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Cabeza Prieta Wilderness

Contact Info
College of Forestry and Conservation, Wilderness Institute
The University of Montana
Missoula, MT 59812



The Cabeza Prieta Wilderness now contains a total of 803,418 acres and is managed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. All of the wilderness is in the state of Arizona.

Public land becomes wilderness through legislation passed by the United States Congress in the form of public laws. For the Cabeza Prieta Wilderness, this process began in 1990 when 803,418 acres were designated by Public Law 101-628. The following public laws also affect the Cabeza Prieta Wilderness: 106-65.

The Cabeza Prieta Wilderness is part of the 106 million acre National Wilderness Preservation System. This System of wild lands contributes significantly to the ecological, economic, and social health of our country. Wilderness provides clean air and water, a shelter for endangered species, sacred places for indigenous peoples, a living laboratory for research, and a classroom for exploring personal values while experiencing risk, reward, and self-reliance. In wilderness, you can enjoy challenging recreational activities like hiking, backpacking, climbing, kayaking, canoeing, rafting, horse packing, bird watching, stargazing, and extraordinary opportunities for solitude.


Additional Details:

A refuge permit and hold harmless agreement is currently required to enter the refuge and wilderness area. No fee is charged for the permit. Also, permits for the refuge are currently valid for recreation in approved areas on the Barry M. Goldwater Range.

Wood campfires are not permitted. For visitor safety, four-wheel-drive, high-clearance vehicles are required for travel on all public use (non-wilderness) trails, except Charlie Bell Road where two-wheel-drive, high-clearance vehicles are permitted. Vehicles may be parked on established pull-off sites within 50 feet of the public use roads. No motorized or mechanized devices are allowed inside the wilderness area. More specific regulations are available for persons requesting a refuge permit.

For more information about visiting Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge or the Cabeza Prieta Wilderness Area, please talk to the public-use staff at the refuge visitor center. The center is located at 1611 North Second Avenue in Ajo, Arizona.

Leave No Trace principles:

  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
  2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  3. Dispose of Waste Properly
  4. Leave What You Find
  5. Minimize Campfire Impacts
  6. Respect Wildlife
  7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors

Map + Directions

Basic Directions

Encompassing nearly 93% of Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, the Cabeza Prieta Wilderness Area is located north of Sonora, Mexico and west of the small town of Ajo in southwest Arizona. The Cabeza Prieta Wilderness adjoins Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument to the east, Mexico to the south, and the Barry M. Goldwater Range to the north and west.

Directions: On the west side of the refuge, visitors with refuge permits may access the wilderness area from Interstate 8 by traveling south from Exit 30 (west of Wellton) or Exit 42 (east of Tacna, Arizona).

On the east side of the refuge, visitors with refuge permits can access the east side of the refuge by traveling west on Rasmussen Road in Ajo for approximately 5 miles to Charlie Bell Road. For travel along the historic Camino del Diablo, visitors may travel south from Darby Well Road (located south of Ajo) to Bates Well Road, through Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument onto the refuge.

Customizable Directions

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