Covering a modest 1,530 acres of land, Saddle Peak Hills Wilderness is the smallest designated wilderness area according to the California Desert Protection Act of 1994. Managed by the Bureau of Land Management, this wilderness region might be small, but it offers the chance for a remote Californian getaway and allows visitors the opportunity to partake in various recreation activities with little to no limitations. You can pick any marked or unmarked trails here to explore the depths of this wilderness region at your own pace and leisure.
The wilderness also includes some famous points, such as the northern end of Saddle Peak Hills and the northwestern portion of the Silurian Valley. These parts are rugged and remote, and perfect if you are seeking solitude and the thrill of being alone in the wild. Saddle Peak Hills Wilderness at its lowest elevation also shares its western and southern boundaries with the extremely popular Death Valley National Park.
The topography of this wilderness is made of hills carved by curving faults. The base elevation of the wilderness on the floor of the Silurian Valley is 500 feet, whereas the hills and rocky outcroppings rise as high as 2500 feet. The rest of the landscape of this wilderness carries the typical air of Southern California’s terrain with its expansive desert lands.
Remember, Saddle Peak Hills Wilderness is right next to Death Valley which – among many other things – is also known for being the place with the hottest temperatures ever recorded. The wilderness has a lot to offer as long you bring an adequate amount of water.
There are numerous signs such as “Wilderness” and “Closed Route” along the way at various intervals which will help you make sure you are going in the right direction. You can also park your vehicles outside the wilderness boundary and hike the rest of the way.
It is also advised that you bring along your digital as well as paper maps. Signals are often patchy at this side of the State and you should always have a paper map to rely on in case you get turned around.
The Bureau of Land Management permits primitive camping at Saddle Peak Hills Wilderness. The entire wilderness region is your potential campground but one should be sure to pick only disturbed sites whenever possible to protect and preserve this fragile ecosystem. Camping is limited to 14 days at a stretch after which you must relocate to an area at least 25 miles away from the previous one. When permitted, gathering wood for campfires should only be limited to dead and downed materials. Cutting live vegetation is prohibited.
BLM encourages visitors to use glycol-based antifreeze/coolant for their RVs. Pets are permitted in the wilderness as long as they are leashed.
Belle Campground is a small campground in Joshua Tree National Park, a fair distance away from Saddle Peak Wilderness.
This small campground boasts 18 RV campsites at an elevation of 3,800 ft. Campsites are provided on a first-come, first-served basis. The campground is equipped with pit and vault toilets that are open year-round. Make sure to bring your own water though as the campground doesn’t provide that.
You must also bring your own firewood and ensure that campfires should only be started in designated fire rings. The campground has a decent picnic area and can accommodate RVs up to 35 feet in length.
One individual campsite can be occupied by a maximum of 6 people, three tents, and two vehicles. Camping is permitted for up to 30-days.
The Bureau of Land Management permits non-commercial hunting, trapping, and fishing under state and local laws. Make sure to clean up once you’re done hunting and leave no traces behind.
The wilderness is home to various threatened species, so make sure to ask the authorities about game animals before setting out. You don't want to fall foul of the wildlife authorities on your trip.
Horseback riding is permitted throughout Saddle Peak Hills Wilderness. You can explore any trail on horseback. Just make sure to carry feed and enough water for both yourself and your horse.
Saddle Peak Trail exclusively allows horseback riding up to Saddle Peak and allows visitors the chance to enjoy spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean, Santa Monica Mountains, and even the cities of Los Angeles, and Malibu. This trail can be accessed through the Fossil Ridge Trail from the Lois Ewen Staging Area.
There are numerous easy day hikes in Saddle Peak Hills Wilderness that lead to the crest of the highest peak here. Once you climb up to the unnamed highpoint of the hills at an elevation of 2,280 feet, you’ll be able to get an eyeful of the beautiful sand dunes stretching out in the west and the green fields down below.
Summer hiking is risky because of the heat, whereas winter hikes can be very enjoyable. Some popular trails that lead to Saddle Peak Hills include backbone Trail, Saddle Peak Trail, and Stunt High trail.
The flats at Saddle Peak Hills Wilderness, situated at the southern end of Death Valley, is home to the famous Mojave fringe-toed lizards and desert tortoises. These hills also host bighorn sheep and occasionally wild horses and burros from the nearby Silurian Valley.
There are multitudes of trails to allow hikers the chance to explore the wilderness in complete solitude. As a matter of fact, an interesting way to approach the wilderness region is via the Stunt High Trail. Many visitors park their cars at the huge parking lot at the base of the Stunt High Trail and begin the gentle hike along the mesmerizing Cold Creek. The trail then ascends into meadows and chaparral and up to the northern slope of Saddle Peak Hills.
Photographers frequent the area in numbers in order to hike up to the highpoints of Saddle Peak Hills to capture aerial views of the sand dunes, and the Silurian Valley below. On a clear day, one can see Malibu, Los Angeles, the Pacific Ocean, and the Santa Monica Mountains which makes for quite a sight. The higher you go, the better the views, and even more captivating are the pictures.