Saddleback Butte State Park
Saddleback Butte, elevation 3,651 feet, is a granite mountaintop that towers some thousand feet above the broad alluvial bottom land of the Antelope Valley about fifteen miles east of Lancaster, on the western edge of the Mojave Desert. The state park surrounding Saddleback Butte was created in 1960 to protect the butte (one of many similar land features in the Antelope Valley) and examples of native Joshua Tree woodlands and other plants and animals that were once common throughout this high desert area.
The best time to visit is in the springtime (February through May) when wildflowers are apt to put on a beautiful display of color. Autumn (October and November) is pleasant as well, although temperatures may vary widely and change rather suddenly. Summer temperatures average 95º F and occasionally range as high as 115º F, but evenings are peaceful with warm breezes and clear skies. Average minimum temperature during the winter is 33º F (frost and sub-freezing temperatures are common, with occasional snow).
For wildflower bloom and current event updates, follow us at www.Facebook.com/SaddlebackButte.
The day-use picnic area, located near the East Avenue J and 170th Street East park entrance, has 12 picnic sites with a table and barbecue grill under a shade ramada.
The park office and visitor center is open weekends in September-June (Note: Visitor center is currently also closed for June 2018) from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., featuring displays and hands-on exhibits about the natural and cultural history of the area.
Late-Night Use: The park is popular for stargazing activities and astronomical event viewing. After sunset, visitors must occupy a campsite and camping fees apply. The campsite may be used all night, but please observe park quiet hours and respect neighboring campers.
The campground is first-come, first-served with 37 sites containing a table, BBQ grill, and fire ring. Most sites have a ramada to provide shade and a wind block. Potable water faucets and full restrooms with a flush toilet and sink are located throughout the campground (no showers). Eight people maximum per campsite.
Campfires are permitted within designated fire rings. DO NOT collect firewood from the park- it is illegal, and dead vegetation provides critical habitat for the desert wildlife. Firewood may be purchased from the camp host for $5 (proceeds go to our non-profit support association). Firewood bundles are also available at the Saddleback Market, 4 miles south of the park.
RVs/Trailers: Parking slots in the main loop are a minimum of 30 feet deep; length varies by campsite. Slots are angled for ease of backing in. Use of the RV dump station is $10 (credit card only).
Group Camp: The Joshua Group Camp accommodates 9-30 people and 12 vehicles. Use is by reservation only, for $100 per night. Contact the Mojave Sector Office at (661) 946-6092 or by email to make a reservation.
Saddleback Butte State Park is home to many once-abundant desert species that are slowly declining due to hunting, agriculture, and increased population; such as coyotes and kit foxes, desert tortoises, jack rabbits, cottontail rabbits, ground squirrels, kangaroo rats, many kinds of snakes and lizards, and the occasional badger or skunk. Be cautious of the sidewinder and Mojave Green rattlesnakes (the deadliest of the rattlers), which come out in the warm weather. Wildlife may be seen by those park visitors that have curiosity and patience to learn the quiet, unhurried ways of the desert habitat. If seen, however, please do not disturb them as this park is designated to preserve their home.
Bird life includes many migratory species, and a few permanent residents- golden eagles, hawks, ravens, and owls, and some smaller birds such as rock and cactus wrens, thrashers, blackbirds, horned larks, ladderbacked woodpeckers, sparrows, finches, and loggerhead shrikes.
A 4.5 mile horse trail skirts along the base of the butte, from a staging area on the north side of the park to an equestrian rest area at the south-west corner of the park. The staging area has easy pull-through access for large vehicles, a picnic table, and chemi-toilet. The rest area features picnic tables and a water trough. Riders may also enter via horse walk-over gates at both ends of the trail.
Equestrian use fee is $3 per horse. Horses are only allowed in the staging area and on the equestrian trail, which is lined by rocks and a fence. Horse camping is not available. Group events are welcome, scheduled in advance. The trailer staging area and payment station is located at 200th Street East and East Avenue J-8 (off East Avenue J). For vehicle entry, call (661) 724-1206 for the lock combination.
The Little Butte Trail is about 2.5 miles to the peak and can be picked up from below the day-use area, or take the 2-mile Saddleback Butte Peak Trail from the trailhead parking area in the campground. The trails begin on a mild slope through moderately loose sand among creosote bushes and Joshua trees to the base of the butte where they merge. It then becomes a challenging climb up sand and rock, but the finale is worth every step. At the top, enjoy a breathtaking 360º view over the Antelope Valley and east across the Mojave desert. For a nice moderate 3-mile loop, go up one trail to where they merge, come back down on the other, then return on the park's gravel road to the trailhead where you started. See the "Equestrian" section for additional trail information. Day-use vehicle entrance fee applies.
Dogs are not allowed on trails in California State Parks (with the exception of service dogs), to minimize impact on the wildlife that the park was created for. Dogs are allowed in the picnic area and campground, and may be walked on the 2/3 mile park road in between, on a 6-foot leash. See Visiting Parks with your Dog for more information.
The short self-guided Dic Dowen Nature Trail is located at the Visitor Center in the day-use area, with information on the natural history of the park and area.