Chemehuevi Mountains Wilderness in the eastern Mojave Desert is spread over 85, 864 acres of land, and is maintained and managed by the Bureau of Land Management. More than half of the Wilderness’ eastern boundary meets the borders of Havasu National Wildlife Refuge, a little ways off the Colorado River. The remaining half shares borders with the Chemehuevi Indian Reservation. Keep following the Colorado River alongside the Chemehuevi Mountains Wilderness, and you’ll find yourself at Lake Havasu State Park.
All the remaining borders of the Wilderness are only encircled by power lines, pipeline corridors, and roads. The Wilderness Area is dominated by the Chemehuevi Mountains, a unique rugged range in the shape of a horseshoe, with its opening to the east. The surrounding wilderness of Colorado Desert is just as vast and beautiful, especially as it transitions into the southern Mojave in San Bernardino County, California.
Visitors of the wilderness hike the expanse of the mountains to get a panoramic view of the rugged range and the winding Colorado River. Also, within the horseshoe mountain range is a large central valley with rolling hills covered with a thick stand of various cacti, ocotillo, and agave. When seen from a good vantage point, the view is striking as the light hits the white granite peaks of the mountains, which stand starkly in contrast with the deep green of the desert foliage.
Chemehuevi Mountains Wilderness is located around 10 miles from Needles, California along the US Highway 95. The journey includes driving over a dirt pipeline road that leads to the northern boundary of Chemehuevi Mountains Wilderness that can be rough in patches. The area can also be accessed from the east via the Colorado River and the Havasu Wilderness Area.
To access the easiest hiking route into the wilderness, take the 12-mile long Trampas Wash that cuts its way through the mountains on the west side. You can get maps of the wilderness from the Bureau of Land Management offices in Needles, California, or from the BLM office at Lake Havasu City, Arizona.
If you don’t feel like heading home just yet and wish to spend a few more days surrounded by nature, then your next camping destination could be Lake Havasu State Park.
The campground boasts 45 campsites. All these sites are non-electric and are suitable for both RV’s and tents. Each campsite comes with a picnic table, shade ramada, and a fire ring. The campground also provides potable water. The sites can be claimed on a first-come, first-served basis. The maximum number of days permitted for camping is 14. Parking pads are asphalted and are of 60-65 feet.
A Bureau of Land Management campground is present within the wilderness. The campground is purely primitive and permits camping for 14 days. If you want to stay in the wilderness for a few more days, you can relocate to a new campsite at least 25 miles from your previous one.
Campers can bring their pets along, as long as they remain in control of their owners and cleaned up after. Practice the Leave No Trace policy during your stay at the Chemehuevi Mountains Wilderness.
This wilderness stands in the transition zone between the Colorado Desert and the Mojave Desert, as a result, the wildlife here is an amalgamation of both landscapes. Be prepared to meet bighorn sheep, desert mule deer, wild burros, coyotes, mountain lions, ground squirrels, kangaroo rats, black-tailed jackrabbits, quail, roadrunners, several species of lizards, and rattlesnakes. The southwestern portion of the wilderness is a critical zone for the threatened desert tortoise.
Chemehuevi Peak is the highest peak in the Chemehuevi Mountain range and perhaps the highlight of this remote wilderness. Hikers and rock climbers love this peak for its elevation and views from the top, as well as, the challenging climb that reaches the summit. The best route to climb this peak is from the southwest. The journey is about seven miles from the base to the summit and back. The best time to climb the peak is during the winter months.
The Bureau of Land Management allows hunting, fishing, and non-commercial trapping in the wilderness, as per the state and local laws. Shooting is also permitted, but only in areas where it is safe and well away from the concentration of people and property. It is advised to clean your cartridges and target material after hunting and leave no traces behind.
The desert landscape of the wilderness enjoys a rich flora and fauna. The species of plants and animals found in this wilderness area are also extremely diverse because of the amalgamation of two ecosystems. Additionally, the desert is also close to the Colorado River which invites the river species of eastern Arizona as well.
All this diversity provides photographers with a lot of content to capture. Not to forget the white granite mountains that provide just the perfect backdrop to nature photographers.
If hiking is not your thing, don’t worry; you can enjoy the expansive views of the Chemehuevi Mountains Wilderness Area on horseback. The Bureau of Land Management permits horseback riding throughout the wilderness area. However, you’ll need to bring all the needed supplies yourself as they are no equestrian campgrounds within the wilderness region.
You can hike for days in the expansive lands of the wilderness. There are no marked trails, and that allows you to start your hike in whatever direction you want. The most popular hikes are towards the valley within the horseshoe mountains. You can take jeeps up to the wash for easier access to the trailheads.