Sacatar Trail Wilderness is spread over 51,900 acres of land and embodies the rugged and bleak eastern fringe of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The wilderness has a versatile landscape where the terrain shifts from alluvial fans to canyons and then deep valleys. Adorning these lands are ridgetops and granite peaks reaching towards the sky, stretching as far as 7,800 feet.
In addition to the topography, the flora and fauna of these lands are just as diversified with desert shrubs, creosote bush, and Joshua trees at the lower elevation. The upper slopes are taken over by pinyon-juniper woodlands and cacti.
Many canyons are beautiful, with springs and riparian habitats of grasses, willows, and cottonwoods. One of the biggest amongst the few pieces of evidence of human activity in the area is that of the Sacatar Trail. This trail is one of the reasons why the California Desert Protection Act protected this wilderness in 1994.
The Sacatar Trail is a spacious 11-mile trail that was originally a wagon road and allowed secure passage for caravans to the eastern slope of the southern Sierra. Today, this old wagon road provides rural access into the wilderness.
The wilderness also sports rich wildlife such as mule deer, prairie falcons, doves, and golden eagles to name just a few.
If you’re approaching from the east, then US 395 would bring you to dirt roads right into the Sacatar Canyon. Make sure your vehicle is equipped for this route. If you’re making your way through the Portuguese Canyon, you would need a four-wheel-drive as the terrain is extremely rough and rocky in some places.
Throughout the way, you’ll get many signs that will indicate the wilderness, closed roads, and closed routes, courtesy of the local management. You cannot take your mechanized and motorized vehicle in the wilderness area.
Like all BLM wildernesses, Sacatar Trail Wilderness allows primitive camping in its vast landscape. There aren’t any amenities and you’re required to bring everything on your own. Campfires are allowed as long as you only use dead and down wood. Cutting live vegetation is prohibited.
The stay limit is up to 14 days. Behaved and controlled pets are allowed on the campsite and in the wilderness. Respect these untouched lands and only use previously disturbed campsites to make minimum impact on the surrounding ecosystem.
The closest campground to the wilderness is only an hour and a half drive away in Lone Pine, and also happens to be a BLM campground. This campground is for visitors of Sacatar Trail Wilderness who’d like to have some more options and amenities when it comes to camping.
Turtle Creek Campground offers 83 campsites for RVs and tents. Ten of the campsites offer pull-thru spaces and the maximum RV length recommended in this campground is 30 feet. All the campsites come with fire rings, lantern holder, and picnic tables. Potable water and a dump station are provided at the campground. Group camping sites are also available at the campground.
Hunting upland game birds and deer hunting is a common recreation activity at the Sacatar Trail Wilderness. Under state and local laws, hunting, fishing, and non-commercial trapping is allowed in the wilderness. The hunters are advised to stay on public lands and clean up their cartridges. Glass and clay pigeon cannot be used. Hunting of small games and deer foraying from the adjoining wilderness is done here.
While the wilderness has numerous trails, the historic Sacatar Trail is one of the most popular ones. This old wagon road is located on the eastern side of the Sierras and the vegetation along this trail is extremely diverse. Its last use can be traced back to the 1880s by the military and others.
The trail is 5.5 miles long with an elevation gain of 6,256 ft and lots of climbing involved. Time has changed this path now, and due to the overgrowth of the forest around it, it is no longer wide enough for a wagon. But it's still wide enough to let the hikers through.
Plenty of birds live in this wilderness and plenty more migrate during the season. Birdwatchers visiting here would have the pleasure of beholding golden eagles, prairie falcons, quails, and doves perched on high trees or soaring above the cliffs.
The nesting sites of golden eagles are often threatened by shooting and electrocution. Stay patient and silent, and you’ll definitely get a chance to see the rare birds.
Sacatar Trail Wilderness is home to a wide range of wildlife species. Grazing abundantly in the wilderness is mule deer, and they are pretty hard to miss. If you are smart and quiet about it, you might also get a chance to observe desert tortoises, Mohave ground squirrel, and bats.
There are no limits and no restrictions when it comes to horseback riding in Sacatar Trail Wilderness. You can go anywhere you want and choose any trail you want. Motorized vehicles aren’t allowed inside the boundaries of the wilderness and hence horseback riding is the best way to get around if hiking isn’t your cup of tea. Make sure to bring water for your horses and carry feed.
While the highest point of the Sacatar Trail Wilderness is unnamed, it isn’t unpopular. One of the most common recreation activities is of climbing this highpoint with an elevation of 8,860 feet. This highpoint is ranked #1254 in California, so if you want to bag another peak, this is the place.