If you’re looking for a short adventure destination near Phoenix, there are plenty of options to choose from. One area which offers a good balance of scenic views and fewer crowds is the Bulldog Canyon. If you enjoy hiking, the Bulldog Saddle Trail lets you experience a bit of a physical challenge, while taking your ride through the Bulldog Canyon will require a higher ground clearance than most routes. Here’s a quick rundown of both options for your day trip.
When you go hiking, never forget the safety basics and essentials. In particular, watch out for the Arizona sun. Wear a hat, apply sunscreen, and stay hydrated – turn back before your water supply reaches half. Take advantage of the good cellphone signal to be in touch with your emergency contacts. Use a local navigation app to avoid getting lost.
The Bulldog Saddle Trail can be accessed from a parking area near the intersection of N Meridian Dr. with W. McDowell Blvd. There’s an information board, but otherwise, signage is pretty sparse. No need to worry, though – the trail is easy to follow. While you won’t need more than beginner skills to tackle the ascent, it’s quite rocky and requires a pretty good level of fitness.
From the fork, heading left will take you to the Peak of Interest Loop and Pass Mountain Trail, where you may encounter more local hikers and campers. Stay right to stick to the Bulldog Saddle Trail and enjoy a fair stretch of lightly travelled track with great views of the desert and its wildlife. If you prefer to keep away from crowds, this section of the trail will be well worth the effort, although it’s not frequently maintained and will present a moderate challenge throughout.
After following the Saddle Trail, you’ll arrive at a junction where you can access the Pass Mountain Trail, which leads on to the popular Maricopa Trail. If you’re up for a longer hike, you can follow this trail along part or all of its roughly 300-mile length, looping around the Greater Phoenix area. For a shorter extended adventure, you can try following the Peak of Interest Loop to Wind Cave Trail and take on some of the peaks in the Goldfields for more of a challenge.
Another way to experience the many trails in Phoenix is with a vehicle specialized for offroad driving. You can find lifted trucks for sale that have the necessary raised clearance, larger tires, and other customizations that make it possible to navigate obstacles and difficult terrain. Remember to comply with Arizona law and obtain the necessary training and licensing if you plan to further your interest in offroading.
Bulldog Canyon is accessible from several entry points, but you’ll need to apply for a free permit online first and check beforehand for any road closures. The access point from Forest Road 10 has north and south entrances, while access through Forest Road 3554 offers a shorter drive. As stated in the rules, you need to stick to marked trails, so refer to the map provided with your permit.
Any route you follow will provide a half-day of beginner-level offroading with splendid views of the surrounding desert and mountains. You can move on to adjacent trails for a higher technical challenge, or disembark along the nearby Salt River for some water activities. Camping is also permitted in some areas if you plan to stay the night.
Whether on foot or off the road in an elevated 4×4, Bulldog Canyon is a perfect destination for the quick day trip you have in mind – and offers more options should you choose to extend your stay.