After passing under a series of powerlines at 1.4 miles, you’ll enter into the Sonoran Desert National Monument. A few rules and regulations are in place (no recreational shooting from the road and others, see signs posted) in the national monument. The trail crosses a few normally dry washes and then enters a wash at 2.5 miles. The trail weaves in and out of multiple washes until 4.3 miles. This section is sandy when dry but could be a real challenge (and danger) after some rain – use common sense. At 4.3 miles you’ll come to a junction. Continue straight where a lesser trail continues south into the North Maricopa Mountain Wilderness Area. Consider taking a side trip down this path if you need more to explore.
Continuing east, the trail crosses a large wash and then comes to a clearing at 4.5 miles. Off to the left here are some old water tanks and foundations. Obviously of some importance in the past but today, makes a good break point. The trail continues east, again crossing in and out of several small washes. Stay on the main path and follow previous tire tracks to find the correct path. After 5.3 miles, the trail makes a long left turn to head north. You’ll come to a fork in the road at 5.8 miles. The main trail continues to the left, but we took the right path as a fun, side trip. The side trip doesn’t offer much – it dead ends at a fenced off water catchment after 2.8 miles. You’ll pass by a couple of dams and water tanks and a gate roughly halfway in. This side trip is narrower and has a few washouts but gives you access to a pretty remote stretch of desert. It will add 5.6 miles if you take it.
Back at the fork, continue to the left. From here, the trail gets a little tougher going. It is more narrow and rocky as it climbs through the hills. It is however very scenic and remote. Not many people come back this far. Continue on the main path as it crosses numerous washes. At around 7.5 miles you’ll reach the high point of the trail. Continuing downhill, stay right where the trail forks again at 8.3 miles. To the left is a dead-end with some decent camping spots. After passing a few small hills, the trail reaches a cattle guard at 9.2 miles. We turned around at this point since there isn’t much north of here and because we were on quads.
From the cattle guard, the trail continues north and after about 7 miles, connects with Highway 85 (via Komatake Road). We can’t comment on the conditions after this point. Return to the start via the way you came.
Summary/Trail Ratings: Overall, the 18 miles to the cattle guard and back will take 1-3 hours to complete. You can add in 5-10 miles worth of side trails to make it a full day of riding. The first half of the trail is easy-going. After 4 miles, the trail becomes more difficult as it crosses countless washes. On the northern section of the trail after the fork at 5.6 miles, it becomes tougher still. We’ve rated this trail a ‘4’ out of 10 for its remoteness and toughness along the northern half. High clearance and 4WD is a good idea. Aggressive stock vehicles should be able to make this trail. It is also great for quads, dirt bikes, and side-by-sides since it isn’t a well-traveled trail. Enjoy this scenic trail through some remote stretches of the Sonoran Desert National Monument, and travel prepared. Even though its only 18 miles round trip, it doesn’t hurt to pack extra gear.
Take a scenic ride through a remote section of the Sonoran Desert National Monument less than an hour away from the Valley. Along the trail, you’ll be treated to pristine desert riding in the North Maricopa Mountains.
Page last updated: 9/30/2015
Status: Open - Permit Req'd
Trail Type: Out & back
Length: 18 miles roundtrip
Approx. time: 1-3 hours
Current Info: B.L.M. Phoenix/Lower Sonoran F.O. (623) 580-5500
Elevation: 864' - 1416'
Nearest City: Gila Bend
Best Time: Fall-Spring
Permits: A State Trust Land Permit is needed for a small portion of this trail along Highway 85. Permits cost $15/individual or $20 for two people and are good for 1 year. Get permits here.
How to get there: From the West Valley (I-10/Loop 101 Junction), head west on I-10 for 20 miles. Continue south on Highway 85 toward Gila Bend. Follow the highway south for an additional 20 miles. Turn left off Highway 85 onto Wood Road. The turnoff isn’t well marked. Look for a “Crossover – ¼ mile” just before mile marker 134. After crossing over the northbound lanes, the road becomes dirt and crosses a cattle guard. The trail continues north as the road makes a sharp left immediately after the cattle guard. Stage here. There is staging further north but the trail has a few good dips that are challenging with a big trailer.
The trail: After a sharp left off after the cattle guard on Woods Road, the trail heads north. It immediately crosses several dry washes and additional staging areas as it runs parallel to Highway 85. After half a mile, the trail makes a long sweeping right turn to head due east. The trail remains wide and easy.