Palo Verde Mountains Wilderness
Guide

Introduction

The Palo Verde Mountains Wilderness is a Bureau of Land Management wilderness area located in California, designated in 1994 by the federal government, and has a current total of 39955 acres.

The terrain is characterized by low mountain areas, buttes, and dry washes that cut across the slopes. Riparian areas support desert vegetation such as Palo Verde trees, mesquite, ironwood trees, and also the Saguaro cactus, which dots the landscape and is a rare native plant species. The three most prominent mountains in the BLM wilderness area are the twin Flat Top buttes, Palo Verde Peak, at about 1800 feet in elevation, and the distinctively shaped Thumb Peak. Clapp Springs, a palm oasis, provides a reliable water supply to the local wildlife of the Palo Verde Mountains Wilderness which includes bighorn sheep, desert tortoise, and wild burros. This oasis is unique in that it is not hidden in a deep canyon as most desert springs are, but sits out in the open landscape.

Recreational opportunities in the region include hunting, backcountry primitive camping, hiking, hunting, and wildlife watching. There are several other nearby destinations to visit in the area, especially if you're exploring the region in an RV. Check out the New Water Mountains Wilderness, Joshua Tree National Park, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and Picacho State Recreation Area which are all within easy driving distance of the Palo Verde Mountains Wilderness.

RV Rentals in Palo Verde Mountains Wilderness

Transportation

Driving

The Palo Verde Mountain Wilderness is located entirely in the State of California and is 18 miles southwest of Blythe, California, where services and amenities are available, and the Mayflower County Park Campground, which is suitable for RV camping, is situated. The town of Palo Verde is closer to the wilderness access areas, but has fewer amenities, although a gas station and mini-marts are located here.

To access the Palo Verde Mountains Wilderness from Blythe, turn right onto California highway 78 W/Ben Hulse Highway, and continue through Palo Verde. Proceed from Palo Verde for 12 miles south on CA 78, then take the Milpitas Wash Road, ten miles north to the southwest corner of the Palo Verde Mountain Wilderness, where you can access trailheads and trails leading to the Flat Tops and Thumbs Peak. Access roads are naturally surfaced and can be rough with ruts, especially after rainfall. A four-wheel-drive vehicle with high clearance may be required to get near the wilderness area.

The wilderness and nearby campground at Blythe are open year-round, as this desert environment does not experience snowfall or severe sub-freezing temperatures. Temperatures in the summer, however, are extreme and strenuous for outdoor activities. Because of the sparse services in the area, rough access roads to the wilderness, and extreme heat, ensure your vehicle is in good mechanical order, with topped-up fluid levels, and carry spare tires and extra water for your vehicle's cooling system in case it is required.

Parking

Public Transportation

Campgrounds and parking in Palo Verde Mountains Wilderness

Campsites in Palo Verde Mountains Wilderness

Reservations camping

Private RV Campground

Located on the Colorado River at Blythe, California, there is a private RV campground known for its beautiful blue river, blue skies, and green fields. There are plenty of water activities to be had on the river, including fishing and boating, and the park has picnic and barbecue areas.

There are 152 large RV sites that accommodate larger RV units and have electric and water hookups, as well as 27 dry camping sites. The campground has willow trees along the river providing shade and privacy. Amenities include showers and flush toilet restrooms, an RV dump station, and a camp store. Recreation facilities include a boat launch, horseshoe pits, shuffleboard set up, and lawn bowling.

Pets are permitted but must remain on a leash, although there is a large green space next to the campground where you can take your dog for a run. Campsites are reservable and generously sized. There are lots of mosquitos here because of the river and vegetation, so don't forget your bug spray!

Alternate camping

Backcountry Camping

Palo Verde Mountains Wilderness allows backcountry camping on public lands in the desert wilderness area. Be sure to be prepared for primitive conditions and high daytime temperatures. The desert cools off somewhat at night, so be sure to have the appropriate gear.

