The Bureau of Land Management manages 18,790 acres of Arizona wilderness stretching around the Gibraltar Mountain. This wilderness area became part of the National Wilderness Preservation System in 1990 and is so remote that it receives only 500 to 1000 visitors a year. The nearest city of Parker is ten miles from the wilderness region in La Paz County.
The western end of the Buckskin Mountains is also part of Gibraltar Mountain Wilderness. In fact, this wilderness is majorly dominated by mountain ranges. The Giers Mountain stands tall on the north of the wilderness, whereas the Gibraltar Mountain rests peacefully in the south. As a result, the landscape of the wilderness is very rugged, with volcanic rock croppings jutting out towards the skies.
The only things dichotomizing these rocky mountain ranges are occasional sandy washes and rocky canyons. Amongst these eroded volcanic tuff beds are something for the curious explorers – thousands of alcoves and caves. Gibraltar Mountain Wilderness is perfect for those hikers and horseback riders who aren’t scared of a bumpy ride and are up for more extreme outdoor challenges.
Day hikers, rock climbers, sightseers, and cave explorers are lured to this wilderness because humans have had very little impact in this region. The only traces of humans in this wilderness are grazing and mining activities due to the rich mineral deposits found in the area.
Those making their way from Phoenix would need to take a west on Interstate 10 to exit Quartzite and head towards Parker, Arizona.
The route is easy enough. Nearing the wilderness, you’ll either find yourself on a powerline road, the Cienega Springs road, or a mining road, depending on the direction you’re heading from. A high-clearance or four-wheel-drive would come in really handy in accessing this wilderness.
When visiting in summer, make sure to carry plenty of water as the area only has a rainfall of two to eight inches per year. In winters, the temperature lows can be about 25 degrees F, while the highs in summer are more than 115 degrees F.
The Bureau of Land Management permits camping at the Gibraltar Mountains Wilderness as long as all the restrictions are followed. Camping here is primitive, without any facilities or amenities. When you camp in the wilderness, you have to follow the rules of the wild. Camping here is permitted for 14-days at a stretch.
Campfire is allowed at campsites but only dead and down wood can be used or collected. Make sure your camping groups are small, as large groups pose a threat to the land and might impact it negatively. Pets are allowed to stay at the campsite as long as they are cleaned up after. There are no limits to the rig size.
Just an hour’s drive away from Gibraltar Mountain Wilderness is the Plomosa Road BLM Camping Area Campground in Quartzsite, AZ that has 50 campsites to offer. This campground stays open year-round and accommodates both RV and tent camping. Pets are allowed on the campground.
Like most BLM campgrounds, this one too has a 14-day stay limit. You can bring your big rigs to camp here. The campground is very peaceful and quiet, and most campers use solar panels which minimize the noise of generators.
If you are a wildlife enthusiast then you’ll know to be patient, quiet, and observant to spot wildlife in this rugged wilderness. You are most likely to see desert bighorn sheep walking by as they inhabit an extensive area of the Sonoran Desert and deftly make their way from the Sonoran Desert National Monument a few miles from the wilderness.
Though little is known of the wildlife in Gibraltar Mountain Wilderness, visitors have caught sight of non-riparian birds, small mammal species, and reptiles. Desert tortoise is also spotted around the foothills and wash areas. Southern bald eagles and American peregrine falcons are two species of birds that nearly went extinct in the region. Preservation efforts have helped increase their numbers over the years.
Gibraltar Mountain Wilderness is very appealing for recreational activities, especially ones that involve exploring on foot and on horseback. In fact, many people make the entire trip on horseback, only stopping for resting and exploring various parts of the wilderness.
The larger drainages in the wilderness are quite suitable for horseback traveling as well. Bring all your gear and supplies as there is nothing around here for miles!
The entire wilderness has numerous bulldozed trails in the east, as a result of the mineral exploration endeavors in earlier years. There’s a sparse network of about seven miles of trails. These trails are scattered all over the wilderness and sometimes difficult to spot because of the complex and jagged terrain of the landscape.
The view offered by Gibraltar Mountain Wilderness is unmatchable and leaves you in awe of its beauty. Even though the wilderness is low elevation, the mountains still stand out and make you want to capture it in a frame forever.
As you hike towards the upper reaches, the panoramas become even more mesmerizing with deserts and the Colorado River stretching out in front of you, giving you that million-dollar shot.
In addition to the mountainous landscape of volcanic erosion, flora here is just as diverse and unique and lures many nature enthusiasts to this wilderness. The landscape and weather provide a perfect habitat for barrel cactus, which is a very sensitive species and allows for an interesting nature study.
Additionally, the area-specific plants such as white-stemmed milkweed, hairy milkweed, Texas Prickly-pear, Schott’s Pygmycedar, and saguaro also pique the interest of nature enthusiasts.
This wilderness is a great place for exploring sites that haven’t been systematically inventoried for centuries. It is believed that the wilderness is home to many cultural resources. It is also claimed that the wilderness has 61 mines and at least 30 archaeological sites, including the Black Tank Archeological District that is considered for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places.