The United States Congress designated the Saddle Mountain Wilderness (map
) in 1984 and it now has a total of 41,143 acres
All of this wilderness is located in Arizona
and is managed by the Forest Service.
Straddling the eastern edge of the Kaibab Plateau the Saddle Mountain Wilderness is a rugged land of narrow drainage bottoms and steep scarps (a line of cliffs produced by faulting or erosion). The gentle slopes on the main ridge of the area drop dramatically to form the Nankoweap Rim on the south. Elevations range from about 6,000 feet on Marble Canyon Rim to 8,000 feet on Saddle Mountain itself, a prominent ridge with a profile that resembles a saddle, horn and all. Utah juniper and pinion pine in the lowlands give way to mixed conifers in the highlands. In 1960 a raging fire destroyed approximately 8,000 acres of trees, but the vegetation in the area has rebounded. Regrowth vegetation includes a dense mass of locust, oak, aspen, elderberry, and young coniferous trees. Several smaller fires have occurred in the area in recent years. A perennial stream flows in North Canyon, spawning ground for the endangered Apache trout. Four year-round springs, three in North Canyon and one in South Canyon, provide water. Mule deer, grouse and turkeys live in the timber, and other mammals, birds, and reptiles are permanent residents, including rattlesnakes. Bison, introduced within the last century, can occasionally be observed in the wilderness. Trailheads accessing the wilderness originate at the top of the Kaibab Plateau and at its base in House Rock Valley. The Saddle Mountain Trail parallels the main ridge for approximately four miles and rewards hikers with views of the Marble Canyon Gorge, Cocks Comb, House Rock Valley, and the Vermilion Cliffs. It also provides access into Grand Canyon National Park. The North and South Canyon trails, seven and four miles long, respectively, follow canyon bottoms. Portions of both trails, when descending from the top of the Kaibab Plateau into lower elevations, are very steep. This area receives relatively heavy human use, but in winter and early spring snow often makes access difficult.