National wildlife refuges offer us all a chance to unplug from the stresses of daily life and reconnect with our natural surroundings. With 803,418 acres of designated wilderness, Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge offers wonderful opportunities to explore the wild Sonoran Desert. As one of the largest wilderness areas in the contiguous United States, visitors can experience the rugged solitude of the Sonoran Desert wilderness. Nicknamed “The Green Desert”, the Sonoran Desert is the most biodiverse desert in the world and is home to at least 60 species of mammals, more than 350 bird species, 20 amphibians, some 100 reptiles, and about 30 species of native fish. In addition, more than 2,000 species of plants have been identified in the Sonoran Desert.
Let our staff and volunteers at the visitor center help you plan your visit! This is a great starting point for visitors to become more familiar with the Refuge and the wildlife that live here. Visitors can browse nature and wildlife exhibits, obtain maps and brochures, and view informative wildlife videos. There’s even a 3D topographic map from a bird’s eye view of the whole refuge!
There is no charge to visit, but permits are required. See more under rules and regulations.
Restrooms are available at the refuge headquarters/visitor center. There are no restrooms, pit toilets or comfort stations located within the refuge.
The best time to visit Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge is during late fall, early spring, or winter when desert temperatures are cooler. Wildlife can be spotted most often in the early morning or evening – this is especially true during the summertime when hot temperatures cause many animals to hunker down during the day.
There are many ways to enjoy Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge including hiking, camping, hunting, photography, birdwatching, and wildlife observation. Birding opportunities are especially abundant in the spring and fall when migratory birds pass through the Refuge. For an overnight adventure, you’ll find primitive campsites along El Camino del Diablo and Christmas Pass.
Rules and Policies
In order to safeguard both wildlife and refuge visitors, please observe the following rules and regulations:
Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge’s office and visitor center are in Ajo, Arizona. The coordinates to the Refuge’s visitor center are 32.385579, -112.872383.
Take I-10 west to exit 112. Follow Highway 85 south to Gila Bend and continue south on 85 approximately 40 miles to Ajo. Watch for the brown sign with Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge on it. It will be on the west (right) side of the highway.
Take Highway 86 (Ajo Way) west across the Tohono O'odham reservation to the town of Why, turn right, and follow Highway 85 north to Ajo. Watch for the brown sign with Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge on it. It will be on the west (left) side of the highway.
Take I-8 east to Gila Bend and follow Highway 85 south approximately 40 miles to Ajo. Watch for the brown sign with Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge on it. It will be on the west (right) side of the highway.