Butcher Jones Trail
Butcher Jones Trail leads you through the Sonoran Desert to the shores of Saguaro Lake and the Salt River. This is an absolute oasis in the middle of the desert and an excellent place to spot wildlife like bighorn sheep, javelinas, and bald eagles. If you’re exceptionally lucky, you could even spot the wild horses of the Lower Salt River while travelling through the area. The hike is moderately difficult, with some narrow, rocky sections of trail and occasional overgrowth. It’s mostly downhill for the first half of the hike, and then you’ll be gaining moderate elevation on the way back.
There is a beach and picnic area near the trailhead, so consider bringing along your picnic blankets and some bathing suits to cool off after your hike. Speaking of cooling off, this area can get incredibly hot in the summer months. We don’t recommend this hike between June and August, and you should be sure to bring lots of sunscreen, water, and protective clothing if you’re hiking between March and November.
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Route Description for Butcher Jones Trail
Butcher Jones Trail is a rugged, scenic hike that takes you along the shore of Saguaro Lake to the Salt River. This hike is an excellent choice for those who like to watch wildlife, especially birds. Osprey, peregrine falcon, bald eagle, and more can be spotted in this area. You may also be treated to a sighting of the wild horses that live near the Salt River in Tonto National Forest.
This trail is moderately difficult. The elevation gain is quite modest, but you’ll need to contend with narrow, rocky stretches of trail. Parts of this route may also be overgrown. Because of this, good boots and long pants (if you can stand them in the heat) are recommended.
Keep in mind that rattlesnake season runs from April to October. If you see or hear a snake, keep a safe distance.
Since this hike starts near the beach, we definitely recommend bringing some swimming attire and cooling off after your adventures. There’s also a picnic site at the lake.
From the trailhead, hike down to the shores of the lake. You’ll make your way along the water as you walk around Peregrin Cove, the first of many small coves you’ll pass. These are popular spots for fishers.
Admire the tall saguaro cacti as you explore, which dot the landscape in addition to several other kinds of cacti. The route dips down to the lakeshore at Campers Cove, then crosses the spit to the Salt River side.
Your trip out ends at the shore of the Salt River. It’s been mostly downhill on the way out, so you’ll need to gain your elevation on the return trip, but it’s not a challenging task.
As you hike back across the spit and then up the lakeshore, see if you can spot any birds, especially the area’s birds of prey. This oasis draws all sorts of animals to refresh in its waters.
Across the spit, you’ll turn uphill and do a bit of short-lived climbing to reach Peregrin Cove once again, hiking along the lakeshore to return to the beach and picnic area.
Toss out your towels, hop in the lake, and enjoy the rest of your day before heading out to your next adventure.
Hiking Route Highlights
Saguaro Lake is a small reservoir on the Salt River, formed by the Stewart Mountain Dam. The lake offers a beach and picnic area in addition to fishing opportunities. Fishers can catch rainbow trout, bass, carp, and more. The gem of Saguaro Lake is the 6.4 km hiking trail that follows the lakeshore and the shore of the Salt River. Despite the rugged desert surroundings of the lake, it’s an excellent place to birdwatch and spot mammals and reptiles.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do you need a pass for Butcher Jones Trail?
Yes. Pick up an $8 (subject to change) Tonto National Forest Day pass at the nearby Chevron or Circle K gas stations.
Can you swim in Saguaro Lake?
Yes, you can swim in the lake.
Is Butcher Jones always open?
The area is subject to occasional closures due to nearby wildfires. If there are fires in the area, plan to return another time.
Insider Hints for Butcher Jones Trail
- If you like off-roading, there is an OHV trail accessible from the picnic area road.
- Shiprock Restaurant is on the far west side of the lake if you need a snack after your hike.
Getting to the Butcher Jones Trail Trailhead
The trailhead for the Butcher Jones Trail is at the end of E Butcher Jones Beach Road.
Butcher Jones Trail Elevation Graph
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Butcher Jones Trail Reviews
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