Saddle Mountain

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3.5/5 (2 reviews)
Payson, Arizona (Maricopa County)
Last Updated: 01/07/2023

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Located in the Tonto National Forest, at 2,873,200 acres, the largest of Arizona's National Forests, Saddle Mountain follows the sycamore-lined east and west forks of Sycamore Creek before beginning a climb that offers long views across a vast landscape of rolling hills and deep canyons carved by small streams fed by runoff from the looming Mazatzal Mountains, one peak being named Saddle Mountain, elevation 6525 feet. You will know which it is just from the name. The name Mazatzal is difficult to pronounce. Locals often just refer to the Mazatzal Mountains as the Mazzies. The name is attributed to an obscure native language now only spoken in central Mexico. It means "place of the deer." As difficult as the name may be, traversing the Mazzies is infinitely harder. The rugged and nearly impenetrable mountains, encased in the Mazatzal Wilderness Area, form a north/south spine in central Arizona crossed by no roads and very few foot trails. Saddle Mountain leads to one of those trails, the famed Arizona Trail, a National Scenic Trail that traverses Arizona's entirety from Mexico to Utah. The trailhead at the end of Saddle Mountain is unimpressive, but it sits on the edge of the vast and remote Mazatzal Wilderness. However, if you wish to be truly impressed by this trail, backtrack to one of the idyllic campsites along the West Fork of the Sycamore and set up camp beside that babbling little brook under the shade of the white-trunked sycamore trees. Kick back. Listen to the water rushing over the stones and the song of the wind in the treetops. Life doesn't get much better.

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