The Trigo Mountain Wilderness became part of the National Wilderness Preservation System in 1990, and now has a total of 30,300 acres located within the State of Arizona and managed by the Bureau of Land Management.
The terrain in the Trigo Mountain Wilderness is atypical of the surrounding Arizona landscape. It is bordered on the west by the Imperial Refuge Wilderness, which creates a thin strip along the Colorado River, separating the 14 mile stretch of saw-toothed ridges in the Trigo Mountain Wilderness from California. A road running through the Trigo Mountains Wilderness divides the areas northern and southern sections. Many washes in the wilderness area thread through the jagged, rocky, mountainous terrain, and elevations range from 300 to 1700 feet above sea level.
The wilderness has three distinct regions: the Trigo Mountain Ridgeline and Red Cloud Wash in the south section, the Clip Wash in the central section, and the Hart Mine Wash on the north side. Springs in the region create riparian areas to support recreational activities and wildlife. Vegetation in the area consists of saguaros, ocotillo, yucca, chollas, prickly pears, mesquite, and creosote bush. Riparian areas may contain Ironwood trees and Palo Verde trees.
Horseback riding, backcountry camping, and wildlife viewing are popular activities in the area. Species you may encounter in the Trigo Mountains Wilderness include bighorn sheep, mule deer, grey foxes, coyotes, bobcats, mountain lions, wild burro and mustangs, lizards and snakes. The rugged terrain provides other challenging recreational activities such as hunting and rock climbing, with few human visitors in the area, which makes the area serene and peaceful for enjoying in solitude.
The climate in this region ranges between 50 F and 90 F most of the year with temperatures as low as 30 F in the winter and higher temperatures, over 100 F, during the summer months. The area typically receives less than five inches of rain annually. When rainfall does occur, it is often accompanied by wind storms which can create hazardous conditions for recreational users. The peak season for recreational activities in Trigo Mountain Wilderness is between October and April, with most activities occurring in the spring and fall.
Other wilderness areas nearby you can visit while exploring the Trigo Mountains Wilderness include New Water Mountains Wilderness, Algodones Dunes Wilderness, Indian Pass Wilderness, and the Picacho State Recreation Area.
The Trigo Mountains Wilderness is located north of the City of Yuma. You can use the Lopez Wash Road, Hart Mine Wash Road, and Cibola Road access to reach other areas in the BLM wilderness. These and other four-wheel-drive trails further to the north skirt the edge of the wilderness off of US Highway 60 and 95 and approach the northern sections of the Trigo Mountains Wilderness.
All of these access roads require four-wheel-drive vehicles with high clearance as they are rough and naturally surfaced, and become more difficult to traverse as you approach the BLM lands.
This is a remote wilderness area with extreme climate and terrain. Vehicles approaching the wilderness boundaries should be equipped to handle the challenges of travel in the area. Take extra water for cooling systems, spare tires, and patch kits. RVs are best left at designated camping areas to the south, such as the campground at the Picacho State Recreation Area. Cellular service is spotty in the area, so be prepared with emergency supplies including plenty of drinking water, accurate wilderness maps, and satellite aided devices.
The main campground at Picacho State Recreation Area is only a short distance from the Trigo Mountains Wilderness as the crow flies, but driving requires a circuitous route that takes over two hours. The access road has been upgraded and should be accessible for two-wheel-drive vehicles, RVs, and tow vehicles.
The campground does provide an excellent base for RV camping while exploring the BLM wilderness areas in the region, which are inaccessible to RVs and tow vehicles. The main campground is situated on the Colorado River and a boat ramp provides recreational access to the river for boating and fishing activities. There are 54 campsites at the campground, which are unserviced, however, a sanitary station is available and generators can be used during the daytime hours between 10 AM and 8 PM.
