Little Saddle Trail #244 is part of the Arizona Trail.
Fire hydrant cactus grows along the trail.
rumps on a Yuletide log
Ten Trailblazers set out to make history on the Arizona Trail, a long
distance, primitive trail beginning at the Arizona-Mexico border and
stretching up to Utah. The Arizona Trail is still being
developed and when completed will consist of 800 miles of non-motorized
trail. The U.S. Forest Service is working in collaboration with the
Arizona State Parks, the National Park Service, and the Bureau of Land
Managment to plan and create the trail, highlighting Arizona’s biological,
historical, topographic, and cultural diversity.
To date, 600 miles are completed and open to the public.
The trail is restricted to hikers, equestrians, and bicyclists.
On Dec. 16, 2006, Chuck, Beth, Michael, Barry and daughter Megan, Irena,
Cyd, Cindy, Aaron, and hike leader, Debbie set out to hike a section of the
Arizona Trail: the Little Saddle Mountain Trail #244. The parking pullout
has a sign pronouncing the “Arizona Trail” but the trailhead is
a bit obscure and the trailpost is hidden from the parking area. It was a cold
morning and we needed to get moving quickly to warm up ... but we did pause
for the obligatory group pictures.
Centepedes hike the Arizona Trail.
We were on the trail by 9:30 AM.
hopeful that the sun would soon appear and warm things up a bit. It promised
to be a beautiful day for hiking!
The first couple of miles of the hike follow Sycamore Creek along a rather
antiquated fence line with an elevation gain of about 600 feet. There was
very little water in the creek so we did not encounter any mishaps while
Calling it the “cow patty” tree for lack of a better name.
The trail rises
up out of the creek bottom, climbing another 700 feet. With the rise, came a
warm sun and a wonderful display of Aizona’s unique environmental beauty.
The diverse scenery offers breathtaking views of the Mazatzal Mountains with
sycamore, cottonwood, pinyon, and juniper trees. The rock gorges are densely
dotted with a wide variety of cacti, including agave, prickly pear, and barrel
The area is also reputed to be the home of
mountain lion and javelina which led to a lively discussion of the habits of
these animals. It was obvious that the trail receives little use and
fortunately this day, we had the trail completely to ourselves: human or
otherwise. The trail is well defined for the most part and easy to follow,
but is overgrown in areas with prickly brush. One hiker joked about the
mild bushwhacking, remarking to the group leader, “you would make Ted
proud” — referring to the club’s infamous bushwhacker.
I’m a tarantula. Don’t Tread on Me!
Our destination was a unique tree (excellent for climbing!) heavily
fertilized with gigantic cow patties so the decision was made to take a
lunch break before hitting the top. This was a good decision: when we
finally made it to the top (3.25 miles from the trailhead), there was a
serious wind chill factor going on. The real camera buffs presevered and
shot some more obligatory photos while the rest of us tried in vain to find
shelter from the wind.
In spite of the chill, the panoramic views from the
top were well worth the climb.
By the time we headed back the way we had come, the sun had warmed things up
nicely. We took our time on the return trip, taking pictures along the way
and enjoying one another’s company. We stopped for a break on a fallen
tree, waiting for the stragglers to catch up. We arrived back at the
trailhead about 2:00 PM, took some more obligatory photos and headed back
to the valley. The hike was awesome, the weather cooperated, and hikers
provided good company for one another. Little Saddle Mountain Trail is
Photos courtesy of Cyd Cassel, Michael Humphrey and Barry Altschuler.