A Joshua tree frames Shiprock in the Arrastra Mountain Wilderness. Photo by Cheryl Hartz
Before desert temperatures reach into the 90s and 100s, you might want to take a drive to the southern part of Yavapai County to the rugged Arrastra Mountain Wilderness.
Arrastra actually encompasses 129,800 acres in Yavapai, Mohave and LaPaz counties. The Santa Maria River traverses it, but more often than not you'll find it a sandy, rather than wet, hiking path through the wilderness.
No formal trails exist, but you'll find wild burro, cattle or deer trails.
Although some access points into the wilderness require either a high-clearance two-wheel or a four-wheel drive vehicle, other areas are more accessible. To see monumental rock formations, one of these easy-access entry points - Black Canyon Wash - is great. Along the wash, towering Shiprock, resembling a ghostly galleon that manifested and petrified in the middle of the desert, is visible for miles, although just outside Arrastra on state trust land. To be "pc" about standing on Shiprock's "deck," visitors should have a permit from the Arizona State Land Department.
The monolith's sheer rock faces look forbidding, but hikers can reach the top from the southwest side without technical climbing equipment.
A plethora of tracks in the sand indicated quail, cottontails and deer abound. Lucky folks might spot a wild burro.
Desert vegetation includes cacti, such as Saguaro, barrel, and prickly pear, as well as sizable palo verde trees. The area also contains a Joshua tree forest. These trees from the yucca family appear to be a hybrid of century plants (agave) mounted on palm tree trunks, and often twist in serpent-like configurations. In Arizona, you'll find them only in the Mohave Desert.
Because this is definitely desert, take plenty of water. Because it's wilderness, anything you pack in, you'll need to pack back out.
To get there:
Take State Route 93 to mile marker 163. Cross through the gate and over the cattle guard on a jeep trail and park inside or venture further with a four-wheel drive vehicle. If you stay on the jeep trail, the wilderness boundary is marked just about a mile inside state trust land. From the beginning of the jeep trail, you can hike to the base of Shiprock in about 45 minutes, but you'll see it much sooner. Remember to get a permit if you go to Shiprock. (You don't need one if you are hunting or fishing on state lands with a valid hunting or fishing license from the Arizona Game and Fish Department.)
For more information, contact Bureau of Land Management, Kingman Field Office, 2755 Mission Boulevard, Kingman, AZ 86401-3629, 928-718-3700, Wilderness specialist is Bruce Asbjorn 928-718-3705.
For permit information call: Arizona State Land Department, Phoenix Office: 602-364-2753; Flagstaff Office: 928-774-1425, or Tucson Office: 520-209-4250.