★★★★★ Moderate / Phoenix Area:
Skirting Saguaro Lake, a stunningly beautiful desert gem, the Butcher Jones Hiking Trail crosses a sandy beach, intimate reed lined coves and high pinnacles with breathtaking views. The first half-mile is bustling with families and fishermen enjoying the lake. But after that the trail is completely hiker-centric.
TRAILHEAD: FR 166, Saguaro Lake, AZ • DIFFICULTY: MODERATE • DISTANCE: 2.5 MILES (5 MILES RT) • APPROX. TIME: 2.5-3 HOURS • ELEVATION GAIN: 600 FEET (43 STORIES) • APPROX. CALORIES BURNED: 750-520 • BEST TIME OF YEAR: SEPT.-JUNE • PETS: YES • KID FRIENDLY: YES please • FACILITIES: YES (BUT NO WATER) • FEES: $6 DAy use (or $85 Annual NATIONAL PARK PASS)
Tucked into the foothills of the Mazatzal Wilderness, Saguaro Lake is a small but spectacular gem plopped mid-desert! The Butcher Jones Hiking Trail winds around the northern edge of the lake, passing through a surprising mix of terrains.
Starting at the Butcher Jones Recreational area, with its popular shaded picnic areas, sandy beach and cool, clear water, the Butcher Jones Hiking Trail first winds along the lake’s lower shoreline. Fishermen and families dot the water’s edge, while kayakers and paddle boarders float around the protected coves.
The first stretch of the hike is mostly level, passing through dense groves of mesquite trees and then opening up onto nice views of a cove and the lake.
After winding around a long cove, the Butcher Jones Hiking Trail steepens a little and heads up to Peregrine Point. The views from this spot are to die for! Miniature looking boats appear and disappear as they zoom between the cliffs of Razorback Point to the eastern portion of the lake. On the shoreline below lush, emerald green marshes line the lake.
Past Peregrin Point, the trail descends once again. Small side trails lead out to the intimate reed lined coves, with their rocky shores, and cool lapping water, that were visible from above.
From here the Butcher Jones hiking trail heads inland for the next half-mile, crossing the barrier between the two main lake areas. Once across this dry desert swath, broad lake views appear once again. Shiprock protrudes from the water just outside the narrow pass below Razorback Point.
A side trail leads to the shore near Shiprock, while the Butcher Jones Hiking Trail veers left and heads down a hill to its end at Burro Cove. This last section gets less use and is a little overgrown. From the shore, views of the lake and Four Peaks Mountain in the distance are lovely.
According to state historian, Marshall Trimble, Butcher Jones was an influential surgeon and mine owner who sometimes performed operations on his dining room table. He lived in Arizona in the mid-1800s*. Guess that’s one way to have a trail named after you. *azcentral
Click here to download a trail map. Trail is #463
Directions From the intersection of Shea Boulevard and AZ 89 drive north on AZ 89 for 9.88 miles to Bush Highway. Turn Right / east on Bush Highway and continue for 2.5 miles to Forest Road 166. Turn left on FR 166 and drive for 2 miles to the Butcher Jones Recreational Area Parking lot at the end of the road. The trail head is on the northern side of the beach.
5 Responses to Butcher Jones Hiking Trail
this trail was not even worth the 12$ you actually have to pay to get in. It’s filled with people who leave their trash everywhere, there’s no shade so be prepared for that, no one even tells you about the swampy part where you have to go through trees that cover everything that looks like the scene from Snow White which isn’t a compliment. if you don’t go basically at the crack of dawn don’t go at all cause then you’ll basically walking through the desert. The trail is only one way in and out and it’s ugly don’t know how else to describe it. There’s snakes and this is definitely not kid or dog friendly if you take your kids or pets you should be ashamed of yourself. It’s not worth it unless you like looking at beer cans, circle k cups and cactus for more then 2 miles cause the trail itself is actually 4. and be prepared to get pricked by at least a few plants because that’s how narrow it is. It’s not worth it do not go for the trail save your money and enjoy the lake instead
So sorry you had this experience. The trails have definitely been more crowded (and unfortunately more littered) lately. We loved the lake views on this trail. Perhaps it would be better another time of the year.
The trail is beautiful. Come prepared with enough water for you and your pet and watch your step. Use your best judgement on best time of day to go and keep a good pace to get out of there before it heats up too much. You’re hiking in AZ during the summer…be smart about it and you’ll have a good time.
How long does the hike take?
If you do the full 5 miles round-trip, it usually takes 2.5-3 hours to complete.