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The Best Hikes in Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge USFWS

5 Triplog Reviews in the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge USFWS
Most recent of 4 deeper Triplog Reviews
3.25 mi • 361 ft aeg
We made the road from Ajo to Charlie Bell Pass in a Subaru Outback on April 5; most of the road is not bad at all, but the last mile is really rough as people have said. We saw no one along the way or on the hike, just one flyover by a Border Patrol helicopter. There was water in the wildlife basin. This is an amazing site for petroglyphs and other remnants (if you know what to look for) of the Hohokam and other early people of SW Arizona. At the trailhead there is now a telephone for people in trouble with directions for its use in English, Spanish, and O'odham.

Wildflowers
Ocotillos were in flower; also a few hedgehogs.
3.25 mi • 361 ft aeg
After completing El Camino del Diablo [ photoset ] earlier in the day we ventured out Charlie Bell Road to find some petroglyphs. A friendly Federal Wildlife Officer stopped us along the way to check our passes and give us some advice on the area and security. MJ was excited to see the pronghorn feeding area south of the road on the drive in.

We parked on the saddle above Charlie Bell, as far as vehicles are allowed, and hiked down. Luckily we had the official track and found the large scattered areas of glyphs and the village remains above it easily enough.
4.6 mi • 0 ft aeg
Randall's careful description is still correct today and this trip requires some advanced planning since an in-person permit is needed. I was invited to come along by a couple of serious petroglyph people so I went to Ajo Friday afternoon and got my permit.

I took advantage of the Ajo dark skies to try out "star mode" on my camera - not bad for a point and shoot.

Saturday AM we took two cars in on the rough road. No big problem for the Subaru, but it does get rocky and rough the last couple miles.

The petroglyphs cover a large area, and there are a lot of them. They seem to be old ones showing mainly geometric figures, not many people or animals. But they're well preserved so fun to look at - I took about 180 glyph pictures.

Not clear to me why this spot was so popular for the artist/story tellers. No doubt it is along some ancient path over the pass but it's well below the pass and certainly seemed dry there these days - maybe there was water there a thousand years ago.

Good day with partners who really enjoyed being there.
3.25 mi • 361 ft aeg
Charlie Bell Road - Cabeza Prieta NWR

Knowing the kids had March Break and a week off school, I'd booked some vacation days off work as well...

A first-time sojourn to Death Valley was on my "to-do" list, but alas, a commitment from a 2nd vehicle couldn't be arranged. Always have a "PLAN B"...

"SUNSHOT - peril and wonder in the Gran Desierto" by Bill Broyles and Michael Berman is in my home library and describes El Camino del Diablo (the Devil's Highway) and the surrounding environs. I think this book and photographs has provided some of the spark to investigate the back country within Organ Pipe National Monument, Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, and the Barry M. Goldwater Range.

I've been thwarted in tackling the Devil's Highway due to the lack of 4WD (my F-150 is only high clearance 2WD). I discovered that Charlie Bell Road and El Camino del Diablo to Bates Well can be permitted for a 2WD vehicle. So these became "PLAN B" substituting for Death Valley...

Lynn and I started the day before dawn's first light and headed down to the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters & Visitor Center in Ajo to obtain the requisite training and permits. There's a 20 minute training video that's required viewing to gain access to the Barry M. Goldwater Range.

With permits in hand, we were bouncing along Charlie Bell Road by 9:00am. There is a consistency in Cabeza Prieta literature mentioning the "isolation" and "remoteness" of the area. With this in mind, Lynn and I were prepared not to see a person all day.

At Little Tule Well, we parked the truck to capture some images. There we had an "alien encounter" as 4 trekkers appeared out of the adjoining wash and walked up to the well to get water. Later saw 2 trucks of NWR Rangers returning from the Sonoran Pronghorn observation area at Pack Rat Hill. We also passed a couple from Colorado at Daniel's Arroyo and a couple from Minnesota at Charlie Bell Pass TH. So much for being prepared not to see a person all day!

When we hiked down from Charlie Bell Pass to Charlie Bell Well on our "glyph hunt", the advice we received at the Cabeza Prieta Visitor Center in Ajo was "spot on";

"When you get to the windmill, stay to the right into the boulder field and you will find the petroglyphs..."

And many petroglyphs were found!

This was a great introduction to the Cabeza Prieta NWR. Snakes, petroglyphs, alien encounters, coyotes (4-legged kind), ranch ruins, crested saguaros, fawning pronghorn antelope, desert bighorn sheep, and tracking down the elusive Ajo Lily - what's not to like?
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