South Maricopa Mountains Wilderness
Guide

Introduction

If you hear the voice of adventure calling your name, load up the RV and head out on a voyage to check out Arizona's South Maricopa Mountains Wilderness. It's a fantastic place to visit on your next RV holiday.

South Maricopa Mountains Wilderness, a BLM managed property, is found in Maricopa County near to Gila Bend and Phoenix, Arizona. A recreational area that became a designated national wilderness in 1990, South Maricopa Mountains Wilderness consists of 60,100 acres of land in total.

Situated on the wilderness grounds is a 13 mile stretch of the Maricopa Mountains. As a property that sits within the Sonoran Desert, the climate is humid and dry year-round. The landscape is marked by rugged terrain that makes it the perfect locale for vigorous hiking.

South Maricopa Mountains Wilderness is in a remote area which makes it ideally suited to families looking to enjoy some rest and relaxation in a peaceful environment. There is a wide abundance of recreational activities to enjoy here including hiking, backpacking, horseback riding, camping, photography, and the viewing of wildlife. Among the animals that make this region their home are desert bighorn sheep, desert tortoise, bobcats, fox, deer, coyotes, and raptors. The area also enjoys an array of plant life including saguaro, cholla, paloverde, and mesquite.

Camping is available at the nearby Sonoran Desert National Monument as well as several area campgrounds where both RV and tent camping accommodations can be procured.

For an amazing vacation in a place that feels like a tranquil paradise, you won't want to miss a trip to South Maricopa Mountains Wilderness. It'll be an RV holiday you'll not soon forget!

RV Rentals in South Maricopa Mountains Wilderness

Transportation

Driving

To reach South Maricopa Mountains Wilderness from Phoenix, travelers will need to be prepared for a lengthy drive of over two hours. However, the time to reach the destination is mild in comparison to the difficulty of gaining access to the property. Road conditions are inconsistent. For this reason, a high clearance four-wheel-drive vehicle is recommended.

It would seem the most direct route to draw near to the wilderness is via Highway 8. However, this stretch of interstate does not allow any access to the property. If traveling from the north, there are several dirt roads outside Maricopa Road; however, travelers need to be aware of frequent railroad crossings and several spots where there are restrictions on the roads. Carefully observe all signs which indicate right of way regulations for the region. Access from either the east or west is not possible.

Parking

Since direct access to the wilderness requires the use of a high clearance four-wheel-drive vehicle, there are no formally designated parking lots at this property. It is recommended that travelers park their vehicles at the mouth of the wilderness and travel the remainder of the way on foot.

Public Transportation

Due to its extremely remote location, there is no public transportation available to South Maricopa Mountains Wilderness.

Campgrounds and parking in South Maricopa Mountains Wilderness

Campsites in South Maricopa Mountains Wilderness

Reservations camping

Gila Bend KOA Journey

Gila Bend KOA Journey campground is a camping facility that offers RV and tent camping by reservation year-round. This campground is able to accommodate trailers up to 80 feet in length. It is important to note that from June 15th through October 1st yearly that tent campsites and the playground are not open to the public.

The amenities found at this popular campground include power hookups, Wifi, cable TV, a pavilion, a public kitchen, a swimming pool, and a dog park.

Dogs are permitted on the grounds but must be leashed at all times.

There are several pull-through sites that are large enough for vehicles measuring 100 feet in total length.

Please be forewarned that this camping facility is renowned for the presence of many venomous snakes and scorpions. Exercise caution when traveling throughout the grounds with children or dogs. The campground maintains a staff with venomous snake training with assistance available 24 hours a day.

Usery Park Campground

Usery Park Campground is situated between the Goldfield Mountains and the Tonto National Forest. Situated on the same grounds as Usery Mountain Regional Park, this popular camping facility offers 73 campsites for reservation for RV and tent camping year-round.

Each of the campsites is complete with water and power hookups. There is also an on-site waste disposal station, picnic tables, barbecues, and fire pits for the public to use.

The on-site bathrooms house both flush toilets and showers.

There is a maximum stay of 14 days at this campground.

The most popular activities at Usery Park Campground include hiking, horseback riding, and biking.

Alternate camping

Sonoran Desert National Monument

Sonoran Desert National Monument permits dispersed camping on the grounds year-round. There are no areas cleared for camping, and thus, it is recommended for tenting only.

