Belmont Mountains Proposed Wilderness

Location: Within the Belmont-Harquahala Mountains National Conservation Area
Belmont Mountains East Size: 11,162 acres
Belmont Mountains West Size: 7,779 acres

Just 50 miles west of Phoenix, this east-west trending mountain range forms the northwest border of the Tonapah Desert and its granite formations are strikingly unique among its volcanic neighbors. The purple hues of the Belmont Range give it highly rated scenic views.

Connecting these wild lands with additional wilderness designation will ensure that their wildlife populations are able to migrate safely with little disturbance from humans, as population and energy development expand westward from Tonopah, Buckeye, and Wickenburg.

Wilderness Protection

Protecting the Belmont Mountains as a wilderness area would create more viable, long-term wildlife habitat and expand the migratory corridor between the nearby Harquahala Mountains and the Hummingbird Springs wilderness areas. The outstanding naturalness of the area, the numerous opportunities for primitive, unconfined recreation — such as hiking, horseback riding, hunting, photography, mineral collecting, and camping — and the chance to find deep levels of solitude qualify this area for designation under the Wilderness Act.

As part of the larger Belmont-Harquahala National Conservation Area (NCA), the proposed Belmont Mountains Wilderness would create a strong core of ecologically significant protected public lands — both for human access, cultural enrichment, and wildlife longevity — and enable the Bureau of Land Management to safeguard and better manage these values on a landscape level.

Wildlife

Arizona's native desert bighorn sheep

Arizona's native desert bighorn sheep;
Courtesy AZ Game & Fish Dept.

Runoff from this range creates dense growth of ironwood, mesquite and palo verde trees, especially along a network of washes that drain northeast to the larger Hassayampa River watershed and aquifer. Rugged terrain provides desirable habitat for wildlife, such as desert bighorn sheep, mule deer, kit fox, prairie falcons, and Gila monster, while lower elevations of the range offer significant vegetative cover and forage.

These lowland corridors, with their verdant shade and occasional water flows, provide crucial habitat for numerous iconic wildlife in western Maricopa County, such as the Sonoran Desert tortoise and desert bighorn sheep, which use these corridors to move between mountain ranges under the cover of vegetation.

The Belmont Mountains are one of the prime habitat areas for Arizona’s native desert bighorn sheep, which are considered wilderness quality indicator species because they inhabit the most beautiful, rugged, and inaccessible terrain that is normally representative of wilderness. Bighorn sheep populations are normally most robust in areas where there is more wilderness and roadless lands, compared with those sheep populations found on other, less protected public lands.

Recreation

Because of the outstanding wildlife habitat found within these mountains and the surrounding washes and bajadas, the area is a veritable hunter’s delight for those drawing tags for mule deer, javelina and occasionally big horn sheep. The Game Management Unit is 42.

Star gazing, bird watching, horseback riding, and hiking are other common recreational activities in the area, where visitors can experience the essence of what the Sonoran Desert would have been like hundreds of years ago—dark, quiet, and teeming with native wildlife.