Turtle Mountains Wilderness

A rugged canyon green with desert vegetation after spring rains. BLM Photo 
Legal Description
7.5 Topo Map 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11
Photo Gallery

Size: 177,209 acres Turtle Mountains

Location: Turtle Mountains Wilderness is located in San Bernardino County, California approximately 30 miles southeast of Needles, California.  The southern boundary of the wilderness is approximately two miles north of California Highway 62.  Maps of the area can be obtained from the Bureau of Land Management Field Office in Needles, California.

(Note: Boundary set backs from roads or trails are 30 to 300 feet)

Area Description : The 182,641-acre (approximate) Turtle Mountains Wilderness encompasses a diverse, scenic landscape.  The area ranges from broad bajadas to highly eroded volcanic peaks, spires, and cliffs.  The colorful Turtle Mountains vary from deep reds, browns, tans and grays, to black. The Mopah Range contains the two signature Mopah Peaks, which are rhyodactic or volcanic plugs.  The northern most peak is a landmark known as Mexican Hat.  The area has numerous springs and seeps; however, several of them were developed with wells prior to wilderness designation.  Much of the Turtle Mountain range has been designated as a National Natural Landmark in recognition of its exceptional natural values.  Dominate vegetation consists of the creosote bush-bur sage and the palo verde-cactus shrub ecosystems.  In the washes, Colorado/Sonoran microphylla woodlands can be found.  These woodlands include such things as palo verde, smoke tree, honey mesquite, and catclaw.  Wildlife species include bighorn sheep, coyote, black-tailed jackrabbits, ground squirrels, kangaroo rats, quail, roadrunners, golden eagles, prairie falcons, rattlesnakes, and several species of lizards.  The desert tortoise is found within the wilderness area and approximately 73,000 acres located in northwestern and northeastern portions of the wilderness area are considered critical habitat.  The wilderness is located in an ecological transition zone between the Mojave and Sonoran Deserts and therefore contains a high diversity of plant and animal species.    

Getting There : To access the northern portion of this wilderness, go south on U.S. Highway 95 from Needles for approximately 25 miles to Turtle Mountain Road. Travel about 10 miles west, where the road splits. Take the south fork and follow the road for approximately 3 miles to an area known as Brown's Cabin or Carson's Well. Hike south into the wilderness. Careful driving is required when crossing the sandy Chemehuevi Wash. High clearance or four-wheel drive vehicles are recommended.

Nonfederal Lands: Private lands may lie within the wilderness area. Please respect the landowner and do not use these lands without permission.

Additional Information :

Area Management

Permits are required for commercial or organized activities.

Recreational Opportunities

Hiking, horseback riding, hunting, camping, rock hounding, photography, and backpacking are examples of activities can be enjoyed in this wilderness.  The area is a favorite for rock hounding hobbyists and is nationally known for chalcedony (form of quartz) deposits known as ?Mopah Roses?.  Coffin, Mopah, and Mohawk Springs are popular hiking destinations. 

Climate and Special Equipment Needs

Temperatures are fairly mild in the early spring, late fall, and winter; generally 30-80?F.  Summer temperatures are extremely hot.  Temperatures are commonly over 115?F and can get well over 120?F.  Always carry water; desert springs are not reliable water sources.

Signs indicating "Wilderness" and "Closed Road" or "Closed Route" are placed at various intervals.  Vehicles can be parked outside the wilderness boundary; however, the boundary is set back 30 feet from unmaintained dirt roads and 300 feet on paved roads.

Mechanized or motorized vehicles are NOT PERMITTED in a wilderness.

Hunting, fishing, and non-commercial trapping are allowed under state and local laws.

Pet are allowed, but please keep your pets under control at all times.

Horses are permitted, however you may be required to carry feed.

Removal, disturbance, or attempting to remove archaelogical materials is a felony.  Selling, receiving, purchasing, transporting, exchanging or offering to do so is prohibited by law.

CAMPING: Camping is permitted, limited to 14 days.  After 14 days, campers must relocate at least 25 miles from previous site.

Help BLM preserve California's fragile deserts.  Please park your vehicle or set up camp in previously disturbed sites.

Gathering wood for campfires, when permitted, is limited to dead and down materials.  Do not cut live vegetation.

The BLM encourages all desert recreationists and travelers exploring public lands, not only within southern California but through the west, to use propylene glycol based antifreeze/coolant in their touring and recreation vehicles.  Proven safer, it will have minimal impacts on the wildlife and the environment should a leak occur.


  • Desert Access Guide:
    • Parker
    • Sheephole Mountains 
  • USGS 7.5 Quadrangle Maps:
    • Arica Mountains
    • East of Milligan
    • Horn Spring
    • Martins Well
    • Mohawk Spring
    • Nopah Peaks
    • Rice
    • Sablon
    • Savahia Peak South  West
    • Vidal North West
    • West of Mohawk Spring
    • Wilhelm Spring


Bureau of Land Management
Needles Field Office
1303 S. Hwy 95
Needles, CA 92363
Phone: (760) 326-7000
Fax: (760) 326-7099
Office Hours: 7:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m., M-F
Contact us by Email