Kaibab National Forest

Kaibab National Forest

Saddle Mountain Wilderness Area

The Saddle Mountain Wilderness lies in the southeastern corner of the North Kaibab Ranger District and abuts the eastern edge of the Kaibab Plateau. It was established in 1984. The area contains approximately 40,610 acres of rugged land characterized by narrow drainage bottoms adjacent to steep and very steep ascending scarp slopes. The main ridge falls off into sheer walls on the south to form the Nankoweap Rim.

Elevations range from 6,000 feet to over 8,000 feet. The name originates from the profile of a prominent ridge that appears from the distance as a "saddle", horn and all. Vegetation is diverse. It ranges from pinyon pine - Utah juniper in the lower areas to mixed conifers in the highlands. The lower elevations provide valuable mule deer winter range, whereas the higher elevations of the southern portion provide summer habitat for deer and blue grouse. In the upper portion of House Rock Valley a herd of buffalo roam. Several springs below the rim provide water for the lower regions.

A number of roads provide access to the wilderness edge and several trails lead into its inner reaches.Vistas within the Saddle Mountain Wilderness offer spectacular views of the Grand Canyon, Marble Gorge, Cocks Comb, House Rock Valley, and the Vermilion Cliffs. Recreational opportunities include photography, day hiking, backpacking, cross-country skiing, and winter camping, as well as small and big game hunting.

Location:

57 miles south of Fredonia. (southeast section of the North Kaibab Ranger District)
Size:

40,610 acres
Elevation:

6,000 to 8,400 feet
Season:

Mainly used from May 15 to November 1 because of inaccessibility during winter and early spring months. No seasonal restrictions; possible closure during heavy use periods.
Use Restrictions:

No motorized vehicles or mechanized equipment may be operated in the Saddle Mountain wilderness.
Topography:

This wilderness straddles the eastern escarpment of the Kaibab Plateau. Gentle slopes on top of the plateau change to sudden drop-offs at the rim. Narrow drainages cut their way into the plateau's flanks.
Trails:

Trail #4 - North Canyon
Trail #6 - South Canyon
Trail #7 - East Rim
Trail #31 - Saddle Mountain
Trail #57 - Nankoweap

Springs:

There are only four year-round springs in this area. Three are along the plateau rim, east of DeMotte Park at the head of North Canyon; the other one is just below the rim near the head of South Canyon. All water should be treated before human consumption. North Canyon has a perennial stream below the plateau rim.
Campsites:

There are no developed campsites, but you will often find sites where fire rings exist. Because of the steep terrain, best camping is near (but not in) drainage bottoms. Avoid ridge tops during lightning storms, and be aware that flash floods can occur in dry washes, as a result of upstream thunderstorms.
Cultural Resources:

Saddle Mountain Wilderness contains diverse cultural resources, sometimes in high densities. The area was occupied by prehistoric peoples from before the time of Christ until approximately AD 1100.
Weather:

The upper reaches of the Wilderness will be cool and moist in the summer and cold and wet in the winter. The lower elevations are warmer and drier. Precipitation varies from an average of 14" per year at the lowest areas, to 25" or more above the east rim. Local thunderstorms are common in July and August.
Wildlife:

The higher elevations are used as winter range by mule deer. North Canyon has a viable population of threatened Apache trout. Buffalo and antelope use the lower elevations in House Rock Valley. Also associated with the timbered areas are blue grouse and turkey. Various parts of the area are home to coyote, bobcat, fox, and small mammals such as rabbits, squirrels, and rodents. There are also toads, frogs, lizards, and snakes. Be aware of a possible encounter with rattlesnakes, the only poisonous snake in the area.
Vegetation:

A wide diversity of vegetation exists because of the variation in soil, aspect, elevation, and slope. The pinyon-juniper woodland in the lower reaches includes big sagebrush, cliffrose, blue grama, junegrass, squirreltail, and mutton grass. At higher elevations the conifer forest is dominated by spruce, Douglas fir, white fir, and ponderosa pine, and includes Gambel oak, aspen, brome grasses, and pine dropseed.

Maps:

North Kaibab Recreation Map, North Kaibab Ranger District

Directions

#1 Go east on US 89A, take Forest Road 445 south and then Forest Roads 211 and 631.
#2 Go south on AZ 67, take Forest Roads 213, 219, 610 and 611.