Camping and Hiking
While many enjoy the Yuma area's desert scenery and rugged mountains, overnight camping adds a look at starry skies undimmed by light pollution.
Camping is permitted at Imperial Sand Dunes National Recreation Area and Picacho State Recreation Area in California and at Kofa National Wildlife Refuge in Arizona, but not at our other wildlife refuges. No camping is allowed within ¼ mile of water sources, and vehicles must remain within 100 feet of the road.
You can also camp overnight in areas administered by the Bureau of Land Management, including Imperial Dam Recreation Area, Senator Wash, Squaw Lake (some services, fees apply) and Mittry Lake and Fortuna Pond (no services, no fees).
Get more info about these camping areas, as well as BLM’s eight Long Term Visitor Areas around the region (seasonal recreation permit required but stays of more than 14 days allowed) at BLM’s Yuma Field Office (928-317-3200, 2555 E. Gila Ridge Road).
The wide open spaces all around Yuma offer opportunities for hiking that range from a simple stroll to a rigorous wilderness challenge. Our Visitors Information Center offers books about hiking, including two by a local author with detailed descriptions and directions for treks in the Yuma area.
Some interesting opportunities for "beginners" include the Painted Desert Trail at Imperial National Wildlife Refuge or a walk to see Arizona's only native palm trees at Palm Canyon on the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge. Pick up a paper copy of the Painted Desert trail guide at the refuge visitor center; download a Palm Canyon trail guide here. Download trail guides at refuge websites.
If you’re ready for a challenge, do what locals do, and head for Telegraph Pass. (Photo courtesy of Rick Mortensen). To the top and back, it’s just over four miles, but the farther you hike, the steeper it gets: total elevation gain is more than 1200 feet. Your reward is sweeping views in all directions – and you can add your name to the book at the top. There’s no set trailhead – exit I-8 at Fortuna Boulevard and follow the North Frontage Road until you can’t go farther by car … then start walking until you have to make like a mountain goat.
Amid our wide open spaces, even "easy" walks may reward you with sightings of bighorn sheep, wild horses and burros, deer and other wildlife ... but keep an eye peeled for crawly critters in vegetation or crevices.
In town, a paved multi-purpose trail runs along about two miles of the riverfront, from the West Wetlands Park to Gateway Park, and along about five miles of the East Main Canal. Download the Heritage Area's "Paths to Restoration" brochure with overview map here.
The new three-mile nature trail winding through the East Wetlands can be reached by walking east under the Ocean-to-Ocean Bridge. Wetlands nature trail maps are available at the Visitor information Center or download a copy here.
Wherever you choose to walk - but especially if you venture off the beaten path - make sure someone knows your plans, since cell service may not be available. The air is dry even when the weather is cool, so carry plenty of water for everyone, including pets. Desert temperatures can swing dramatically, so dress in comfortable layers so you can adjust to changing conditions.