Wild Arizona: You Didn't Think We'd Forget This One, Did You?

(Photo: Shannon Hastings | Red Rock-Secret Mountain 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.

Red Rock-Secret Mountain Wilderness

If you’ve ever even picked up a copy of Arizona Highways, you’ve likely seen a photo of this wilderness, which features dramatic red-rock formations and easy, accessible hiking trails. Expect to see other people here, along with elk, deer, javelinas, coyotes, mountain lions and black bears. In other words, keep your camera ready.

Location: North of Sedona
Established: 1984
Size: 47,194 acres
Managed by: U.S. Forest Service
Contact: Red Rock Ranger District, 928-282-4119 or www.fs.usda.gov/coconino

Pajarita Wilderness

What this wilderness lacks in acreage, it makes up for in foliage: More than 660 plant species have been identified here, and 17 of them are found nowhere else on Earth. Wildflower enthusiasts flock here in the spring. The terrain is dominated by the narrow Sycamore Canyon, and day hikes are popular.

Location: West of Nogales
Established: 1984
Size: 7,553 acres
Managed by: U.S. Forest Service
Contact: Nogales Ranger District, 520-281-2296 or www.fs.usda.gov/coronado

New Water Mountains Wilderness

Don’t let the name fool you, Jimmy: There isn’t much water to be found in this wilderness, which gets less than 5 inches of rainfall annually. Bring your own if you’re going backpacking on one of 20 old roads that are closed to car traffic. Desert bighorn sheep and mule deer can be spotted here.

Location: Southeast of Quartzsite
Established: 1990
Size: 24,600 acres
Managed by: Bureau of Land Management
Contact: Yuma Field Office, 928-317-3200 or www.blm.gov/arizona

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