OverviewSaddleback Butte is a Cretaceous granite mountain that towers 1,000' above the Antelope Valley in the western Mojave Desert near Lancaster, CA. It is shaped like a saddle, with the highest point being northeast of the saddle. At the top there are superb views of the desert floor as well as the surrounding higher mountains. To the south are the San Gabriel Mountains, to the southeast the San Bernardino Mountains, and to the northwest the Tehachapi Mountains. This makes for an excellent climb during the winter months when these higher mountains are snow-bound. Spring and fall are also very pleasant. Summertime can be brutal, so I wouldn't recommend climbing then.
To get to the top of the butte you can either take a trail from the picnic area, the Little Butte Trail (2.5 miles one way, 950' climb) or from the campground, the Saddleback Butte Trail (2 miles one way, 1050' climb). The trails are well marked with yellow-tipped posts up to the saddle of Saddleback Butte. The trail surface is quite sandy until you get close to the saddle then it is more rocky. The last 0.3 miles or so to the summit, northeast of the saddle, is fairly easy to follow, but you won't see any signs or posts after the saddle. At the top there is a USGS marker but I did not see a register.
There appeared to be a faint trail climbing the secondary peak on the other side of the saddle, though I have not tried this route as of this time.
Saddleback Butte is in the middle of a state park of the same name. This park is a island refuge for many desert animals including the California State Reptile - the desert tortoise. The desert tortoise is an endangered species, so please respect them and keep your distance if you should be so lucky to come across one. Coyotes, fox, cottontails and jack rabbits, ground squirrels, kangaroo rats, lizards, Mojave Green rattlesnakes (the most dangerous of rattlesnakes), and various bird species such as golden eagles, hawks, ravens and migratory species can also be seen. Vegetation consists of cresote bushes and many large Joshua Trees. This is a good spot to see spring desert wildflowers February through April.
Archaeologists believe that this area has been used by various native groups for at least 10,000 years. Back then large lakes covered the Antelope Valley, but after climate change dried them up people left the area. In 1848 they returned for gold and in 1876 for the railroad. Now the immediate area is sparsely settled, but nearby Lancaster and Palmdale are thriving communities.
The park is 17 miles east of Lancaster on 170th Street East, between East Avenue J and East Avenue K. (Lancaster is north of Los Angeles on Hwy 14)
There is a $6 fee for day use. Please practice Leave no Trace ethics. All park features are protected by law and must not be disturbed. Dogs and horses are not allowed on the trail up to the peak, however there is an equestrian trail that traverses the park.
The family campground is first-come, first-served and offers 50 units with tables, stoves, fire rings, and shade ramadas. The fee is $20/night and $5 for additional vehicles. Potable water spigots and full restrooms with a flush toilet and sink are located throughout the campground (no showers). Eight people maximum per campsite. There is a 30-foot max for campers/RVs. Use of the RV dump station is free for paid campers, or a $6 fee for non-campers.
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. Bring your own, or firewood bundles are available at the Saddleback Market, 4 miles south of the park.
The group camp holds a maximum of 30 people and 12 vehicles; reservations are required through ReserveAmerica. Fee is $100/night.
Saddleback Butte State Park Website
Saddleback Butte State Park Brochure and Map
Weather conditions for the nearby hamlet of Lake Los Angeles