

At appropriately named Sandy Saddle, there is a small grassy meadow, ringed with some unburned trees. The trail once again disappears here, but if you stay left as you descend the west side of Sandy Saddle, you can follow a faint remnant of trail along a small drainage, down to the main drainage. Once at the bottom of the eroded, boulder filled side drainage of the North Fork of Deadman Creek, the Sandy Saddle trail disappears forever. Just keep boulder hopping downstream until the canyon begins to open up, then begin searching for the Mazatzal Divide Trail #23 on the south bank of the drainage. There is no trail sign indicating the junction with the Mazatzal Divide Trail.

Once you have found the Mazatzal Divide Trail, turn and follow it south (it will seem like a freeway compared to the Sandy Saddle "Trail"). To your right (west) for the next mile, there are some great views of the deep and incredibly rugged Deadman Canyon. The Mazatzal Divide Trail provides great views to the west and south as you follow it along the western slopes of the Mazatzal Mountains. After about 1.8 miles on the Mazatzal Divide Trail, you will arrive at the junction to the Brody Seep Trail. A short distance down this trail is Chilson Camp, an old cowboy camp in a grassy saddle. Continuing on past the Brody Seep Trail, the Mazatzal Divide Trail begins climbing towards Barnhardt Saddle, and soon passes the melted plastic pipe leading downhill from Chilson Spring. Along here you can see the colorful cliffs of the west face of Mazatzal Peak. Just before arriving at the junction with the Barnhardt Trail, the Mazatzal Divide Trail passes through a pleasant, unburned area, covered in grass and juniper trees. This would make a nice area to camp, if water is available at nearby Chilson Spring.

At Barnhardt Saddle (elevation 6000 feet), turn left onto the Barnhardt Trail, and follow it east as it contours along the northern slopes of Mazatzal Peak, through millions of new gambel oak trees. The Barnhardt Trail gradually descends through the new growth, crossing little side drainages along the way, until you arrive back at the junction with the Sandy Saddle Trail. Continue on the Barnhardt Trail as you retrace your steps, and descend Barnhardt Canyon back to Barnhardt Trailhead.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

This is a more difficult hike. It would be unwise to attempt this without prior experience hiking.

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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 Triplog Reviews
    Barnhardt - Sandy Saddle Loop
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    This was my first time out to Deadmans Falls and, in fact, my first time in the "Mazzies". The hike out on Barnhardt trail is truly spectacular... however, the trip back along Sandy Saddle trail is not for the faint of heart!

    The hike up Barnhardt Trail is uphill almost the entire way, but for the most part it is gradual. The exception to this is the uppermost switchbacks which get very steep... seems like the trail got impatient and said "F" it... lets get to the top already! All in all, this was a very enjoyable hike which I look forward to doing again. My backpacking partner and I even got a surprise as we were climbing the last switchback as two F-16 fighter jets skimmed over the top of the ridge almost directly above us at surprisingly low altitude! Very cool and certainly unexpected.

    Soon after passing the sign for Chilson Spring, we joined up with the Mazatzal Divide Trail and headed north. By this time we were tired but truly enjoying the sunny day and mild temps (approx 80 degrees). A mile or so on, we started seeing the gorge on our left and enjoyed the views until getting to Deadmans Falls and our campsite. Unfortunately, the falls were not running at all (as expected), but the views are still spectacular. Since we knew water would be an issue, we pretty much planned to head up to Horse Camp Seap... on our way there we found several large standing pools in the creek bed just East of the falls. We filtered all the water we would need for our stay and hike out in the morning. Had a great evening relaxing by the fire and drinking burbon. Full moon came out over the ridge to our East and lit up the plateau... stunning!

    The next morning we headed east along what we expected to be Sandy Saddle Trail. To call this a "trail" is an insult to trails... there is no trail to speak of. The attached GPS route is a general direction along an overland route... I cannot possibly overstate how difficult the next three miles were. If not for the Route Scout app, my map and compass, there is no way we would have made it back to Barnhardt trail. The terrain in places is very steep along scree covered hills and in many other places we were fighting our way through thick brush UPHILL trying to find a trail or the occasional (and appreciated) cairn. My hiking buddy and I are in excellent physical condition (he is an Iron Man athlete), and this trail took all we had. By the time we found BT, we were pretty much completely exhausted and just hunkered down for the four mile hike back to the TH and our car. Im sure the scenery was just as beautiful as the day before, but cant say as I enjoyed it on the way out.

    For those of you that LOVE difficult route finding over steep terrain... the Sandy Saddle route is the one for you! For those of you that think you might like the challenge... think twice about taking this trail. Seriously. This is only for the most physically fit and experienced hikers.

