Sonoran Desert National Monument
Portion of Sonoran Desert National Monument Closed to Recreational Target Shooting

 The U.S. District Court in Arizona has ordered the BLM to temporarily close 2.1 percent -- 10,600 acres -- of the Sonoran Desert National Monument to recreational target shooting. During the closure, the BLM will conduct a court-ordered analysis of the impacts of such shooting on the Monument. Licensed hunting continues to be allowed; all state regulations apply. Approximately 95 percent of the 12.2 million acres of public land managed by BLM in Arizona remain open to recreational target shooting.

 The BLM is committed to meeting the management challenges surrounding recreational target shooting on public lands, including determining where and how this activity can be conducted responsibly. We will continue to engage public and private stakeholders in discussions of collaborative options and acceptable solutions.

Temporary Road Closure in Sonoran Desert National Monument

sonoran desertDescription 
The Sonoran Desert National Monument contains more than 487,000 acres of Sonoran Desert landscape. The Sonoran Desert is the most biologically diverse of the North American deserts, and the monument exemplifies this desert setting. The most striking aspect of the plant community within the monument is the extensive saguaro cactus forest. The monument contains three distinct mountain ranges, the Maricopa, Sand Tank and Table Top Mountains, as well as the Booth and White Hills, all separated by wide valleys. The monument is also home to three congressionally designated wilderness areas, many significant archaeological and historic sites, and remnants of several important historic trails.  

From Phoenix to the western side of the national monument, take I-10 west about 31 miles to Exit 112/AZ-85, then south about 35 miles to the eastern edge of Gila Bend, AZ. Turn left on AZ-238 and proceed east about four miles to the national monument. In Gila Bend information can be obtained at the Town Museum on 644 W. Pima Street.
From Phoenix to the eastern national monument boundary, take I-10 east and south about 16 miles to Exit 164/Queen Creek Road, turn right and continue on AZ-347 about 15 miles to Maricopa, AZ. Turn right onto AZ-238 and continue west about 16 miles to the national monument.
From Phoenix to the southern part of the national monument, take I-10 south to I-8. Proceed west on I-8 to Exit 144/Vekol Road and turn south. For information about other access routes, contact BLM.
Visitor Activities
Hiking, backpacking, stargazing, camping, hunting, motor touring, sightseeing, photography, and horse back riding.
Special Features
The monument offers many opportunities to explore and discover the secrets of the Sonoran Desert and includes three wilderness areas, the North Maricopa Mountains Wilderness, the South Maricopa Mountains Wilderness, and the Table Top Wilderness. These wilderness areas offer excellent opportunities for solitude and unconfined recreation. The North Maricopa Mountains Wilderness has two hiking and equestrian trails, the 9-mile Margie’s Cove Trail and the 6-mile Brittlebush Trail. The Table Top Wilderness also has two hiking and equestrian trails, the 7-mile Lava Flow Trail and the 3-mile Table Top Trail. A section of the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail crosses the national monument. This congressionally designated trail parallels the Butterfield Overland Stage Route, the Mormon Battalion Trail, and the Gila Trail. A four-wheel-drive accessible route follows the trail corridor for approximately 10 miles through the national monument.

Visitor Information


Research & Education

Background & History

Planning & Reports


Other BLM Arizona National Monuments

BLM's National Landscape Conservation System

Permits, Fees, Limitations
Visits to the Sand Tank Mountains, located south of Interstate 8, require a Barry M Goldwater Range permit. The permit is free, but requires the recipient to watch a 13 minute safety video.  Permits are valid for one year, from July 1 through June 30 of the following year.  Permits can be obtained in person at BLM's Arizona State Office and Lower Sonoran Field Office.  

Motorized and mechanized vehicles, including bicycles must remain on existing routes. Collection, removal, or damage to natural and cultural resources, including artifacts, plants (live or dead), and rocks, is prohibited. The monument's elevation ranges from 1,000 to 4,400 feet, thus summer is rough on visitors.  Summer visitors must take extra precautions to drink plenty of water, as temperatures may exceed 110 degrees fahrenheit.  Sunscreen, sunglasses and a large brimmed hat are recommended.  Make sure your gasoline tank is full, carry additional water and spare tires in your vehicle, and your vehicle is in good working condition.  Winter is the most popular time to visit. The desert sun stirs up rattlesnakes and other reptiles as early as February. Flash floods caused by sudden storms can be dangerous in washes, so it is best to have a survival plan to prevent emergency situations.  Have good maps with you and know how to use them.

Restrooms are wheelchair accessible. No other accessible facilities are present in the monument.

Camping and Lodging
The national monument has no developed camping facilities. BLM’s Painted Rock Campground is located approximately 26 miles west of Gila Bend, AZ. Lodging is available in Casa Grande and Gila Bend, approximately 25 miles west of the Vekol Road interchange on Interstate 8.
Food and Supplies
There are no services on the national monument. Stores and gas stations are available in nearby Gila Bend, AZ, approximately 25 miles west of the Vekol Road interchange on Interstate 8.
First Aid
There is no first aid station on-site. The nearest hospital is located in Casa Grande, AZ, approximately 30 miles east of the Vekol Road interchange on Interstate 8.
Additional Information
As a result of extreme summer temperatures, activities are best pursued from late October through mid-April. Drinking water is not available, so visitors are reminded to bring plenty of their own water. Vehicles should be in good working order, have a full fuel tank of gas and full size spare tires. Cellular phones do not work in many areas of the national monument. The main access routes and washes are prone to heavy seasonal rains and flash floods. Check with the monument office  for current conditions. This is a remote area, recreational opportunities are primitive and access roads are not maintained. No water or trash collection is provided.

 Sonoran Desert National Monument
Monument Manager:  Dave Scarbrough
21605 N. 7th Avenue
Phoenix, AZ 85027-2929
(623) 580-5500