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Peloncillo Mountains WSA

Welcome to Wilderness Wednesday, our weekly posting to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. 

This week, we are highlighting the Peloncillo Mountains Wilderness Study Area (WSA), along with its neighbor the Peloncillo Mountains Wilderness across the state line in Arizona. Jagged and rugged, the Peloncillo Mountains’ volcanic past created a series of buttes and a maze of canyons, which extend in all directions. The area has exceptional desert scenery with large exposed cliffs and expansive views. The desert vegetation common here includes mesquite, creosote, catclaw, whitethorn, agave, and prickly pear.   Desert bighorn sheep, peregrine falcons, and deer are some of the animals that call this area home. 

This area is divided by the New Mexico and Arizona state line. While the Arizona side was designated as Wilderness in 1990, the smaller portion on the New Mexico side awaits Congressional action for its permanent management classification. Together, the area totals 23,500 acres, but the two sides are managed differently. The Arizona side is managed under the Wilderness Act to preserve wilderness character. The New Mexico side is managed under the Federal Land Policy and Management Act to prevent impairment of wilderness characteristics. These differences are most noticeable to visitors in that, generally, more motor vehicle use may be allowed in a WSA than a wilderness (though in both cases, motor vehicle use is restricted – every area has unique management circumstances). For more detailed information about Wilderness and WSA management and their differences, please visit: http://www.blm.gov/nm/wilderness.

As this is a remote area with little visitation, no developed trailheads, parking areas, or hiking trails exist in the area. However, access to the WSA exists. A visitor can select a spot on the boundary to park and set off on a cross country hike. From Interstate 10, take Exit 3 at Steins, NM (19 miles southwest of Lordsburg). Turn right at the stop sign off the exit, drive less than ¼ mile (passing the Steins ghost town) and turn right onto Summit Road/Steins Road. Cross the railroad tracks and drive northeast, then north for about 10½ miles, staying on Summit Road (passing Steins Road & Steins Mtn. Road on the left at about 3 miles, and County Road A014 on the left at about 9 miles). At about 10½ miles, you will reach an unmarked road on your left. Turn left and follow the road southwest. This road forms the southern WSA boundary. The WSA is on the right side of this road for approximately 2½ miles. Four-wheel drive is required and drivers should avoid these roads during rain or snow. For more information please visit the following website. For more information about Arizona’s Peloncillo Wilderness, please visit the following website.

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Last updated: 10-09-2014