The North Maricopa Mountains Wilderness consists of a series of rocky, isolated summits, long ridges, and vast, level valley floors. The ridges are dissected by normally dry washes and separated by desert outwash slopes (bajadas). Elevations in this wilderness range from approximately 900 feet, near Gila Bend, to approximately 3,000 feet, at Butterfield Pass. The two major vegetation communities which characterize this area include Paloverde-Mixed Cactii, which consists of dense "forests" of saguaro cactus, paloverde, and ironwood, and Creosote-Bursage, which covers low elevation valley floors in seemingly unbroken expanses. Common wildlife roaming the area includes desert bighorn sheep, desert tortoise, coyotes, bobcat, fox, deer, Gambel's quail, and raptors.
This area receives 8.5 inches of precipitation annually with temperatures ranging from 82.9 to 107.4 degrees Fahrenheit in July and from 43.7 to 67.6 degrees in December. Spring and fall temperatures are more moderate. The 9-mile Margie’s Cove Trail and 6-mile Brittlebush Trail take you through the heart of the Wilderness and a portion of the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail borders the southern boundary of the Wilderness. In 2001 the North Maricopa Mountains Wilderness was incorporated into the Sonoran Desert National Monument.
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 North Maricopa Mountains Wilderness.
The North Maricopa Mountains Wilderness is located in south-central Arizona approximately 12 miles east of Gila Bend, and a two-hour drive from Phoenix. High-clearance and four-wheel-drive vehicles are recommended as there are no improved roads that provide access to the wilderness.
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.
The nearest towns with fuel, restaurants, and lodging are Buckeye, Gila Bend, and Maricopa. Access to the North Maricopa Mountains Wilderness is by primitive, unmarked roads.
The 11-mile Margies Cove Trail and 6-mile Brittlebush Trail traverse the wilderness; however, motorized access currently is not available to the Margies Cove East Trailhead and the Brittlebush Trailhead. Vehicle access is available for the Margies Cove West Trailhead from State Highway 85.
There is a small, four site campground at the Margies Cove West Trailhead with a vault toilet; however, water and septic disposal are not provided.
Climate and Special Equipment Needs
Summer high temperatures may exceed 120 degrees Farenheit. Visitation to the wilderness primarily occurs during the cool season from October through April.
Safety and Current Conditions
An area of public lands adjacent to the eastern and southern boundaries of the North Maricopa Mountains Wilderness has been temporarily closed to motor vehicles due to resource damage that has occurred from off-road use of vehicles.
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.