Dispersed camping is allowed throughout the vast majority of this popular recreational area. Picnicking is also permitted on the grounds.

Though there are no on-site amenities provided for campers at Sonoran Desert National Monument, there is a wide array of recreational activities including hiking, photography, wildlife viewing, and stargazing.

Since there is no water provided on the grounds, families must bring bottled water with them to address all of their camping needs.

Campers are asked to carefully package all food and waste materials and take them with them upon departure from the park.

Seasonal activities in South Maricopa Mountains Wilderness

In-Season

Gila Bend Visitors Center and Museum

Gila Bend Visitors Center and Museum consists of 1200 square feet where over 2000 artifacts are displayed. Each exhibit pays homage to the wild west history the region is renowned for.

The museum itself traces the history of what is known as the "Great Bend of the Gila River" from its earliest origins with the Papagos to its function as a prosperous mining and ranching site.

Housed on the same premises is the visitors center, whose main purpose is promoting local tourism. Here, visitors can find information about area attractions as well as maps and promotional pamphlets. The visitors center is staffed with helpful employees who can assist with any questions travelers may have.

Painted Rock Petroglyphs

The Painted Rock Petroglyph Site is a BLM managed property which also houses a popular campground. A famed archaeological site, many visitors flock to the grounds to enjoy viewing the many preserved artifacts contained therein. Many of the petroglyphs found on the property represent deeper meanings while others are appreciated purely for artistic merit. The surrounding landscape also bears marks from inscriptions of previous civilizations.

In addition to the petroglyphs, there are also several hiking trails found on the grounds for families to enjoy. Many of them have rich historical significance and are marked by signs explaining the events that occurred there.

Camping is permitted on-site, and picnic tables, barbecues, and fire pits are provided for public use. There is also a vault toilet on the grounds.

There is no potable water here, so families must bring bottled water with them from home.

Gatlin Archaeological Park

The Gatlin Archaeological Site was discovered in 1959. The property was involved in a land survey when efforts were being considered to build the Painted Rocks Dam. 300 acres of property were excavated during this time. Gatlin Archaeological Site was once a prosperous community that boasted such lucrative trades as agriculture, trading, and manufacturing. The town was once home to a community of 500 people.

The town of Gatlin formed an important stop along the Hohokam trade path. Housed within town limits were two important ball courts that were regularly used for rituals. Also found on the grounds was a ceremonial platform mound. of ancient origins.

Today, Gatlin enjoys its distinction as a National Historic Site.

Off-Season

Sonoran Desert National Monument

Sonoran Desert National Monument earned its designation in 2001. The property spans 496,600 acres of land and is liberally dotted with a wide variety of cacti and incredible mountains. A BLM-managed property, Sonoran Desert National Monument is essentially a desert space where families can enjoy such recreational activities as hiking, viewing wildlife, and photography. There are very few amenities found on the grounds, and there is no main attraction to visit.

The property is committed to the preservation of the natural landscape and artifacts from ancient civilizations which once dwelled on the land.

Bring along lots of drinking water and be sure to wear good hiking shoes as the terrain can be quite challenging.

Dispersed camping is permitted here.

Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail

Juan de Bautista de Anza is famous for his cry of "Vayan Subiendo!" which translates to "Everyone mount up." This Spanish explorer led a group comprised of 240 men, women, and children through this land in the years 1775-1776.

The trail itself consists of 1,200 miles in total. Throughout the journey, families can enjoy reconnecting with the original culture of the region. The Juan Bautista de Anza Trail spans the distance from Nogales, Arizona, to San Francisco Bay.

This popular path is found in the Sonoran Desert and on the same property as the national monument.

Since no amenities are found on the grounds, it is important for families to bring ample drinking water and a packed lunch along with them.

Gila Bend 9/11 Memorial Park

Gila Bend 9/11 Memorial Park pays homage to the lives lost during the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11th, 2001. The focal point of this public recreational area is a portion of a steel beam that was discovered among the remnants of the Twin Towers. The piece was taken from Ground Zero itself to be placed on display at this memorial site.

The main purpose of the park is to provide a peaceful space that promotes a spirit of gratitude and reflection. Among the features of this recreational area are a reflection pool marked by waterfalls and several flags.

There is plentiful seating for families to enjoy as well as picnic tables and beautiful gardens.

Each year, the town hosts a ceremony to commemorate those who lost their lives on that fateful day.