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Cabeza Prieta Wilderness

Posted: Nov 27 2007 2:42 pm
by jsm335
My wife and I are heading into Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge just before Christmas, and I'm looking for some tips on where to go. Is there a must-not-miss trail or location? I'm aware of the issues there, illegals, smugglers, Border Patrol, stray missles, etc., but we're craving some adventure, no matter what that entails. We'll have at least a high clearance vehicle, maybe 4WD. We're trying to decide between El Camino del Diablo and Charlie Bell Pass. Are either better for backpacking? Should I worry about the truck if we leave it behind? (It'll be a rental, so I don't really care. I'd like to wander around the gunnery range, too, if possible. Anybody have any tips? Thanks!

Re: Cabeza Prieta Wilderness

Posted: Nov 27 2007 5:27 pm
by hikeaz
Presumably, you're speakiing of the range on SR85 a bit south of Gila Bend?
I've been all over that gunnery range; some of the roads are decent and others are, well, shall we say 'unimproved' (more like DIS-improved if you ask me). You will get quite a bit of desert pinstriping on your vehicle, so, if possible, rent a light-colored vehicle that will hide a lot of it. You will need to do a 20 minute orientation at the base in order to get your permit. There is a bunch of unexploded ordnance and old homesteads and grave yards..... mine shafts, cool desert rock formations, etc.
Bring a bunch of water, you will find none out there.


kurt

Re: Cabeza Prieta Wilderness

Posted: Nov 27 2007 6:08 pm
by RedRoxx44
If you get a permit from the Cabeza Prieta refuge folks in Ajo, it can be done via mail or fax, I didn't have to watch a video. If you go thru BLM or other entity ( Air Force folks) you have to take time out to do that. Depending on where you want to go it is mandatory to have 4wd for the El Camino. You only really need it at the Pinta sands area. They just don't want to be responsible for pulling you out of any sand traps.
I don't know about Charlie Bell area but I have driven the entire Camino 3 times, and gone in at Christmas Pass a couple of times. John Anninero's Adventuring in Arizona ( I think that's the title) details a summer backpack of the El Camino, and has a few road notes. Any backcountry touring book usually has some info on the Camino.
I've hiked in the Aqua Dulce, Growler mountains, Cabeza Prieta Peak, a couple of peaks out of Tule well, Tule tanks, some mines near the border, and of course Tinaja Altas. You will see some border patrol. There will be probably some evidence of some border crossers, but I have solo hiked and camped in that area and with prudence, never had a problem. Also some nice hiking at the Pinacate Lava Flow.
Really a lot to see and do on this historic route.
Have fun--I'll prolly be back out there Jan/Feb time frame.

Re: Cabeza Prieta Wilderness

Posted: Jan 02 2009 7:33 pm
by Randal_Schulhauser
Planning a trip along El Camino del Diablo Feb 20-22, 2009. Appreciate hearing from anyone who's heard recent information about conditions this season. I was at the Cabeza Prieta NWR Headquarters today and nobody from the staff has been along the route yet this season...

Re: Cabeza Prieta Wilderness

Posted: Jan 03 2009 9:28 am
by azbackpackr
I'm probably going to drive the easy part soon, from Yuma to Tinajas Altas Pass, then back on up to Wellton. Not going into the Cabeza Prieta--we'll be staying in the Goldwater for this drive. The part I've described, the Border Patrol drags it every day, it has no washboarding, you can drive a regular car on it 50 mph. At least, that's what I'm told. Border Patrol is all over that place, and they like the roads to be driveable.

Watch for abandoned vehicles and backpacks! Might find something valuable inside! :D

Re: Cabeza Prieta Wilderness

Posted: Jan 03 2009 9:43 am
by Randal_Schulhauser
Will you be making the side trip to Fortuna ghost town? Curious about road conditions there...



ITINERARY (so far...);

Ajo to Yuma is ~150 miles, plan ~50 miles per day with plenty of stops for exploration, photo ops, and general fun times;

1. Day 1 is Friday 2/20. Rendezvous early morning near I-10 and Loop 202. Review permits and "hold harmless" agreements plus any special activities on the NWR and Goldwater Range at Cabeza Prieta NWR Headquarters in Ajo. Office opens 7:30am. Closed on Saturday/Sunday. Get on the El Camino del Diablo 9-ish. Day 1 camp @ Tule Well.

2. Day 2 is Saturday 2/21. Continue along El Camino del Diable to Day 2 Camp @ Tinajas Altas.

3. Day 3 is Sunday 2/22. Continue along El Camino del Diablo to Fortuna ghost town and abandon mines. Mid-afternoon lunch/dinner in Yuma and head homeā€¦

Re: Cabeza Prieta Wilderness

Posted: Jan 07 2009 4:52 am
by RedRoxx44
Border patrol regularly maintains the road now. It was the easiest I've seen it last year when we made the drive. The only spot that could be trouble is the Pinta Sands. It was badly rutted but firm and easy if you straddled the ruts. But I've seen the sand so loose and deep I was pushing it like a shovel with the front spoiler of my Jeep Cherokee, which I was driving with some speed so as not to get stuck.
Recommend at least one vehicle have a good tow strap; just in case.

Christmas Pass road and the road on the other side of the Fortuna mtns heading to Yuma near the mine will be rougher as it is not maintained as well.

Re: Cabeza Prieta Wilderness

Posted: Jan 07 2009 8:42 pm
by Davis2001r6
Was Christmas Pass, the road that came in near those dry waterfalls we climbed east of Tinajas Altas? If so I remember a mini van driving in on that.

From what i remember the road around Fortuna Mine was rougher and rockier than any other portion that we traveled. I think your planned route is the exact one we took last year. I'm hoping to make it there in the spring as well. You picked a popular weekend with the 3 day weekend, although that's when we did it last year and didn't see too many others out there.

Re: Cabeza Prieta Wilderness

Posted: Jan 08 2009 4:40 am
by RedRoxx44
Christmas Pass is the road from the north at Tule Well that goes to Tacna, in about 38 miles. Tim, don't wait too late ie. after usually March 15th a large part of the Cabeza Prieta is closed for Sonoran Pronghorn calving or lambing or whatever you call it. At that time you can go in partway from either end only. I am not sure when the restrictions are lifted. Summer on the El Camino??? That could be epic and probably unpleasant.

Re: Cabeza Prieta Wilderness

Posted: Jan 10 2009 1:22 am
by Randal_Schulhauser
Doing some research for an upcoming trek along El Camino del Diablo, I came across an article in the March 1943 issue of Arizona Highways written by Benjamin Kingsley and photos by Barry Goldwater. It's an interesting read...

Many thanks to;

Nikki Kimbel
Editorial Administrator
Arizona Highways Magazine
2039 W. Lewis Ave.
Phoenix, AZ 85009
PH: 602-712-2041
Fax: 602-254-4505

Re: Cabeza Prieta Wilderness

Posted: Jan 10 2009 5:40 am
by Sredfield
Thanks for posting that! Very interesting.

Re: Cabeza Prieta Wilderness

Posted: Jan 10 2009 6:54 pm
by Davis2001r6
Thanks for the reminder about the Pronghorn season Letty. What was the road the came in from the north just east of where go through the Tinajas Altas?

Re: Cabeza Prieta Wilderness

Posted: Jan 10 2009 8:15 pm
by RedRoxx44
The "fast " way out to Wellton. We went the way of the historic El Camino. I've been out both ways.