The barren hills in the Mecca Hills Wilderness Area create an interesting pattern across this desert landscape.
Desert cactus in bloom Dos Palmas Windmills at the base of the Santa Rosa Mountains Firefighter working a prescribed burn Bighorn Sheep
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Palm Springs-South Coast Field Office

Meccacopia Special Recreation Management Area


The California Desert Conservation Area (CDCA) Plan Amendment of the Coachella Valley designated the Meccacopia Special Recreation Management Area (SRMA) in December 2002.  The SRMA consists of approximately 125,000 acres; it includes two congressionally designated Wildernesses:  the Mecca Hills Wilderness, and the Orocopia Mountains Wilderness.  The SRMA also includes limited use areas surrounding both of these areas. 


The CDCA Plan Amendment requires that a Meccacopia Recreation Area Management Plan (RAMP) be developed.  The following are all factors important to the planning of the Meccacopia Special Recreation Area.

  • Enhance the quality of motorized recreation
  • Facilitate camping
  • Implement a network of vehicle routes
  • Minimize vehicle intrusion into wilderness
  • Provide recreational information
  • Protect environment values
  • Construct and maintain water sources for wildlife
  •  Address other concerns through public scoping

In order to comply with the CDCA Plan Amendment, four plans (two Wilderness plans, a recreation plan and a travel plan) must be coordinated into the one RAMP.  It is also important to have a strong understanding of visitor use patterns in the affected area.


It is our goal that through pre-scoping we can address the relationships between man and the environment while gaining an understanding of how recreation is occurring within the Meccacopia SRMA Limited Use Areas, which border the Wildernesses.


Within the Mecca Hills and Orocopia Wilderness Plans, the focus will be to protect the diverse ecosystem found within these dramatic desert terrains.  Though wilderness provides a number of values that make up the whole, it is important to never favor only one. 


The Meccacopia SRMA consists of a series of loop routes that travel around the Mecca Hills Wilderness and the Orocopia Wilderness.  One corridor was set aside to allow access between the Mecca Hills and the Orocopia Mountains from September 1 to June 1 each season.  Another corridor through the Orocopia Mountains Wilderness is the Red Canyon Jeep Trail, which is the formal eastern boundary to the SRMA.  Easements were developed and the Adopt-A-Trail Program was implemented.  The local Desert Side Tracs 4x4 Club adopted Red Canyon Jeep Trail in 1991 and Amy’s Wash in 2006.  This group as well as many other volunteers assists with the maintenance and conservation of the area in order to have it accessible for recreational uses. 


Annually each Easter Sunday, Box Canyon, the old highway 94, and a paved corridor through the Mecca Hills wilderness receive a visitation of approximately 4,000 people for the observance of Spring Celebrations.  On Sunday, April 11, 2004, there were 793 vehicles with an estimated 3,172 people present from the period of 1-4 p.m.


During the 2003 Thanksgiving weekend, 1,200 Motorized SUV/OHV vehicles were recorded between Drop 31 on the southern edge of the SRMA and Summit Flats at the eastern edge of the SRMA.  Over 1,164 Motorized SUV/OHV users were counted during the 2004 Thanksgiving weekend.


For over twenty years, Recreational Users have traveled over the Coachella Valley Canal Road to access the Bradshaw Trail from Highway 111.  During the spring of 2005, construction began on the lining of the almost one hundred year old Coachella Valley Canal.  This permanently closed access to the canal road, therefore impacts are occurring on the edge of the Orocopia Wilderness and the Dos Palmas Preserve due to a change in travel management, further supporting the need to develop a strategy to address route designations.


Map of Meccacopia Special Recreation Management Area, Off Highway Vehicle Routes of Travel