Silent Otherworld

Senita cacti
A grove of senita and saguaro on the edge of a dune field.

There are only two campgrounds in Pinacate. The fact that the only services these sites offer are a few picnic tables is evidence of the reserve's determination to keep this desert as pristine as possible.

El Tecolote campground is located 20 miles from the visitor center and five miles north of the El Elegante crater. Roads leading to this site are well marked and are navigable by two-wheel drive vehicles. It is a primitive campsite and offers no facilities. Not only is this campsite close to El Elegante, it is adjacent to some of the reserve's most spectacular lava flows, and excellent cross-dune hikes can be made from here.

Red Cone campground is located about 16 miles from the visitor center. The narrow, rock-strewn, uphill road is best suited for four-wheel drive vehicles. Red Cone is the primary base for hikes up the two largest peaks—Mount Pinacate and Carnegie Peak—both about 4,000 feet. This campsite is primitive, with space for 20 people.

You cannot make campsite reservations. However, a camping permit is required, which is available on a first-come, first-serve basis for free at the visitor center.

Backcountry camping is possible throughout the public section of the reserve, provided the site is at least a third of a mile from any road. As long as you obey the reserve rules and let a ranger know where you intend to go, backcountry camping can be very rewarding. Pinacate's empty vastness makes it an ideal place to explore and camp on your own terms.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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