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AZT - Passage 22 - Saddle Mountain

Intermediate

Trail

16.8 mile 27.1 kilometer point to point
88% Runnable
Intermediate

Elevation

Ascent: 3,972' 1,211 m
Descent: -1,654' -504 m
High: 5,782' 1,762 m
Low: 3,465' 1,056 m

Grade

Avg Grade: 6% (4°)
Max Grade: 32% (18°)

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Features -none-

Need to Know

There are 4 accesses to this trail segment. Bushnell Tanks Trail Head, Highway 87, and Cross F Trail Head, on the old Beeline Highway, both accessible by passenger car. The Mormon Grove TH at the end of FR25 and Peeley Mt. TH at the end of FR201 both need 4WD vehicles. An SUV will do.

You may find water in the stream bed near N33° 54.995’ W111° 29.814’.

The best camping on this section of trail is at McFarland Canyon, 5.5 miles from the north trail head. There are several nice tent sites, and water nearby in the stream bed. The better water is at the wilderness boundary about 1/4 mile downstream.

There is good water and camping at Thicket Spring, about 1.5 miles from the north end of this passage. The spring is well marked with a sign, a little north of the intersection with the Thicket Spring Trail.

Along this section of trail, you should be able to get cell phone service whenever you are in sight of Mount Ord, across the highway, with its distinctive nest of towers.

Description

Although Passage 22 starts where the AZT crosses under the highway, there is a lot of private land nearby. The proper trail head is the Bushnell Tanks TH at N33° 52.145’ W111° 27.914’, accessible on the highway by passenger car. From the locked gate, hike 1/3 mile down the road, where you will see signs and cairns directing you to the AZT. Once you intersect Passage 21, it is a short walk to the highway underpass (which is also a culvert for the creek).

The trail continues north along the back of private ranches; pretty but not wild. At 4 miles, the spur trail to the Cross F TH goes off to the right. This is the last TH accessible by passenger car, and there is good camping and water within about 1/3 mile of the AZT.

From here, it becomes increasingly wild. The trail follows the canyon of an unnamed creek, sometimes right in it, sometimes well above it. Enter the Mazatzal Wilderness at about 5.5 miles. This wilderness has beautiful rocks and peaks, white tail deer, and butterflies, but some dangers as well. I watched a burned tree fall in a gentle breeze. There are bears, mountain lions, and rattlesnakes.

At 7.5 mi, a trail goes off to the right to Mormon Grove. At 11.1 mi, you come to McFarland Canyon, the best camping on this segment, although there is some trash yet to be removed. There are two mines here.

Continuing north, at 12.5 mi, is the intersection with the poorly named and difficult “Thicket Spring Trail”. Thicket Spring is right on the AZT; you don’t need to take this alternate trail. There is a nice camp spot at Thicket Spring, and good water, a short 1.5 miles from the Peeley Mt. Trail head and the end of the passage.

Flora & Fauna

I have seen 3 white tailed deer along the trail, bear scat and mountain lion scat, and a rattlesnake stretched out across the trail.

Also have seen hawks close up, and heard owls at night. It is quiet enough that I heard for the first time the faint vocalization of a crow with every wing flap, along with its occasional call.

Butterflies are very common in late summer. Insects hang out near the water. I met an abundance of gnats one weekend, but they were gone then next.

I recommend tweezers in your first aid kit for pulling cactus spines.

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#786

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Photos

This area was subject to fire a few years ago. Although there are few large trees remaining, the snags can be quite beautiful.
Sep 23, 2018 near Tonto B…, AZ
Be aware of the dangers of falling trees. I watched one fall in a light breeze. This one had fallen across the trail very recently, possibly since the last hiker passed by.
Sep 23, 2018 near Tonto B…, AZ
One of many fascinating rock formations along the Little Saddle Mt. Trail.
Sep 16, 2018 near Tonto B…, AZ
This section contains milepost 400 of the AZT.  I thought this was kind of cool.
Sep 23, 2018 near Tonto B…, AZ

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