Sit out under the stars to enjoy the dark night skies with little light noise from nearby human settlements! Backpackers camping in the area should use previously occupied sites on hard ground at least 200 yards from water sources and trails to minimize disturbance to natural habitat in this sensitive desert ecosystem.

Stays are limited to 14 nights at one site, after which campers must use another site at least 25 miles away. Be prepared with adequate fire fuel and water, and to pack out all your trash. There is an oasis in the wilderness area, but water may not be suitable for human consumption.

Seasonal activities in Palo Verde Mountains Wilderness

In-Season

Mountain Vistas

The three highest peaks in the Palo Verde Mountain Wilderness are Palo Verde Peak at 1788 feet, the two “Flat Top” buttes at 1575 feet, and Thumb Peak at 1325 feet. You can follow washes and game trails to reach the rounded peaks of the Palo Verde Mountain Wilderness, and enjoy the panoramic views from these high elevation points.

There are significant elevation gains to be negotiated when trekking up these mountains, and trails are natural and not maintained. You will need to be prepared for strenuous climbs and hot desert daytime temperatures. Ensure you have appropriate footwear and pack plenty of water. Avoid hiking the area in the summer months when temperatures are extreme.

Wildlife Watching

The palm oasis supports local vegetation and provides water sources for wildlife in the region. Animals you can spot residing in the region include desert bighorn sheep, desert tortoise, wild burros, coyotes, mountain lions, dove, quail, and diamondback rattlesnakes.

Be cautious when exploring the area of rattlers which are venomous snakes, as medical care in this remote location is a significant distance away. The rare Saguaro Cacti flourishes in the region along the southeastern borders of the BLM wilderness. A band of wild horses in the region may come to the oasis for a drink and sightings of these feral horses, while rare, is a real treat.

Hiking and Backcountry Camping

There are no established trails in the Palo Verde Mountains Wilderness, so be prepared for exploring the region with accurate topographic maps and compasses. The rough desert terrain and occasional rattlesnake are additional hazards hikers in the wilderness must contend with. Good hiking boots and a vigilant eye are excellent tools for contending with the landscape and wild local inhabitants.

There are routes up the mountain peaks which provide excellent views, but feature challenging elevation changes and terrain and are more appropriate for experienced hikers. Hikers looking for a less extreme hiking experience can hike from Clapp Spings on the northern side of the BLM wilderness, where the terrain is less steep. This site is only a mile from the wilderness boundary. Backpacking and overnight camping is permitted on the public lands but this harsh environment requires knowledge of desert camping practices.

The peak season for hiking and camping in this desert wilderness is during the cooler months between September and May.

Off-Season

Hunting and Shooting

Hunting and non-commercial trapping are permitted in Bureau of Land Management public lands as per BLM regulations, and State of California regulations. Hunters will require a valid state of California license, and any applicable tags and permits, and can only hunt in the appropriate season.

Target shooting is also permitted in the Palo Verde Mountains Wilderness. You must clean up your cartridges and target materials. Please do not use glass or clay pigeons as the debris is difficult to clean up and poses a hazard to other recreational users and local wildlife.

OHV Drives

Extreme temperatures in the summer months can make strenuous activity impractical. When the temperature soars, try riding in a four-wheel-drive, high clearance vehicle to explore the wilderness region. There are restrictions on the use of motorized vehicles in BLM wilderness areas. However, access roads around the wilderness area lead to many of the sights in the Palo Verde Mountains Wilderness.

The Milpitas Wash Loop Drive is a 30-mile loop which provides access to the major peaks in the wilderness area and access to shorter hikes from access points along the OHV road to park features.

Fishing

Fishing in the Colorado River during the hot summer months is a popular activity when desert recreational activities in the Palo Verde Mountain Wilderness are impractical due to extreme heat. Cool down by the riverside at the Mayflower County Park Campground or the Picacho State Recreation Area to the south.

Fish species available in the river include black bass, striped bass, bluegill, channel and flathead catfish. Fish from the shore or from a boat on the river surface. Ensure you have a valid state fishing license.