A unique desert wilderness can be found in Imperial County, California featuring a massive range of dark gray mountains called the Black Mountains that extend southeast from Indian Pass. On the western edge of the Picacho Peak Wilderness is a trio of arches called the Indian Pass Arches which can be accessed in a day hike from Indian Pass Road. This hike will take 2-3 hours and the arches are located at about 1200' elevation.
When To Hike:
Winter is best - generally from November through April. Rain is rare and snow is non-existent. Most winter days are clear and pleasant, with temperatures in the 70s and 80s (roughly 25-30C).
Summer is insane here. Daytime highs regularly exceed 110 F (43C) and often top 120 F (49C). Even at night the temperatures stay in the 80s and 90s. There's no reason to be here in summer.
From Yuma, Arizona drive west on I-8 into California 20 miles to the Ogilby Road exit. Turn right and go north on Ogilby Rd. about 13 miles to Indian Pass Road. Turn a sharp right onto the gravel road and drive north and east for 8.4 miles to the parking area between two hills covered with medium-size black rocks. A sign board is located at the parking area.
From the parking area the road drops off steeply and is suitable only for 4-wheel drive vehicles. Follow the winding rutted road down nearly 3/4 of a mile to the sandy bottom of a wash.
Hiking Down the Jeep Trail
Where the jeep road turns to the right you will notice two wilderness signs skirting a trail that follows a wash to the left.
Hike down the wash to the westnorthwest with the long ridge of blackened rocks on your left for about 30-40 minutes. When you reach a narrow section of the wash with 20-30 foot walls, watch for a turn to the right. When you pass through these high rock walls you should turn right and then start looking for the arches. After passing these walls follow the wash slightly left for another hundred yards and look for a cairn and a trail on the right. This view was taken as we returned.
High Rock Walls
The Indian Pass Arches
Once you turn right unto the hiking trail from the wash you will hike up a steep trail to the first pair of arches. The first arch is quite wide and you can walk through it. The Indian Pass Arches are spectacular and it makes one wonder how they were formed. There seems to be evidence of volcanic activity in the area.
Indian Pass Arch
The second arch is to the right of the first arch and is just large enough to frame two seated hikers.
2nd Smaller Arch
The third of the arches is beyond the first two and is up a slope. It is not as tall as the first, but is quite wide and there is evidence that it provides shelter for Desert Bighorn Sheep. There were a lot of droppings under the structure. Wild donkey can also be found in the area. The view from here is spectacular.
3rd Indian Pass Arch
Pictured are the pair of arches as viewed from the upper arch. This is a very beautiful and desolate area.
View of Arches From Above
These fluffy Cholla Cactus plants were common on our hike to the Indian Pass Arches.
This was one of the few cactus that we found blooming on our hike to Indian Pass Arches.
Beavertail Cactus Blooms
There is no permit needed to hike in this area. Mechanized or motorized vehicles are NOT PERMITTED in a wilderness.
Camping is permitted, limited to 14 days. After 14 days, campers must relocate at least 25 miles from previous site.
Picacho Peak Wilderness
Information about the area and topo maps can be accessed at this website:
Picacho Peak Wilderness
Imperial Sand Dunes Wilderness and Recreation Area
If you want to get crazy in the sand check this out:
Imperial Sand Dunes
Map of Imperial County Area
Imperial County Map
Happy Hikers at the 1st Indian Pass Arch