I first heard about the Saddle Mountain BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land at the 2015 Rubber Tramp Rendezvous. I ran into a guy I’d previously met in New Mexico, and he told me about the BLM land surrounding Saddle Mountain, but I didn’t make it out there before I set out for my summer job. In early winter 2016, my friend Coyote Sue took a trip to the area, and I decided I REALLY wanted to go there.
One reason I hadn’t gone sooner was because I didn’t have very good directions. The guy who first told me about the place pointed to it on an old Arizona map, but he wasn’t able to tell me what roads to take. I was a little worried about going out there and getting myself lost. Before I set out on my trip, I did some research by searching “saddle mountain free camping Arizona” on Google. I got a hit on the Free Campsites website.
On Free Campsties I found the GPS coordinates (33.458626, -113.055023) and plugged those right into Google maps. (Thanks Google!)
I’ll just go ahead and give directions so nobody has to do all that work him/her self.
From Interstate 10 in Arizona, take exit 94 toward Tonapah. Turn left onto 411th Avenue. Keep going south for almost three miles, passing Osborn Road and the Saddle Mountain RV Park. You’ll get to a T in the road. Turn right onto West Salome Highway. (If you go left, you will end up in Buckeye, AZ.) Drive for 5.2 miles, then turn left onto Courthouse Road. Both West Salome Highway and West Courthouse Road are paved and both have official street signs. After 1.8 miles on West Courthouse Road, turn left onto the Saddle Mountain BLM land.
Like a dumbass, I had not written down the distances I was supposed to go on each road. I found Salome Highway easy enough (411th Avenue ends, go left or right, no big deal), but I’d gotten a little worried after a couple of miles that Courthouse Road wasn’t signed, and I’d missed it. I kept going, then saw the sign for Courthouse Road and breathed a sigh of relief. I wasn’t lost. However, because I didn’t know how far I was supposed to go on that road and my last direction was simply “turn left,” I didn’t know where to turn onto BLM land.
I drove slowly and kept an eye to the left, hoping to see a sign. I didn’t see a sign, but I did see a kiosk. Although I couldn’t read the words Saddle Mountain on the top of the kiosk, I suspected I was in the right place and turned down the road. When I got closer and read the words up there, I knew I’d made it.
The kiosk didn’t have any information on it, other than one sign saying this is a pack-in/pack out area. (There are no amenities in this area, not even a trash can or a pit toilet.)
I drove south on the road, which I later found out is Route 8211. This road is not paved, but is what I would describe as a “good” dirt road. My conversion van had no trouble getting down it.
As I drove down Route 8211, I saw one RV, an older, medium size motor home which was about to pull out of its spot. The people in it waved to me as I drove by. During the time I was there (Wednesday afternoon to Saturday morning), I didn’t see any other folks camping in the area.
As I was trying to find a spot, I realized I could see bits of civilization to the north. Sure, I wasn’t looking at a metro area, but I could see vehicles (including many 18-wheelers) driving past on I-10. I could also see a couple of large industrial operations between my location and the interstate. I decided to park the van so my side doors opened to the south, which offered a view of mountains and cacti, not the trappings of humanity.
Once the sun went down, I could see a good number of ligths to the north and the northeast, which also detracted from the sense of being alone in the wilderness. Sure, Saddle Mountain is well out of the city, but I didn’t feel as if I were in the middle of nowhere.
That situation might have been remedied if I had driven farther down Route 8211. On Friday evening, I went for a walk to the south on that road and found many other places where folks had obviously boondocked before. There were plenty of flat spots to park a rig, and I saw fire rings made from rocks obviously gathered in the area. I didn’t move the van; I was much too lazy for that. However, next time I stay there, I will drive to the end of the road and try to find a place where I can’t see one bit of civilization.
Although I could see vehicles on the interstate, thankfully, I couldn’t hear them. I didn’t hear much human noise out there. The sound of a car engine passing on the road in front of the van did wake me up on Wednesday night. When I looked at my watch, I saw it was 11:30. I thought it was a weird time to go exploring, but whatever. I heard the car pass by again, headed to the main road, before too long. On Thursday morning, a couple and their dogs walked on the road in front of the van; the woman and I waved at each other. Several hours later, they walked past again, going back to their vehicle, I assume. On Friday the sound of a man and a little boy walking by caught my attention, but other than those situations, maybe two other cars driving on Route 8211, and a few aircraft flying overhead, I only heard the sounds of nature.
I absolutely enjoyed my time in the Saddle Mountain area, and hope to stay there again.
I took all of the photos in this post. They were all taken in the area around where I camped near Saddle Mountain.
Love the pictures! The cactus looks great!
I’m glad you enjoyed the photos, Laura-Marie! Thanks for reading and commenting.
Thanks – Plan on stopping here for a while on the way to Utah this spring!
Glad you found this information useful, Betty Karl. Once you stop at Saddle Mountain, please post another comment letting us know what you think.
Thanks for reading and commenting.
I really love your blog layout. The colors and patterns are really beautiful. I had visited this camp before upon recommendation from Bob Wells. At the time, when I drove in, it felt like a lonely sort of a place for me at that time and season. But, I think I’d like to try it one day on my way through to Phoenix or Cottonwood, or somewhere in that direction!
I really like the blog layout too, Gloria. I think it is better than the one I had before and more reflective of who I am as a person and an artist.
I can see how Saddle Mountain could feel lonely. I think it is best for people who are looking for quiet and seclusion…However, my post reflects only a few days there. Who knows? There may be times of year when it is really busy.
If you do stop there again sometime, please post another comment about what you thought.
Thanks for reading and commenting.
I love it when other folks do my homework for me. This spot is super handy for a lot of coming & going. I especially appreciate the exact directions. I often lose heart when I really dont know if I’m “there yet”. Love to all, M
I’m glad you found this post helpful, Maggie A. I don’t just lose heart when I don’t know exactly where I am going; sometimes I am paralyzed with fear! Plugging the GPS coordinates into Google Maps really helped me. I do recommend driving all the way to the end of the road before picking a spot. I have the tendency to stop too soon.
Thanks for reading and leaving a comment.