Unique to the Stepladder Mountains Wilderness is the extensive critical desert tortoise habitat that it protects. The western portion of the area consists of the relatively low, elongated volcanic Stepladder Mountains. This small range extends for about ten miles in a north-south direction. The area gently slopes eastward to the northern end of Chemehuevi Wash and westward to Homer Wash. Approximately 85 percent of the Wilderness consists of flat bajadas and associated washes which provide excellent desert tortoise habitat. The entire Wilderness is considered critical habitat for this threatened species. The dominant vegetation consists of creosote bush scrub on the bajadas, and microphylla woodlands within the washes; palo verde, smoketree, and catclaw are typically the trees found in the woodlands. A small stand of crucifixion thorn and a dense stand of teddy bear cholla are also found in the area. Wildlife is typical for the Mojave Desert; including coyote, black-tailed jackrabbits, ground squirrels, kangaroo rats, quail, roadrunners, rattlesnakes, and several species of lizards.
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 Stepladder Mountains Wilderness.
Stepladder Mountains Wilderness is located in San Bernardino County, California approximately 17 miles southwest of Needles, California. Maps of the area can be obtained from the Bureau of Land Management Field Office in Needles, California.
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.