    All in all, this was one hell of a way to get introduced to the Mazzies. Cant say as I would ever consider doing SST again, but im looking forward to getting to know some of the other trails in this range.

    Barnhardt - Sandy Saddle Loop
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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 ;)
    Barnhardt - Sandy Saddle Loop
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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.
    Barnhardt - Sandy Saddle Loop
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    took a few friends into the N. fork of Deadman Canyon to see the incredible falls and canyon. Turned out to be a 16.2 mile loop. Thanks to Fred, John, Betsy, and Nonot for attending. This is my third time here, and the Barnhardt trail is still the only good part of this loop. (not counting the awesome waterfalls in Deadman)
    Good times!
    Barnhardt - Sandy Saddle Loop
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    woke up Wednesday with the urge to hit a trail. Packed by rucksack and out the door I went to the area around Horse Camp seep. Wanted to get a different perspective on the Deadman Canyon so I went a little farther than the Sandy Saddle (trail?) and came back to it after hanging with some wild winds. Im talking 30mph gusts that shook my whole set-up. The next day I took the wash over the saddle and came back down to meet up w/ the trail on the other side of Castersen wash. Lost the trail but I was feeling energetic so I climbed the backbone of a nearby ridge and took it all the way to Barnhardt trail. This added about a 1.5 mile trip to the total mileage. Lost another gps (it was a cheapie anyhow) down there in the cross country battle w/ manzanita.
    Unusual amount of bleeding blisters on this hike- it was hot, about 95. Still water is forming in pools from summer rains. No wildlife save some birds and lizards.
    Barnhardt - Sandy Saddle Loop
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    David and Preston's trip report is spot on... please see hike description and take a map! this was an all day scramble up and down the open hillsides of mazatzal range. all of the trails are easy to follow but a confusing area around Castersen, like Preston said follow the map for advice, there is much deadfall along barnhardt and that's the only issue. start of sandy saddle trail (34' 5.24-111' 27.50) is fairly easy to follow, keep up with the cairns and you shouldnt have a problem. There is a bit of creek bed walking between casterson seep (34' 5.40-111' 28.0) and the ascent to sandy saddle (34' 5.79-111' 28.09). Once you decend sandy saddle to the west, the maz. divide trail (34' 6.42-111' 29.51) is marked with several orange ribbons as of this writing. the divide trail is well kept. I planned on this as an overnight but could not (and i mean it) find 2 suitable trees. place is scorched from head to toes on this loop. my next hike will be divide trail from peeley to the "deer creek falls".
    here's some free info: when you are rock hopping down the drainage that comes from west side of sandy saddle, you will come to the intersection with the divide trail. make note of the divide trail and proceed downstream about a 2 minute walk (150 yards?) you will be delighted to find the north fork of deadman canyon, and 2 sick, sick waterfalls. there is info out there on how to rappel these falls, but not me, no sir, no way Jose :lol:
    I almost peed myself just looking over the edge of the 250' plunge.
    I pretty much kept a sickening 3mph pace the entire way, even over the rocky creekbed and made the loop in a record "under 5 hours" you may find it necessary to spend 7-9 hours on this trail. this is not an easy area to hike in- keep that in mind.
    Barnhardt - Sandy Saddle Loop
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    This was an extremely long dayhike and side trip with david_allen_3. After a swollen Rye Creek thwarted our efforts to hike the Rock Creek Trail (I camped next to Rye Creek the night before, and fell asleep listening to boulders rolling down the flash-flooding creek bed), we chose this hike. We started at 6 am, and got back at 9 pm. It was nice to see all the creeks flowing, and there was water and green grass everywhere! We started out hiking in the clouds with the humidity probably close to 100%. We made good time until we hit the Sandy Saddle Trail. It was very slow travel along the Sandy Saddle Trail (very little left of it). Unfortunately for me, my digital camera died near the beginning of the Sandy Saddle Trail. :cry: After a long, sweat-dripping ascent to Sandy Saddle, and extensive boulder hopping on the other side, we arrived at the Mazatzal Divide. The Mazatzal Divide Trail sure was a welcome treat after Sandy Saddle. We had some lunch, then headed down the Mazatzal Divide to it's junction with the Barnhardt Trail. We finished out the last 2 miles of trail by flashlight; absolutely dead exhausted. I would have gladly slept in the middle of the trail. :wink: An awesome adventure! Didn't see anyone else all day except for 2 guys who were going to do the Mazatzal Peak Loop.

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    FR / Jeep Road - Car possible when dry

    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
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