South Maricopa Mountains Wilderness Area
The 60,100-acre South Maricopa Mountains Wilderness is located in southwestern Maricopa County, Arizona, 16 miles east of Gila Bend and 30 miles southwest of Phoenix.
This wilderness includes 13 miles of the Maricopa Mountain range, a low elevation Sonoran Desert range, and extensive desert plains. The eastern part of the wilderness has an isolated and screened mountainous interior, formed by long ridges and isolated peaks, separated by plains and washes. The western part is dominated by desert flats fronting the east-west trending Maricopa Mountains ridgeline.
This area's large size, varied landforms, and wildness provide outstanding opportunities for solitude and primitive recreation. Hiking, backpacking, horseback riding, camping, wildlife observation and photography are some activities both experienced and family-oriented outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy. Desert bighorn sheep, desert tortoise, coyotes, bobcat, fox, deer, Gambel's quail and various raptors also inhabit the wilderness. Saguaro, cholla, and ocotillo, paloverde and mesquite are among the many plant species.
This wilderness area is a two-hour drive from metropolitan Phoenix, but access is difficult. Because road conditions vary, high-clearance and four wheel-drive vehicles are recommended. Interstate 8 parallels the south boundary of the wilderness but offers no access to the wilderness. The north boundary can be accessed from primitive dirt roads south of Maricopa Road, but active railroad tracks and rights-of-way restrict public crossings. No roads lead to the western and eastern boundaries of the wilderness.