The trail to Pilot Rock is an old mining road that leads to a dark red lava rock outcrop in the Colorado River that was once used by steamboat pilots for navigation. Today, Pilot Rock still serves modern boaters with a navigation light that blinks from the top at night.
The Pilot Rock Trail offers a nice desert mountain walk in open terrain through a variety of scenery ending at the Pilot Rock campsites on Lake Havasu. Hike is 3.5 miles one way, 7 miles round-trip.
Directions to Trailhead
Drive south on Hwy. 95 to S. McCulloch Blvd. (mile post 177, last signal before leaving town). Turn right and travel one mile to the second parking lot in SARA Park on the right, across from the Desert Hawks entrance road (elev 860 ft).
Trail Route Instructions
- Follow the trail straight out from the parking area which drops into SARA CANYON wash on the left and in ½ mile, just past some old fence posts and behind a tree, a trail climbs up the left bank. (If you miss it, you will find yourself in the crack wash in about 200 yards.)
- Just up the bank, keep right at the fork and follow this trail cross country until it drops into a small wash which soon curves around to the right. There is a short trail on the left which goes over a mound into the much larger Grand Wash.
- Cross the wash and continue up the trail on the other side, bearing right, until it meets a jeep trail. Turn right and follow the jeep trail to the lake, going right when the trail forks near a tree. This is a shortcut which will rejoin the jeep trail shortly. Continue straight ahead to the Pilot Rock campsite (elev 450 ft).
- Rather than returning back along the jeep trail, the return can also be made down in the Grand Wash. Look for a burro trail leaving the jeep road on the left soon after reaching the top of the hill after you pass the tree. Walk upstream in the wash just past Big Mountain where the ridge trail comes down from the right and crosses the wash. Exit left on the ridge trail back to SARA CANYON wash, then turn right to the parking area.
- If you intend to spend more than 20 minutes within 200 feet of Pilot Rock campsite, the user fee is $10 a day for up to six (6) people, with a $2 fee for each additional person. If you intend to camp, an additional overnight fee of $10 is good until 9 a.m. the following day.
- Fee ballards, known as “iron rangers,” are located onsite beside the picnic table. Funds should be deposited in the permit envelope and dropped inside the ballard. You must present a use permit upon demand to any authorized Bureau of Land Management official inspecting the site.
Arizona Hiking Safety
The rugged beauty of the Lake Havasu City area, just down the Colorado River from the Grand Canyon, makes a lasting impression. But the desert can be hazardous. Many trails are unmarked and infrequently traveled. Please consider these suggestions to make the most of your adventure:
- Avoid hiking during the summer, approximately June 15 to September 15, when daytime temperatures can reach 120° or more.
- Do not hike in washes when heavy rainfall is anticipated to avoid the threat of flash floods.
- Always take plenty of water; plan to carry at least one quart of water for every four hours you hike in direct sunlight.
- Wear a hat, sunglasses with UV-protection, and sunscreen.
- Print off a copy of the trail map from this webpage and carry it with you if the route is unfamiliar.
- Wear sturdy, thick-soled shoes and use a hiking stick if you easily lose your balance.
- Never hike alone and always let a responsible person know where you’re going and when you expect to return.
- Plan to leave on your hike early in the day to avoid the risk of being lost on the trail after dark.
- Travel light; the less you carry the more you will enjoy the hike.
- Leave nothing behind. We want our trails to remain beautiful for your return!
* Aesthetic rating: The more diamonds, the more desirable the trail the in terms of remoteness, natural features and scenic beauty