The Arizona Outback Online

 

ARIZONA WILDERNESS AREAS ~ PUBLIC LANDS ~ RECREATION SITES

 

"BLM-managed lands (14.26 million acres) are found throughout Arizona, with the greatest concentration in the northwestern corner and the west-central corridor of the State". BLM managed lands include both open public lands, and designated wilderness areas. The communities of the Arizona Outback provide excellent access to these areas.

Wilderness areas are best for Camping, Hiking, Rock Climbing, Backpacking, Horseback Riding, Hunting, and Wildlife / Wildflower viewing. Most Wilderness areas have designated areas where "off-road" vehicles are not allowed. This means to simply stay on the roads and trails that are available - vehicle and non-vehicle trails are clearly marked.

Use the map at left to click on a Wilderness Area title to read a brief overview or see below.

BIG HORN MOUNTAINS WILDERNESS:

This 21,000-acre wilderness lies 60 miles west of Phoenix in western Maricopa County. The precipitous 1,800-foot-high Big Horn Peak and neighboring desert plain escarpments give the wilderness exceptional scenic value, especially noticeable along Interstate Highway 10 south of the area. The Hummingbird Spring Wilderness, northeast of this area, is separated from the Big Horn Wilderness by a jeep trail. Nine miles of the jumbled Big Horn Mountains ridgeline cross the wilderness. The central mountainous core is surrounded by smaller hills, fissures, chimneys, narrow canyons, and desert plains. This wilderness offers many recreation opportunities such as hiking, backpacking, rock climbing, photography and nature study. Rugged ridges challenge expert climbers, while side canyons and plains offer easier hiking. This wilderness contains many desert species, such as the desert bighorn sheep, Gila monster, kit fox and desert tortoise. Golden eagles, prairie falcons, barn owls and great horned owls nest in the cliffs.
This wilderness area is a two-hour drive from Phoenix. Access to the wilderness can be gained by exiting Interstate 10 at the Tonopah or Salome Road exits. Unmaintained dirt roads extend to the wilderness area's eastern, northern and western boundaries. Because road conditions vary and some routes are primitive, high-clearance and four-wheel-drive vehicles are recommended. (BLM 1:100 TOPO Map, SALOME)

EAGLETAIL MOUNTAINS WILDERNESS::

The 100,600-acre Eagletail Mountains Wilderness is about 65 miles west of Phoenix, Arizona, in Maricopa, Yuma, and LaPaz counties. The wilderness includes 15 miles of the Eagletail Mountains ridgeline and Courthouse Rock to the north, Cemetery Ridge to the south, and a large desert plain area between the two ridgelines. Several different rock strata are visible in most places, with natural arches, high spires, monoliths, jagged sawtooth ridges and numerous washes six to eight miles long. Recreation such as extended horseback riding and backpacking trips, sightseeing, photography, rock climbing and day hiking are enhanced by the topographic diversity, scenic character, size, as well as the botanical, wildlife, and cultural values of the area. From Phoenix, travel west along Interstate 10 to the Tonopah exit. Travel south from Tonopah to the paved Salome Highway, then west to the Harquahala Valley via the Courthouse Rock Road. Roads near the wilderness include the pipeline maintenance road on the north and East Clanton Well Road on the south. High-clearance or four-wheel-drive vehicles are needed for access to the wilderness boundary. (BLM 1:100 TOPO Map - Little Horn Mountains).

Courthouse Rock - Eagletail Mtns. Top Rock - Trigo Mtns

EAST CACTUS PLAIN WILDERNESS:

The 59,100-acre Cactus Plain Wilderness Study Area is 15 miles southeast of Parker, and three miles north of Bouse, Arizona in La Paz County. The Wilderness Study Area embraces the western two-thirds of the Cactus Plain, an immense open area of stabilized and semi-stabilized sand dunes, unique in western Arizona. Dunes vary in type and color from west to east. Recreation such as backpacking, day hiking, sightseeing, horseback riding, and botanical and wildlife study are enhanced by varying dune topography, colors, and vegetation.
From Phoenix, drive west on Interstate 10 to the Vicksburg exit. Travel north to Vicksburg, then turn northwest on State Route 72 and proceed to Bouse. At Bouse take the Swansea Road north. Roads near the area include the Swansea Road on the southeast and State Route 72 on the south, which both take you within walking distance of the study area boundary. (BLM 1:100 TOPO Map, surface management - Alamo Lake.)

HARCUVAR MOUNTAINS WILDERNESS:

The 25,050-acre Harcuvar Mountains Wilderness is in northeast La Paz County 82 miles northwest of Phoenix, Arizona. The Harcuvar Mountains rise abruptly from the desert floor with over 10 miles of its rugged ridgeline within the wilderness. Elevations range from 2,400 feet on the bajadas to over 5,100 feet along parts of the mountainous crest. The wilderness area's diverse landforms and plant communities provide habitat for abundant wildlife, including desert bighorn sheep, desert tortoise, cougars, golden eagles, and various hawks. An isolated 3,500-acre "island" of interior chaparral habitat on the northern ridgeline provides homes to several species of wildlife cut off from their parent populations, such as rosy boas, Gilbert's skinks, and desert night lizards. Because of its isolation, the Harcuvar Mountains Wilderness offers outstanding opportunities for wilderness recreation and solitude. The canyons and ridgelines provide an excellent setting for hiking, backpacking, hunting and climbing.
Access to the area is via the Alamo Dam Access Road north from Wenden. Wenden is reached via State Route 60. Other secondary primitive roads approach the unit from the north and south with dirt jeep trails reaching the wilderness boundary. High-clearance and four-wheel-drive vehicles are recommended. (BLM 1:100 TOPO Map, surface management - Alamo Lake.)

