Wild Arizona: Mountains, Craters and Critters

(Photo: Timm Chapman | Rincon Mountains)

EDITOR’S NOTE: Each afternoon in September, in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, we’re spotlighting three of Arizona’s 90 wilderness areas. For more information about any of the state’s wilderness areas, visit Wilderness.net, a collaboration between several wilderness-related organizations. The information here comes from that site and the wilderness areas’ managing agencies. Always contact the managing agency before visiting a wilderness to learn about any restrictions that may be in effect.

Rincon Mountain Wilderness

This wilderness wraps around three sides of Saguaro National Park east of Tucson, and saguaros are plentiful here, along with piñon pines, junipers and oaks at higher elevations. The high ridges of the Rincons and the quiet canyons here can be accessed via a trail system that originates in the park.

Location: East of Tucson
Established: 1984
Size: 38,590 acres
Managed by: U.S. Forest Service
Contact: Santa Catalina Ranger District, 520-749-8700 or www.fs.usda.gov/coronado

Strawberry Crater Wilderness

Part of the San Francisco Volcanic Field, this crater once sent lava flowing across the northwest corner of this wilderness. Atop the cinder cones, you can see the Painted Desert, the Hopi mesas and the Little Colorado River Valley. It gets hot here in the summer, so bring plenty of water.

Location: Northeast of Flagstaff
Established: 1984
Size: 10,743 acres
Managed by: U.S. Forest Service
Contact: Flagstaff Ranger District, 928-526-0866 or www.fs.usda.gov/coconino

Pine Mountain Wilderness

Much of this wilderness is comprised of the Verde River Rim, which features tall ponderosa pines and Douglas firs. At lower elevations, though, there’s desert vegetation and rugged canyons. Thirty-seven miles of trails are ideal for backpackers, and several game animals make their homes here.

Location: Southeast of Prescott 
Established: 1972
Size: 20,061 acres
Managed by: U.S. Forest Service
Contact: Verde Ranger District, 928-567-4121 or www.fs.usda.gov/prescott

 

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