Are you using a screen reader? Click here to view the navigation links for this site as a bulleted list.

Partner logos: BLM, FWS, FS, NPS, University of Montana Logo
Connecting federal employees, scientists, educators, and the public with their wilderness heritage
Text size: A | A | A  [Print]

Sierra Estrella Wilderness

General Location Maps Contacts Area Management Wilderness Laws Trip Planning Images


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.


Sierra Estrella Wilderness, which includes roughly one-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. Down lower you will find saguaro, cholla, ocotillo, paloverde, and elephant bush while higher elevations support shrub live oak and a few junipers. 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. This area receives 8.5 inches of precipitation annually with temperatures ranging from 82.9 to 107.4 degrees Fahrenheit in July and from 43.7 to 67.6 degrees in December. Spring and fall temperatures are more moderate.

Though Sierra Estrella is not far from Phoenix, few human visitors 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 two-track trails near the Wilderness boundary are extremely sandy or silty and wash crossings are rugged and deep. In total, there are 2.5 miles of maintained trails in this wilderness.

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.

Give us your feedback