Pinacate Biosphere Reserve is part of northwestern Mexico's Gran Desierto; the information center is about 52 km (32 mi.) s. of Lukeville, Ariz., just off Mex. 8 at Km marker 52. This trackless, otherworldly region was created over time by subterranean pools of molten rock that exploded up through the desert floor and then cooled, leaving behind a wasteland of towering sand dunes, lava tubes, cinder cones and dormant volcanic craters.
The area was designated as a biosphere reserve in 1993 to preserve both its volcanic rock formations and such endemic species as the desert octopus (which lives in the Sonoyta River), the flat-tail chameleon and the Gila monster. From the top of El Pinacate, a hill about 3,960 feet above sea level, there are panoramic views of the Baja California Peninsula.
Note: Day visitors must pay admission at the visitor center before hiking or driving into the reserve. A high-clearance vehicle is recommended. There are no facilities; bring plenty of water, a hat and sun protection and wear comfortable hiking shoes. Camping is permitted at two designated locations (a permit is required). The best time to visit is January through April.