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Sierra Estrella Wilderness

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The United States Congress designated the Sierra Estrella Wilderness (map) in 1990 and it now has a total of 14,400 acres. All of this wilderness is located in Arizona and is managed by the Bureau of Land Management.


The 14,400-acre wilderness, which includes roughly 0ne-fourth of the Sierra Estrella Mountains, is 15 miles south of the metropolitan Phoenix and east of Rainbow Valley, Arizona. Bordered entirely on the north and east by the Gila Indian Reservation, Sierra Estrella Wilderness contains knife-edged ridge-lines, steep slopes, and rocky canyons, one of the most rugged mountainous areas of Arizona. In the northeast corner Butterfly Mountain rises 2,600 feet above the desert plain to an elevation of 4,119 feet in only two miles, a challenge for backpackers and climbers. These extreme elevation changes have produced diverse plant communities: saguaro, cholla, ocotillo, paloverde, and elephant bush lower down, shrub live oak and a few junipers higher up. A remnant herd of desert bighorn sheep roams these mountains. Other permanent residents include the Gila monster, giant spotted whiptail lizard, desert tortoise, mountain lion, mule deer, coyote, javelina, golden eagle, prairie falcon, and Cooper's hawk.

Though Sierra Estrella is not far from Phoenix, few humans venture into this Wilderness. If you wander through, you may stumble across evidence of old mining activity. A four-wheel-drive vehicle is required to reach the two public-access points; along the way you'll cross some extremely sandy, deep washes. Primitive dirt roads near the wilderness boundary are extremely sandy or silty and wash crossings are rugged and deep.

Planning to Visit the Sierra Estrella Wilderness?

Leave No Trace

Leave the area as you would like to find it. Pack out all trash; do not bury it, as animals will dig it up after you leave. Dogs disturb wildlife and other visitors; if you bring a dog, keep it under control at all times. If you need a fire, keep it small and away from rock outcrops. If you build a fire ring, please dismantle it when you are through and bury the ashes before leaving the area. Cigarette butts, pull-tabs, orange peels, etc. are all liter. PACK IT IN - PACK IT OUT.

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