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Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness
Wildlife Watching > Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness (AZ) 
22 miles southeast of Winkelman, Arizona (west entrance).
53 miles west of Safford, Arizona (east entrance).
The cooling perennial waters of Aravaipa (“Ar-ah-vie-pah”) Creek have carved a scenic canyon through the Sonoran Desert at the northern end of the Galiuro Mountains in southeastern Arizona. Saguaro cacti dot the canyon slopes, and a mixed-broadleaf riparian forest lines the canyon along the creek. The canyon, up to 1,000 feet deep in places, is home to desert bighorn sheep, javelinas, coatimundis, ringtail cats, and other wildlife. The creek is home to several native fish species, and over 200 species of birds live among the cottonwoods, sycamores, willows, ash, and other riparian areas in the canyon. Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness is 11 miles long, and elevations range from 3,060 feet at the eastern trailhead to 2,630 feet at the western trailhead. Nine major side canyons feed into Aravaipa and, along with caves, outcrops, and chimneys, entice visitors to explore. Strong hikers can traverse from end to end in 8–10 hours, while photographers, nature watchers, and those wanting to explore side canyons may take one or two overnights and still never see it all.
From Phoenix to the west trailhead (120 miles), take U.S. Highway 60 to Superior. At Superior, take State Highway 177 to Winkelman, then take State Highway 77 south for 11 miles to Aravaipa Road (at Central Arizona College). Turn left and go 12 miles to the west trailhead along a paved and graded dirt road. From the trailhead, it is a 1.5-mile hike through Nature Conservancy lands to the west wilderness boundary. Driving directions to both the east and west trailheads from Phoenix, Tucson, and Safford are available on the BLM Aravaipa Canyon website (see Contact Information).
Visitor Activities
Hiking, wildlife viewing, plant viewing, birdwatching, horseback riding, geologic sightseeing, and big-game and small-game hunting.
Special Features
Aravaipa Creek flows year-round, an unusual phenomenon in the Arizona desert. Nurtured by this abundant water source, large sycamore, ash, cottonwood, and willow trees flourish along the stream, flanked by other riparian vegetation. In the fall, a kaleidoscope of brilliant red and golden leaves contrasts dramatically with the surrounding tans of the Sonoran Desert landscape.
Permits, Fees, Limitations
An entry permit is required and may be reserved up to 13 weeks in advance of entry date. Use is limited to 50 people per day: 30 entering from the west trailhead, and 20 entering from the east trailhead. This system helps to reduce the potential impacts to the environment caused by human use and allows visitors to enjoy the canyon’s solitude. A fee is charged. Permits can be booked on BLM’s online reservation system (www.az.blm.gov); this requires advance payment via credit card.
None within the wilderness. The information kiosk and restroom at the east entrance, and ranger station at the west end, are wheelchair-accessible.
Camping and Lodging
Fourmile Canyon Campground is a year-round area located in Klondyke, just 0.75 mile southwest of the site on Fourmile Canyon Road. This is a 10-unit campground with tables, grills, toilets, water, and trash cans, but no hookups. Daily fees are charged. Camping also is permitted on adjacent public lands with no facilities. Lodging is available in small towns near each end of the wilderness.
Food and Supplies
Food and supplies are available in Klondyke (10 miles south), Safford (53 miles east) and Winkelman (22 miles northwest).
First Aid
No first aid is available on-site. The hospital nearest to the east trailhead is located in Safford. The nearest medical facilities closest to the west trailhead are in Kearny, 33 miles northwest on State Highway 177, and San Manuel, 30 miles southwest on State Highway 77.
Additional Information
Hiking in the canyon is considered to be moderately difficult, and numerous calf- and knee-deep stream crossings are required. The wilderness is open year-round, but spring and fall are the best times to hike. Summer can be quite hot, and winter is chilly. The avenues of access to both ends of the wilderness cross lands owned by The Nature Conservancy; this private property should be respected. The BLM Aravaipa Canyon website also provides detailed information about hiking, camping, and natural history. Visitors should call BLM to obtain an entry permit.
Contact Information
BLM - Safford Field Office
711 14th Avenue
Safford, AZ 85546
Tel: (520) 348-4400              

Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness Map

Horseback Tour Through Aravaipa Canyon

Horseback tours through 11 miles of Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness allow visitors to experience the scenic wonders of this desert riparian (streamside) canyon without getting their feet wet.  (Diane Drobka, BLM Safford

Last updated: 10-23-2009