Photo Left: Rock pinnacles seen while hiking the east-facing slopes of Saddle Rock.
Randy Riggs called to say he had a new route around Saddle Rock he thought I might not have walked.
“Implausible,” I thought. It was a thought not stated, because even if you’re arrogant, why advertise your flaws? “Where’s it go?”
“Starts from South Hills Drive, cuts under the east face of Saddle Rock, wraps around the south side of the summit cliffs.” I knew Randy’s route but I didn’t interrupt because even if you’re a done-that, know-it-all jerk, why open your mouth and prove it?
“Then you traverse west,” Randy continued, “go through Little Utah Canyon, climb past Saddle Rock Lake, and intersect the Ridge Trail.”
“Saddle Rock Lake?” I interrupted.
“So you haven’t found that yet?” Randy was pleased with himself.
Two days later Randy was leading me on a four-mile loop circumnavigating Saddle Rock. On our circuit, we entered the Saddle Rock area by walking roads to South Hills Drive, and then climbing trails under the east face of the rock cliffs. This part of the route was familiar but my recollections of just how rocky, treed, and pretty these slopes were had grown fuzzy.
We wrapped around the southern shoulder of Saddle Rock and intersected the main dirt road climbing up from the Circle Street trailhead. “Now it gets interesting,” Randy said as we started traversing west. We traversed grassy slopes leading to a gulley filled with gray and rust-colored rock layers, oddly canted sandstone boulders, and a little flock of stunted ponderosas. “Doesn’t this look like Utah?”
We climbed through Little Utah along a ridiculously steep segment of trail and suddenly spread out before us were the sparkling waters of Saddle Rock ‘Lake.’ “Isn’t she a beauty,” Randy said as I stood on her shores and took in her stunted length and width. “Who’d have thought something like this was hidden back here…or that it could actually hold water year-round?”
“Surprising,” I agreed. “And as Colchuck Lake is to blue, Saddle Rock Lake is to green,” I said giving context to the lake’s unusual color.
We hiked on, climbing up to the Ridge Trail. Here we were back on familiar ground and I followed Randy as we worked our way back toward the rock towers of Saddle Rock. We wrapped around the northern shoulder of the towers and descended the steep, loose trails dropping back toward the start of our loop.
“So what did you think?” Randy asked when we had had polished off the circuit.
I thought about the diverse terrain, varied views, hidden canyon, and the lake…all packed into a short hike. I thought how many times I had visited Saddle Rock yet never seen parts of this hike or strung trail segments together into a loop like this one.
“It’s beautiful,” I told him. “And completely surprising.
Attractions. It’s short and sweet. It offers grand views of town, Pitcher Peak, Twin Peaks, the Columbia, and Saddle Rock itself. It will expose you to places in the Saddle Rock environs you may have never seen. It’s a good workout. And much of the route is quiet and little traveled. Look for these native plants along the Foothills.
Recommended uses: Hiking, trail running, family outings. Horses are allowed in the Saddle Rock area, but we recommend that equestrians not ride this circuit because about a third of the route is on narrow trails traversing steep sidehills and horses will damage the fragile shoulders of these trails.
Length: 3.75 miles of trail. Elevation gain: 1400 feet.
Difficulty: 2+ (intermediate fitness, intermediate route finding, intermediate-plus walking–some of the trails are loose and narrow).
Access. Our map below shows two starting points in Wenatchee. 1) The main option: Drive south on Miller Street until it makes a right-hand bend to become Circle Street, drive a few hundred yards to the end of the street, and park in the primitive gravel lot (elevation 1,065 feet). 2) Alternate Option: Park alongside the Wenatchee High School track on Red Apple Road (no amenities), walk uphill (west) on Red Apple Road, turn left on South Hills Drive, walk roughly 250 yards, take a gravel road on the right heading into the Saddle Rock Area (elevation: 975’). Note: Don’t park on South Hills Drive.
Trip Instructions. The network of trails in the Saddle Rock parcel is not signed. Use our map to the right and/or our waypoints to follow the circuit from either access point and to find Saddle Rock Lake. From Circle Street: follow waypoints 1 to 14 in order. At waypoint 14, follow waypoints 3, 2, 1 back to the car. From South Hills Drive: complete a circuit following waypoints 11, 12, 13, 14, 04, 05, 06, 07, 08, 09, 10, 11. Note: Trails abound in the Saddle Rock area — our map does not show them all.
Seasons. These trails can be walked year-round with the spring wildflower season (mid April to early June) and fall (mid September to late October) being the prettiest times. The area is hot and dry in the summer, but the walking early or late in the day is still very pleasant. In winter, the trails/roads are frequently muddy and visitors should stay off if their passage leaves footprints or ruts more than a ¼ -inch deep. Plan your winter visit early or late in the day when the trails are frozen.
Usage Rules / Recommendations. Saddle Rock is a mixture of private and public land and, as of 2009, is not a formally managed trail system. There are a number of friction points caused by the recreational use of the area. By following the formal rules (what the landowners want) and the other recommendations (practices that protect the trails, the land, or the experience of others) most of the friction points can be eliminated and future access to this area can be protected.
- Formal Rules. 1) No motorized use. 2) No fires. 3) No camping. 4) No new trail-building. 5) No cross-country travel (remain on existing trails). 6) Leash and pick-up after your dog. Note: The rules about leashing and scooping the poop of dogs varies by landowners. We’ve listed the strictest rules because most users don’t know whose property they are on.
- Other Recommendations. 1) Don’t litter and pick up trash found along the way (this applies to the parking areas too). 2) In spring and early summer before the plants have flowered, pull noxious weeds found along your route. 3) Stay off wet trails if you’re leaving tracks more than ¼-inch deep (ruts left by mountain bikes, postholes left by horses, and deep tracks left by hikers all hasten erosion and necessitate more trail maintenance).
Permits. None required.
Photo Left: Twin Peaks as seen from this hike.
Leave It Better Than You Found It. This should be every outdoor user’s goal. Pick up trash left by others, pull some noxious weeds along your route, throw branches over unwanted spur trails, don’t ride or walk wet trails when you’re leaving ruts/footprints deeper than ¼ inch…
Disclaimer. Treat this information as recommendations, not gospel. Conditions change, and those contributing these reports are volunteers–they may make mistakes or may not know all the issues affecting a route. You are still completely responsible for your decisions, your actions, and your safety. If you can’t live with that, you are prohibited from using our information.