HARQUAHALA MOUNTAINS WILDERNESS:

The 22,880-acre Harquahala Mountains Wilderness lies in Maricopa and La Paz counties, 80 miles northwest of Phoenix, Arizona. This wilderness contains part of one of western Arizona's largest desert mountain ranges. The 5,691-foot- high Harquahala Peak, the highest point in southwest Arizona, provides a breathtaking panorama of surrounding desert and distant mountain ranges. Different from many Sonoran Desert mountain ranges, the Harquahalas contain a screened interior canyon system. The distinctive ecosystems provide exceptional natural diversity, including a relict "island" of interior chaparral, desert grasslands and rare cactus populations. The area also supports habitat for desert bighorn sheep, desert tortoise, and mule deer populations. Hikers, backpackers, wildlife observers and photographers will find many recreation opportunities here. Rugged topography and the area's sheltered Brown's Canyon interior drainage system furnish the solitude and secluded experience treasured by many wilderness visitors. High-clearance and four-wheel-drive vehicles are needed to travel to the boundary of the wilderness. Paved State Route 60 provides access to jeep trails extending to the wilderness area's north boundary. The paved Eagle Eye Road provides access to numerous jeep trails along the area's southern side. Harquahala Peak can be reached by a four-wheel drive road, but erosion and steep grades will be encountered. Only experienced four-wheel drivers should attempt this road. (BLM 1:100 TOPO Map, surface management - Salome.)

HUMMINGBIRD SPRINGS WILDERNESS:

This 31,200- acre wilderness lies 55 miles west of Phoenix in western Maricopa County. The colorful escarpments of the 3,418-foot-high Sugarloaf Mountain rise steeply from the Tonopah Desert plains giving the wilderness exceptional scenic value, especially noticeable along Interstate Highway 10 south of the area. The Big Horn Mountains Wilderness lies to the southwest, separated only by a jeep trail. Over eight miles of the eastern Big Horn Mountains cross this wilderness. The area is dominated by Sugarloaf Mountain, a landmark encircled by many lower peaks, hills, washes and bajadas. The complexity and diversity of landforms, desert vegetation and the natural beauty of this wilderness offer a wealth of recreation opportunities for visitors of all ages and abilities. Saguaro, chollas, ocotillos, paloverdes and mesquite abound. Most of the wilderness is habitat for desert bighorn sheep, mule deer and desert tortoise. Cooper's hawks, prairie falcons, golden eagles, kit foxes and Gila monsters may also be encountered.
This wilderness area is a two-hour drive from metropolitan Phoenix. It can be accessed from the south by exiting Interstate 10 at the Tonopah or Salome Road exits. The Eagle Eye Road south of Aguila provides access from the north. Dirt roads extend to the wilderness boundary from these roads and other unnamed roads nearby. Road conditions vary, and high clearance and four-wheel-drive vehicles are recommended. (BLM 1:100 TOPO Map, surface management - Salome.)
 
KOFA NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE
 
Kofa National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1939 and is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The refuge encompasses 665,400 acres of pristine desert that is home to the desert bighorn sheep and the California palm, the only native palm in Arizona. Two mountain ranges dominate the landscape--the Kofa Mountains and the Castle Dome Mountains. Although these ranges are not especially high, they are extremely rugged and rise sharply from the surrounding desert plains, providing ideal bighorn sheep country. Notable wildlife species found in the area include the white-winged dove, desert tortoise, and desert kit fox. Approximately 800 to 1,000 bighorn sheep now live in the refuge and, in recent years, this herd has provided animals for transplanting throughout Arizona and neighboring states. Birds that are likely to be seen at Kofa include American kestrel, white-winged dove, northern flicker, Say's phoebe, cactus wren, phainopepla, and orange-crowned warbler. The Kofa Mountain barberry (a rare plant found only in southwest Arizona) occurs on the refuge. Take Hwy 95 south from I-10 (Quartzsite) to Palm Canyon Road, go east approx. 7.5 miles to Palm Canyon Trail. (BLM 1:100 TOPO Map, surface management, BLYTHE)

NEW WATER MOUNTAINS WILDERNESS:

The rugged 24,600-acre New Water Mountains Wilderness is 10 miles east of Quartzsite and about four miles south of Interstate 10. Located adjacent to and north of the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge and Wilderness, this area is characterized by strings of craggy spires, sheer rock outcrops, natural arches, slickrock canyons and deep sandy washes. Black Mesa, a large volcanic butte rising 1,200 feet above the Ranegras Plain, dominates the western part of the wilderness. Vegetation is sparse with saguaro, creosote, ocotillo, and cholla dotting the hills and paloverde and ironwood lining the washes. The wilderness is important desert bighorn sheep habitat, including the New Water and Dripping Springs lambing areas. The wilderness offers many types of primitive recreation, such as extended backpacking and hiking trips, day hikes, and watching wildlife. Opportunities to photograph and hunt deer and desert bighorn sheep, landscape photography, and rock collecting are plentiful.
The western boundary of the wilderness can be accessed via the Gold Nugget Road south of Interstate 10 (exit 26). The north-central part of the wilderness can be reached by the Ramsey Mine Road south of Highway 60. The Kofa Wilderness forms the southern boundary of the New Water Mountains Wilderness. (BLM 1:100 TOPO Map, surface management, SALOME)

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