The wilderness area encompasses the rugged granitic Chemehuevi Mountains. The mountain range is horseshoe-shaped, with the open end facing eastward toward the Colorado River. Contained within the arms of the horseshoe is a large central valley with low rolling hills covered by dense stand of cholla and other cacti, ocotillo, and an occasional agave. Viewed from the west, the striking light, almost white, granite peaks contrast sharply with the rich green creosote and cactus-covered bajada. A few miles from the Colorado River, the mountains change dramatically from light-colored granite to dark red and gray volcanic spires and mesas. Broad, sandy, tree-lined Red Rock and Trampas Washes cross the wilderness from west to east. A number of springs and seeps are found in the area. The flora and fauna in the area are rich in species diversity due to its position between the Sonoran and Mohave Desert ecosystems and due to the infusion of river species and species principally found in eastern Arizona. Wildlife includes bighorn sheep, wild burros, desert mule deer, mountain lions, coyote, black-tailed jackrabbits, ground squirrels, kangaroo rats, roadrunners, quail, rattlesnakes, and several species of lizards. The extreme southwestern portion of the wilderness provides critical habitat for the threatened desert tortoise.
Leave No Trace
How to follow the seven standard Leave No Trace principles differs in different parts of the country (desert vs. Rocky Mountains). Click on any of the principles listed below to learn more about how they apply in the Chemehuevi Mountains Wilderness.
Chemehuevi Mountains Wilderness lies 10 miles southeast of Needles, California along US Highway 95, in San Bernardino County. The twelve mile long Trampas Wash cuts its way through the mountains and provides the easiest hiking access into the interior of the wilderness and the Colorado River from the west side. Maps of the area can be obtained from the Bureau of Land Management Field Offices in Needles, California or Lake Havasu City, Arizona.
Digital and paper maps are critical tools for wilderness visitors. Online maps can help you plan and prepare for your visit ahead of time. You can also carry digital maps with you on your GPS unit or other handheld GPS device. Having a paper map with you in the backcountry, as well as solid orienteering skills, however, ensures that you can still route-find in the event that your electronic device fails.
Motorized equipment and equipment used for mechanical transport is generally prohibited in all wilderness areas.
This includes the use of motor vehicles, motorboats, motorized equipment, bicycles, hang gliders, wagons, carts, portage wheels, and the landing of aircraft including helicopters.
California Desert Protection Act of 1994 - Public Law 103-433 (10/31/1994) "California Desert Protection Act of 1994" An Act to designate certain lands in the California Desert as wilderness, to establish the Death Valley and Joshua Tree National Parks, to establish the Mojave National Preserve, and for other purposes.
Hiking, horseback riding, hunting, camping, rock hounding, photography, and backpacking are examples of activities that can be enjoyed in this wilderness.
Climate and Special Equipment Needs
Temperatures are fairly mild in the early spring, late fall, and winter; generally 30-80 F. Summer temperatures are extremely hot. Temperatures are commonly over 115 F and can get well over 120 F. Always carry water; desert springs are not reliable water sources.
Want to Volunteer for Wilderness?
Citizens who volunteer their time to steward our wilderness areas are an essential part of wilderness management. Contact the following groups to inquire about volunteer opportunities.