The Turtle Mountains Wilderness encompasses a diverse, scenic landscape. The area ranges from broad bajadas to highly eroded volcanic peaks, spires, and cliffs. The colorful Turtle Mountains vary from deep reds, browns, tans and grays, to black. The Mopah Range contains the two signature Mopah Peaks, which are rhyodactic or volcanic plugs. The northern most peak is a landmark known as Mexican Hat. The area has numerous springs and seeps; however, several of them were developed with wells prior to Wilderness designation. Much of the Turtle Mountain range has been designated as a National Natural Landmark in recognition of its exceptional natural values. Dominate vegetation consists of the creosote bush-bur sage and the palo verde-cactus shrub ecosystems. In the washes, Colorado/Sonoran microphylla woodlands can be found. These woodlands include such things as palo verde, smoke tree, honey mesquite, and catclaw. Wildlife species include bighorn sheep, coyote, black-tailed jackrabbits, ground squirrels, kangaroo rats, quail, roadrunners, golden eagles, prairie falcons, rattlesnakes, and several species of lizards. The desert tortoise is found within the Wilderness area, and northwestern and northeastern portions of the wilderness area are considered critical habitat. The Wilderness is located in an ecological transition zone between the Mojave and Sonoran Deserts and therefore contains a high diversity of plant and animal species.
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 Turtle Mountains Wilderness.
Turtle Mountains Wilderness is located in San Bernardino County, California approximately 30 miles southeast of Needles, California. The southern boundary of the wilderness is approximately two miles north of California Highway 62. 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 can be enjoyed in this wilderness. The area is a favorite for rock hounding hobbyists and is nationally known for chalcedony (form of quartz) deposits known as 'Mopah Roses'. Coffin, Mopah, and Mohawk Springs are popular hiking destinations.
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.