Located near Puerto Penasco (Rocky Point) in the Mexican state of Sonora, the Pinacate Biosphere Reserve is one of the nation’s most spectacular places to visit. Its nearly pristine landscape has remained essentially untouched, providing a geological and archeological picture of this ancient volcanic field. The rugged cones and craters of these extinct and dormant volcanoes provide a majestic site for travelers. Camping around the region is a one of the best ways to get close to this incredible landscape that has been declared one of Mexico’s natural wonders.
Location of the Pinacate Biosphere Reserve
Situated in the state of Sonora, the reserve is less than a day’s drive from the Arizona border. It is thirty miles to the west of the town of Sonoyta down Highway 2. The reserve’s visitor center, Schuk Toak, is roughly twenty minutes from Puerto Penasco, one of the most popular tourist destinations in northern Mexico. Its proximity to Puerto Penasco and nearby campgrounds makes it an ideal holiday location.
The Pinacate Biosphere Reserve’s Landscape
The volcanoes, roughly four million years old, are the chief attraction of the park. The largest crater is 1,400 meters in width and 140 meters deep; named Cerro Elegante, the crater is an unparalleled site that is a must-see when visiting the reserve. The hundreds of craters and cones as well as the black sand demonstrate a moon-like surface that is truly other-worldly in appearance. Owing to this landscape, NASA once used it to train astronauts for moon landings. The reserve is made up of 600 square miles of unique landscape. The park is also the site of fantastic sand dunes; parts of the park have actually not seen rain in years and visitors delight in the chance to explore this rare desert ecosystem. Despite its dry terrain, the reserve boasts many species of flora and fauna. Animals that make their home in the reserve include bighorn sheep, fox, coyote, rattlesnakes, and Gila monsters. The more than two hundred species of plants include saguaro cactus, mesquite, and ironwood.
Camping around the Reserve
Camping is allowed around the edges of the park, but a permit must first be obtained from the visitor center. Most people camp during the winter months when temperatures can still be quite warm. With the Altar Desert to the west of the reserve, temperatures can get intensely hot even in spring and fall; the reflected heat from lava beds and rivers only adds to the immense heat. Bring plenty of water and, of course, a tent so that you can keep the lizards at bay throughout the night.
The reserve’s close proximity to the beaches of Puerto Penasco is certainly an attractive option after a couple days of desert camping. Sport fishing, golf, off-roading, and all types of water sport make this area an ideal place for vacationers. Luxury accommodations as well as economical travel lodges can be found throughout the Puerto Penasco region. The dry landscape of the reserve is balanced by the many watering holes and fine restaurants of Puerto Penasco. The border town of Sonoyta also features popular restaurants and markets.