North Maricopa Mountains Wilderness
Guide

Introduction

Featuring various landscapes such as isolated summits, level valley floors, and long ridges, North Maricopa Mountains Wilderness offers primitive camping opportunities and the chance to enjoy solitude to visitors and nature lovers. This 99 square mile Bureau of Land Management wilderness that lies in the southwestern Maricopa County, Arizona, can be accessed from Gila Bend and Phoenix. Elevations in the wilderness range from about 900 feet to 3,000 feet.

There are plenty of ways to stay active in this BLM wilderness. Visitors can hike on any of the two designated hiking trails that add up to 15 miles and follow former vehicle tracks and unmarked desert washes. Alternatively, nature lovers can view the resplendent flora, beautiful wildlife and colorful birds that live within the wilderness. Sonoran Desert National Monument presents even more recreational opportunities such as stargazing, hunting, motor touring, sightseeing, and photography. Equestrians can also enjoy riding their horses through the wilderness areas.

A small campground with basic camping amenities and a parking area is available at one of the trailheads around this BLM property in Arizona. More developed camping opportunities are available at Tonto National Forest.

RV Rentals in North Maricopa Mountains Wilderness

Transportation

Driving

North Maricopa Mountains Wilderness lies within the southwestern Maricopa County, 20 miles southwest of Phoenix and 12 miles east of Gila Bend, Arizona. Access to this Bureau of Land Management property is via unmarked, primitive roads that are best negotiated with high clearance, four-wheel-drive vehicles. There are no modern or improved roads to the park, so ensure you drive with caution as you detour from Highway 85 or State Route 238 (Maricopa Road). The northern wilderness boundary is accessible from Rainbow Valley Road while the southern wilderness boundary is accessible from Maricopa Road. A primitive dirt road also leads to the eastern boundary of the wilderness.

Within the wilderness boundaries, the use of motorized vehicles and mechanical equipment is not allowed. Therefore, you should look out for signs and posts that indicate places where you can park your vehicle. Navigation within the wilderness is either on foot or on your horse. Wheelchairs are allowed within the wilderness.

There are no direct public transportation services to North Maricopa Mountains Wilderness.

If you wish to get RVs and trailers for modern camping nearby, you will find equipment available at Sonoran Desert National Monument and Tonto National Forest.

Parking

Public Transportation

Campgrounds and parking in North Maricopa Mountains Wilderness

Campsites in North Maricopa Mountains Wilderness

First-come first-served

Painted Rock Campground

Painted Rock Campground is a BLM campground located west of North Maricopa Mountains Wilderness, off Interstate 8. At this campground, campers are provided the chance to see an ancient archeological site that features hundreds of artistic and symbolic rock etchings, called petroglyphs, that were made centuries ago by local inhabitants. Several historic trails are present within the campground too.

Sixty campsites are available within the campground, all on first-come, first-served basis only. Amenities provided include grills, picnic tables, a vault toilet, and steel fire rings. Potable water is not available. Overnight camping opportunities are available.

Alternate camping

Margie’s Cove West Campground

Margie’s Cove West Campground is a small BLM campground located near the Margie’s Cove West Trailhead at North Maricopa Mountains Wilderness. The campground consists of four campsites equipped with a vault toilet, steel fire rings, and informational signage. A day-use parking area for vehicles is also provided. Potable water and septic disposal are not provided.

Seasonal activities in North Maricopa Mountains Wilderness

In-Season

Hiking

Good hiking opportunities are available for adventurers at North Maricopa Mountains Wilderness along two trails – Margie’s Cove and Brittlebush Trails. Both trails take hikers into the heart of the wilderness and offer exciting sightseeing experiences and adventure.

Margie’s Cove Trail is nine miles long and follows former vehicle tracks and unmarked desert washes. Brittlebush Trail, on the other hand, is six miles long but also follows former vehicle tracks just like Margie’s Cove trail. The northern terminus of the Brittlebush Trail intersects the Margie’s Cove Trail in the interior areas of this BLM wilderness.

Flora

The corridors of North Maricopa Mountains Wilderness are decorated by beautiful flora. Two major plant communities dominate this BLM wilderness, namely Paloverde-Mixed Cactii and Creosote-Bursage. The Paloverde-Mixed Cacti consists of dense forests of paloverde, saguaro cactus, and ironwood.

To see the creosote-bursage communities, you will need to visit the low elevation valley floor areas in the wilderness. Flora enthusiasts will also find species such as ocotillo, cholla, and other Sonoran Desert plants in the wilderness.

Fauna

Wildlife viewing and photography are common activities at North Maricopa, thanks to the wide variety of fauna species that are abundant in the wilderness areas. It is very common for hikers along Margie’s Cove Trail and Brittlebush Trail to see wildlife such as desert mule deer, desert bighorn sheep, javelina and coyote along the trails.

Moreover, desert tortoise, Gambel’s quail and numerous varieties of lizards roam the wilderness. Different colorful birds also soar above this BLM property in Arizona.

Off-Season

Sonoran Desert National Monument

A visit to North Maricopa Mountains Wilderness is not complete without taking advantage of all that’s on offer within Sonoran Desert National Monument. In addition to hiking and backpacking across primitive areas, other recreational opportunities at the national monument include stargazing, horseback riding, hunting, and motor touring.

Off-highway vehicle driving and mountain biking opportunities are also present within the national monument. Wildlife such as bats, owls, javelina and mountain lions are also seen in the area.

Archaeology and History

Visitors and campers at North Maricopa Mountains Wilderness who visit Sonoran Desert National Monument get the chance to explore and learn about the rich historical and archaeological legacy of Arizona within the national monument’s areas.

Various features within the area give indications about the early Native Americans, Spanish explorers, miners, and homesteaders that crossed the monument’s corridors. Parts of the 1200-mile long historic Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail pass through the monument too.

Fishing

Angling enthusiasts can find the chance to fish at Gila River near North Maricopa Mountains Wilderness. Even though most visitors consider the river dry and not worth fishing, anglers will find some of the best fishing holes in Arizona in the river. These fishing holes even contain large fish as long as 17 inches.

Some of the fish species caught in the river include largemouth bass, Apache trout, and Gila trout. So, if you fancy sport fishing, visit the wilderness with your fishing gear because you won’t leave empty-handed.

Find the perfect campsite.