Rules and Regulations


There are a lot of fun, interesting, and educational things you can do on the refuge. Keep in mind, if an activity is not wildlife related and doesn't help in the protection or understanding of wildlife or their habitat, there are probably refuge rules governing this activity. If you are unsure if an activity is permitted, please check with the refuge before participating. Be safe and have fun!

To protect the fragile desert ecosystem, we do not allow any of the following activities:

  • Dumping of litter, sewage, or liquid waste on the refuge. 
  • Prospecting, rockhounding or removal of sand, rock, gravel or minerals. 
  • Excavating or removing objects of antiquity, cultural artifacts, or paleontological artifacts. 
  • Trapping, collecting, possessing, molesting, disturbing, injuring, destroying, removal, or transportation of any plant, or animal, or part of the natural flora and fauna on the Refuge is prohibited. 
  • Pets must be leashed and under control at all times. Owners must clean up after their pets at designated camp grounds. 

Rules of the Road

  • Vehicles are only allowed on designated public use roads. All vehicles (including motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles and bicycles) must stay on El Camino del Diablo, Christmas Pass and Charlie Bell roads. 
  •  Travel into the wilderness is not permitted by any motorized vehicle or mechanized transportation of any kind.  Government Use Only trails are administrative trails used for the official purposes of administering the refuge and wilderness, as well as border security efforts.
  • The speed limit is 25 mph on refuge roads and is strictly enforced. The exception to this speed limit is the stretch of road along the pronghorn recovery pen on Charlie Bell Road. Visitors are asked to slow down to 15 mph to avoid any wild pronghorn in that particular area. This area begins approximately 11.5 miles west of the Cabeza entrance and ends one mile later.
  • Only street-legal motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), as defined by Arizona state law, are allowed on the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge.  
  • All vehicle operators are required to have proof of insurance and a current registration.  
  • Motorcycles and ATVs must be fitted with a mast displaying an 80 square inch orange flag that extends a minimum of eight (8) feet above the ground surface.  
  • If there are five or more vehicles in your group, you must apply for a Special Use Permit prior to entering the refuge. Groups of less than five vehicles, including ATV’s and motorcycles, which are part of a larger, organized event, are also subject to the Special Use Permit requirements.  
  • If a road is impassable due to flooding, deep sand or a lawful closure, do not drive off-road to get around such areas.  
  • When camping or parked along the public roads, vehicles must be parked within 50 feet of the center line of the road.  


El Camino del Diablo and Christmas Pass Roads: All-wheel drive cars are not allowed as they do not have the necessary clearance. Vehicles such as SUVs and pickup trucks must be four-wheel drive with high clearance to use these roads.

Charlie Bell Road: Two-wheel drive vehicles with high clearance may use this road.

A more comprehensive explanation of all visitor safety information can be obtained by contacting the refuge.

Fires and Firewood

Charcoal or propane stoves are recommended on the refuge. However, wood fires are permissible by adhering to the following rules:

  • Wood fires are allowed at the designated primitive campsites at Papago Well, Tule Well and Christmas Pass. 
  • Visitors must bring their own wood into the refuge. It must be readily identifiable as wood that is not native to the refuge. 
  • Wood such as pine, juniper or construction lumber is appropriate to bring into the refuge.
  • Do not use wood with any metal hardware attached to it, such as hinges or nails. 
  • Due to the scarcity of wood and valuable wildlife habitat, the collection of firewood or vegetation of any kind is prohibited within the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge. The only exception is for backcountry hikers. They may use dead and down wood for campfires. 
  • Use established fire rings or fire grates at each site listed above. Some sites have more than one fire ring or grate in order to accommodate multiple visitors. 
  • Do not create new fire rings. 
  • After you are done with the campsite, make sure the fire is out and cold and take any trash with you that did not burn completely. 
  • You may leave extra wood at the campsite. 
  • Undesignated camp sites must use charcoal (with ground pan) or propane stoves.