Hiking is a popular monument activity at the monument. There are no developed trails. The terrain is very rough and rocky with steep cliffs, canyons and remote areas. Be prepared with plenty of water, supplies, and proper hiking equipment. The monument is home to rattlesnakes, scorpions, javelinas and mountain lions and hikers need to be aware of their surroundings. Learn: Outdoor Ethics
You can get to Badger Springs Trail by exiting Interstate 17 at the Badger Springs Exit 256. Follow the gravel road for about a mile to the trailhead parking area. Badger Springs Trail follows an informal trail, the Badger Springs Wash, down to the Agua Fria River. This is a popular hiking and equestrian trail through a cool and lush desert wetland. The river flows through early spring and it is possible to wade in the larger pools of water. Hikers looking for a challenge can use the river’s edge as a guide, viewing cultural sites and wildlife.
Dispersed/Primitive Camping only
Dispersed/primitive camping is available on the monument and is one of the ways people enjoy the beauty and solitude. You may pick your own campsite, but please use existing hardened sites and protect riparian areas by camping at least 200 feet from water sources and use biodegradable soap. Be prepared and bring your own water for all your drinking and camping needs.
Camping on public lands away from developed recreation facilities is called "dispersed” or “primitive” camping. Most of the public lands in Arizona are open to dispersed camping, as long as such use does not conflict with other authorized uses or occurs in areas posted "closed to camping," or in some way adversely affects wildlife species or natural resources.
Dispersed camping is allowed on public lands in Arizona for no more 14 days within any period of 28 consecutive days. The 28-day period begins when you first occupy a specific location on public lands. You could reach the 14-day limit either through a number of separate visits or through 14 days of continuous overnight occupation during the 28-day period. After the 14th day of occupation, you must move outside of a 25-mile radius of the previous location until the 29th day since the initial occupation. The purpose of this special rule is to prevent damage to sensitive resources caused by continual use of any particular areas. In addition, you must not leave any personal property unattended for more than 10 days.
To further protect your public lands, you must not dispose of any refuse, hazardous materials, sewage, or gray water, in any manner that would pollute the surrounding area. Learn: Outdoor Ethics
Please enjoy camping on public lands, and please take care of these lands like they were your own—because they are!
- Wildlife/Bird Watching
Connect with Nature via iNaturalist - Explore and share your observations from the natural world. Please observe and enjoy wildlife from a distance. This practice helps to reduce noise and stress to feeding animals and nesting birds.
The Agua Fria National Monument’s grass-capped mesas, deep canyons, and vital streams provide a haven abundant wildlife. The riparian ecosystems sustained by perennial water support native fish species. Many other birds, mammals, reptile, and amphibians reside within the monument’s boundaries.
The Agua Fria River and its tributaries within the monument are designated as an Important Bird Area by the Audubon Society. To date, 194 species of birds have been recorded. The various habitats provide critical breeding grounds for some bird species, wintering grounds for others, and the Agua Fria River has recently been identified as a bird migration route.
Despite their shyness with people, herds of pronghorn are a common sight on the grasslands. In fact, several hundred of these antelope-like animals live on the mesas. Be quick in capturing photographs because pronghorn can quickly vanish into the distance to escape any perceived threats.
Other common residents of the Agua Fria National Monument are mule deer, white-tailed deer, javelina, and coyotes which roam the hills, mesa tops, and canyons. Elk and black bear occasionally venture into the area from the nearby mountains.
You should take caution when hiking because the monument is also home to many species of reptiles including venomous rattlesnakes and Gila monsters. However, more often than not, nonvenomous species of wildlife are encountered.
- Archaeology/Cultural Resources
Archaeological Site Viewing
There are hundreds of archaeological sites in the Agua Fria, from large pueblo home sites to rock art panels. Explore these sites, but leave artifacts as they are.
Agua Fria National Monument contains more than 400 archaeological sites, spanning some 2,000 years of human history. The first Indian settlers were Archaic people, moving seasonally to hunt game and gather wild plant foods. At about A.D. 1100, many families left their lowland settlements in central Arizona to establish new villages at higher elevations. These uplands included Perry Mesa and Black Mesa, separated by the river’s deep canyon.
Archaeologists call the late prehistoric people who lived on the mesas between A.D. 1250 and 1450, the Perry Mesa Tradition. They estimate that at least 3,000 people inhabited settlements in areas that are now visited only occasionally by ranchers, hunters, and hikers. Remnants of stone pueblos, some containing more than 100 rooms, represent a system of communities with economic and social ties. Pueblo la Plata, a large settlement of 80 to 100 rooms, attracts many visitors.
Bighorn sheep, deer, and human figures are prominent features on the impressive rock art sites created by the people who once called this place home. They traded with distant groups for painted pottery and other items. Networks of hilltop structures may have acted as communication systems, where smoke signals relayed information or warned of attacks. Structures sitting at the edges of steep canyons are though by scientists to have provided defense against invaders.
The people of the Perry Mesa Tradition abandoned their villages by A.D. 1500, possibly retreating from a drought. Early Spanish explorers encountered Yavapai Indians living in the areas, but their relationship to the Perry Mesa Tradition is unclear. In the 1870s, the U.S. Army forced the Yavapai to move to the San Carlos Reservation in eastern Arizona, from there eventually returning to their homeland. Today, Yavapai communities exist near Prescott and Camp Verde.
Many of the national monument’s archaeological sites are remote and inaccessible areas. We recommend exploring Pueblo la Plata as well as a rock art site at the confluence of Badger Springs Wash and the Agua Fria River (see Badger Springs Trail). Sadly, many sites have sustained damage from looting and vandalism. However, they continue to provide scientific, educational and cultural values. Please help protect these prehistoric and historic sites as an important part of the nation’s heritage.
A dedicated core of volunteers, called the Arizona Site Stewards, monitor sites to ensure their protection. They work with BLM archaeologists to record, excavate and stabilize sites.
Hunting is permitted within the national monument and is located in Game Management Unit 21. Be certain to purchase the appropriate Arizona Game and Fish Department license and permit and follow all federal and state regulations. Please stay on designated roads and close gates when passing through.
Arizona Game and Fish Department Hunting Information