Campsites have picnic tables and fire rings and can accommodate up to eight people and three vehicles. Pets are permitted, but must remain leashed, kept in your vehicle at night to prevent escapees and excessive barking, and you should be prepared to clean up after your pet. Amenities at the campground include chemical and vault toilets and solar showers, as well as drinking water supplies. There is a beach area with swimming, and hiking trails, including interpretive trails and sites to discover!
Backcountry camping is permitted in the Trigo Mountains Wilderness for up to 14 days at a time, per site. There are some sparse water sources, but campers should bring water supplies. Purification of any water in the wilderness is required before using it as drinking water. Topographical maps available from the local BLM office indicate the location of water sources.
Backcountry campers are encouraged to use earth tone colored equipment to blend in with the environment and choose previously occupied sites to minimize disruption to the natural habitat in the region. Hiking group numbers are limited to small groups, and campsites should be set up at least ¼ mile from water sources.
Do not use abandoned mine buildings for shelter, which are structurally unstable and hazardous. There are venomous reptiles and insects in the BLM lands here, use caution, and never put hands or feet where you can not first ascertain one of the local inhabitants has not taken shelter! Check weather forecasts before your trip and be prepared for harsh climate conditions. Campers should let someone know of their plans before participating in backcountry camping activities.
The saw-toothed ridges and mountainous terrain in the Trigo Mountains Wilderness attracts rock climbers to the region. The peak season for strenuous recreational activities in these desert mountains is between October and April, as summer temperatures are prohibitively hot.
Areas with high, steep, rock faces draw rock climbers to the region, and as it is remote, with little human activity, you can enjoy unspoiled vistas at the end of your climb from the high elevations. Ensure you have appropriate safety and climbing equipment to conduct a safe climb. Local outfitters can help with directions to the best spots, advice, and rental equipment if required.
During the cooler months, horseback riding in the area is a popular activity. Enjoy the mountainous terrain and solitude from the back of your equine friend. BLM public land regulations typically limit stock in wilderness areas to 25 head.
There are some springs providing water sources for equestrians. However, these same water sources attract wild burros and mustangs, which can be disturbing to domestic horses, so use caution in the region when riding. Feed brought in for horses should be weed-free, so as not to contaminate native vegetation.
Hikers and backpackers that enjoy solitude will find it at the remote Trigo Mountains Wilderness. There are no designated or maintained trails in the wilderness area. However, this BLM property was once covered in mining operations that were part of the old Yuma Proving Grounds, and the remnants of roadbeds thread across the area which make for excellent hiking paths. Multiple washes and burro trails in the region are also popular to hike along.
Water is scarce, and hikers should bring plenty of water, at least one gallon, per person, per day. Wear appropriate hiking boots to navigate the terrain, and ensure someone off-site knows your planned route and time of return.
The unique desert ecosystems and terrain in the Trigo Mountains Wilderness support a variety of wildlife. Springs and washes provide riparian areas with water sources and vegetation that attract wild burros and mustangs residing in the area.
Other species you can encounter in the public lands include mule deer, bobcats, mountain lions, snakes, lizards, bighorn sheep, and fox. Hunting and non-commercial trapping are permitted in the appropriate season, usually during the winter months, and the region is part of Hunting Unit 43B.
Commercial rock collecting is not permitted in BLM public lands. However, hobby rock collection is permitted. You cannot use detection methods that disturb the natural landscape, vegetation, and surface, so digging and prying tools can not be used. This area was once home to numerous mining activities, so plenty of geological treasures are scattered about. Fill your pockets with interesting rocks and minerals, but be respectful, and only take a reasonable amount for personal use.
Remnants of indigenous settlements and mining activities exist in and around the wilderness region. Since the area was designated as part of the National Wilderness Preservation System, the remnants of human activities are slowly fading away, as nature reclaims the area. However, old roadways and mines lace the area. Do not venture into abandoned mines, as they are structurally unstable and can be susceptible to collapse. Also, local wildlife including venous species and predators may take shelter at these abandoned sites. Explore the area with a local history guide and a camera, and take pictures and notes to record your historical “finds”.