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Neo-nomad: Picacho, California


A gorgeous, rather isolated, and relatively unknown strip of desert wilderness beside the lower Colorado River, north of Yuma. The riparian zone is verdant with grasses, shrubs and trees; birds and fish are abundant along the river. Lots of hiking and paddling options.

Access Closest Airport: Palm Springs (PSP), a 3.75 hour drive; or Yuma (YUM) accessed via Phoenix (PHX), a 1.25 hour drive. From the nearest town the road to the Park is 24 miles (39km) 18 miles of which (30km) is a unpaved, which when not recently graded can have sand traps that require some driving skill to navigate.

Shelter A tastefully designed camping area with 54 sites, many offering privacy through vegetation and ridge buffers. No reservations. Nightly fee. Toilets and solar shower. Each site was tap water, table and ramada shade structure. There are smaller camp areas without tap water further north along a dirt road. Several boat launch sites.

Roam Many hiking trails leading directly from camp, up hills offering fine views, and along the river. The gentle rolling Sonoran desert is easily navigable off-trail. Watch out for rattlesnakes. A short drive takes you to the trailhead for Picacho Peak; to get to the very top requires climbing gear and skill. Many paddling opportunities right from the campsite. You could easily spend a week here without getting in your car.

Cell Signal Weak to non-existent in the main camping areas but walk just a few minutes to higher ground and decent connectivity is available. Optimal Season Evenings and nights are cold from late November to late March, and from mid May to the end of September the days are hot. If you are tenting and hiking or paddling lots in the day, the best time is late March to late mid-May when the day is long and warm but not too hot and the next best is the beginning of October to mid-November. I visited the week after Veterans Day and I was the only camper in the entire park.

Comments You will hear the plaintive honks of the many wild burros (donkeys) and see their droppings everywhere. Lots of coyotes too, although not so bold as the burros. Many raccoons, so hang your food, keep it in a vehicle, or put it in a cooler with a heavy rock on top.


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