The Table Top Wilderness is dominated by Table Top Mountain (4,373-feet in elevation), which abruptly rises above the nearly level Vekol Valley. Lower summits and ridges are covered with talus slopes of loose, blackened boulders and rocks interspersed with columnar saguaro cactus and the occasional stunted paloverde tree. Brief seasonal rainfall is channeled by normally dry ephemeral drainages (or "washes") that dissect desert outwash slopes (or "bajadas") leading to vast and level valley floors. The Wilderness is characterized by two major vegetation communities -- Paloverde-Mixed Cactii, which includes the dense "forests" of saguaro cactus, paloverde, and ironwood trees that presents the classic popular image of the Sonoran Desert, and the Creosote-Bursage community that covers low elevation valley floors in seemingly unbroken expanses. At the summit of Table Top Mountain is a small, 40-acre area of Sonoran Desert Grassland. In 2001 the South 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 Table Top Wilderness.
The Table Top Wilderness is located south of Interstate 8 and is approximately 20 miles west of Casa Grande and 60 miles south of Phoenix, by straight line. Driving time from Phoenix is approximately two to two and one-half hours to the northern boundary at Interstate 8.
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 town with fuel, restaurants, and lodging is Casa Grande. Access to the Table Top Wilderness is by primitive, unmarked roads.
The strenuous, 4-mile Table Top Trail leads from the Table Top Trailhead located near the southwestern corner of the wilderness to the summit of Table Top Mountain. The summit provides views of Vekol Valley and the Sand Tank Mountains to the west, and of the Picacho, Catalina, Santa Rita, and Baboquivari Mountains to the east. There is a small, four site campground at the Table Top Trailhead with a vault toilet; however, water and septic disposal are not provided.
The 7-1/4 mile Lava Flow Trail traverses relatively level terrain around Black Mountain as it meanders through saguaro forests and across wide desert washes. The Lava Flow Trailhead is accessed by three small trailheads (Lava Flow South, West, and North) but no facilities are provided.
Access to all four trailheads in the Table Top Wilderness is by primitive, unmaintained dirt roads with high clearance required and four-wheel-drive recommended.
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
See web link to "Border Concerns."
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.