Saddleback Butte SP
Experience the Beauty of the Desert
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 95° F and occasionally range as high as 115° F, but evenings are peaceful with warm breezes and clear skies. Average minimum temperature during the winter is 33 ° F (frost and sub-freezing temperatures are common, with occasional snow).
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 360° 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.
Domestic dogs are not allowed on trails in California State Parks (with the exception of service dogs), to retain the welcoming habitat for wildlife that the park was created for. Dogs are allowed in the day-use and campground areas and along 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.
Day-use facilities within the park include 27 picnic sites with tables and barbecue grills, each with ramadas for protection from the sun and wind. Water and pit toilets are located near the picnic area.
Visit our park office and visitor center, located at the entrance to the day-use area, featuring displays and hands-on exhibits about the natural and cultural history and geology of the area.
The family campground is first-come, first-served and offers 50 units with tables, stoves, fire rings, and shade ramadas. 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. 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.
The Joshua Group Camp holds a maximum of 30 people and 12 vehicles; contact the Mojave Sector Office at (661) 946-6092 or by email to make a reservation. Group camp site is $100 per night; cash or check only.
A 4.5 mile horse trail skirts the lower north and west base of the butte. The trail is outlined by rock and a fence; horses must be kept within the designated trail and staging area. The staging area for horse trail use is located at 200th Street East and Avenue J-8, and has easy pull-through access for large vehicles. A 10-mile loop trip can be made by beginning at the North-East Equestrian staging area and exiting at the Saddleback Butte maintenance yard gate, then continuing around the south and east sides of Saddleback Butte. Equestrian use is regulated to preserve the integrity of the park so gates require the lock combination; information and the lock combination to access the trail may be obtained through the Mojave Sector Office at (661) 946-6092. Horse camping is not available. Group events are welcome, scheduled in advance.
Saddleback Butte State Park is home to many once-abundant desert species that are slowly being extinguished by hunting, agriculture, and increased population; such as coyotes and kit foxes, 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. One special highlight of the park is the Desert Tortoise, which is often seen by those park visitors that have curiosity and patience enough to learn the quiet, unhurried ways of this age-old desert animal. If seen, however, the tortoise must be left alone as it is now listed as threatened on the Endangered Species List.
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.
The park is 17 miles east of Lancaster on 170th Street East, between East Avenue J and East Avenue K.
From Highway 14, take the Avenue K exit and go east to 170th street East. Turn left, and the campground entrance is shortly on the right; the day-use area is 1 mile further down at Avenue J.
From Highway 15, take Highway 138 west, and turn right on 165th Street East. It curves around and becomes 170th, continue on 170th to East Avenue K and J.
- Hours of Operation:
Day-use area is available sunrise to sunset.
- Park Office Telephone:
Los Angeles CountyCounty
Max Camper Length:
30 FeetMax Trailer Length
- Purchase Annual Passes
Park Use Fees
Fees payable by cash or check only. Self-registration stations are located at:
Day-Use Area: off East Avenue J and 170th Street East or
Campground: off East Avenue K and 170th Street East.
$6 per vehicle.
$5 with seniors.
$3 for disabled.
$20 per site per night.
$18 with seniors.
$10 for disabled.
Includes one vehicle and towed trailer; $5 each additional vehicle.
8 people max per site.
First-come, first-served only.
$100 per night.
30 people max; 12 vehicle max. Contact the sector office at (661) 946-6092 or by email to make a reservation.
Individual use $6 per person.
Group events are $25, paid in advance; call (661) 946-6092 to schedule an event.
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