Wild Arizona: Where Mountains Meet Desert

(Photo: Ken Converse | Harquahala Mountains Wilderness)

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. 

Harquahala Mountains Wilderness

One of Western Arizona’s largest desert ranges, the Harquahala Mountains top out at 5,691-foot Harquahala Peak, from which climbers can see as far as 100 miles. Rare cactuses are among the flora here, and endangered desert tortoises make their homes in Brown’s Canyon.

Location: West of Phoenix
Established: 1990
Size: 22,880 acres
Managed by: Bureau of Land Management
Contact: Hassayampa Field Office, 623-580-5500 or www.blm.gov/arizona

Hummingbird Springs Wilderness

You’ll find backpacking and primitive camping opportunities in this wilderness, but there are no maintained trails. The scenery here is dominated by Sugarloaf Mountain, which climbs to 3,418 feet above the surrounding Tonopah Desert. Watch for desert tortoises and Cooper’s hawks.

Location: West of Phoenix
Established: 1990
Size: 31,200 acres
Managed by: Bureau of Land Management
Contact: Hassayampa Field Office, 623-580-5500 or www.blm.gov/arizona

North Maricopa Mountains Wilderness

Rocky, isolated summits and long ridges define the landscape here, and the 3,000-foot Butterfield Pass is the highest elevation. In addition to saguaros and paloverdes, you’ll find two hiking and equestrian trails.

Location: Northeast of Gila Bend
Established: 1990
Size: 63,200 acres
Managed by: Bureau of Land Management
Contact: Sonoran Desert National Monument, 623-580-5500 or www.blm.gov/arizona

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