The United States Congress designated the Escudilla Wilderness (map
) in 1984 and it now has a total of 5,158 acres
All of this wilderness is located in Arizona
and is managed by the Forest Service.
As naturalist and author Aldo Leopold had observed in the A Sand County Almanac essay entitled "Escudilla" broad, towering, Escudilla Mountain is visible from just about anywhere in eastern Arizona and western New Mexico. The Escudilla Wilderness encompasses the upper reaches of the mountain, which at 10,912 feet is the third highest in the state. A young Aldo Leopold began his US Forest Service career on Arizona's Apache National Forest, and later wrote of his experiences in the pages of A Sand County Almanac. Within "Escudilla" he describes the death of the last known grizzly bear in Arizona ("Old Bigfoot"), who made the mountain his home, at the hands of a predator control agent. Somehow it seems that the spirit of the bear is still there, prowling the huge meadows, lurking in the thick stands of aspen and spruce, wandering the steep slopes that looking down from is like looking out of the window of an airplane. Escudilla was also the mountain Leopold referred to in a companion A Sand County Almanac essay, "Thinking Like a Mountain", where he arrived at the side of a wolf he and his companions had shot "in time to watch a fierce green fire dying in her eyes," an experience that would trouble him for throughout his life, profoundly affecting the development of his views on wilderness preservation, ecology, and wildlife management. Escudilla Mountain has recently experienced a drastic change in natural conditions - the Wallow Fire of June 2011 severely burned over much of the area. However, the wilderness is already renewing itself, with native grasses and thickets of aspen already regenerating among the burned trunks of mixed conifer trees consumed by the fire. The sustenance provided by this new growth is a boon to the area's resident wildlife, particularly the large herds of elk that can be found on the mountain. Over time, this regenerative cycle will repeat itself once again, with the mature aspen eventually giving way to encroachment and reclamation by the conifer species consumed in the path of the fire. Because most of the Escudilla Wilderness was severely affected by the Wallow Fire of June 2011, please contact the Alpine Ranger District for current conditions. Two trails give access to Escudilla Wilderness. The Escudilla National Recreation Trail #308 approaches from the Terry Flat Loop Road and leads to a fire lookout tower, currently closed to the public due to safety concerns following the Wallow Fire. The Government Trail #119 (currently in poor condition post-fire) starts at the base of the mountain and joins with Trail #308 north of Profanity Ridge. You will find little water along these trails, but views that may reach 100 miles away.