Fat-biking the Camino Diablo
130 Mi.(209 KM)
% Rideable (time)
El Camino Del Diablo (Spanish for The Devil’s Highway) is an historic road which currently extends through some of the most remote and arid terrain of the Sonoran Desert in Pima County and Yuma County, Arizona. In use for at least 1,000 years, the Camino was once a link between the northwestern frontier of Mexico and the colonies of California and traverses a remote piece of desert along the Arizona / Mexico border, crossing multiple mountain ranges and wide basins. The terrain is desolate but starkly beautiful, unlike anywhere else in the U.S.
From the 16th to the 19th centuries, the road was used extensively by conquistadores, explorers, missionaries, settlers, miners, and cartographers. Use of the trail declined sharply after the railroad reached Yuma in 1870. In recognition of its historic significance, El Camino Del Diablo was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.
- Prime fat-biking terrain. The route is probably 90% sand, but rideable with wide tires.
- Cross the Pinacate Lava flow, where the Camino changes briefly from pure sand to rough and rocky.
- Visit O’neil’s grave. Donate a penny for safe passage on the Camino. He supposedly died of drowning — probably the only one to die of too much water out here.
- The Tinajas Altas or “high tanks” are deep pools in sheer rock faces that hold water year round. Climb up and cool off, or fill up your bladders. Legends say some travelers expired at the base of the climb to the Tinajas, lacking the strength to climb to the water they desperately needed.
- A permit is required to enter the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife preserve, which covers most of the Camino. It’s also Wilderness on both sides of the Camino, so plan to stay on the main travel route.
- Being close to the international border, be aware that immigration and smuggling are concerns. The area is safe and patrolled by the border patrol.
- There are formal and free campgrounds at both Papago well and Tule Well. Picnic tables and fire rings are provided. However, these areas might attract border related traffic due to possible water, so it’s recommended to informally camp elsewhere.
- Camping is allowed anywhere along the Camino.
- There are no services available along the Camino. Two possible water sources are Papago and Tule wells. Both of these are reliable, but not always accessible (turned on). Don’t count on them and be sure to filter.
- A more reliable source are the Tinajas Altas near the Yuma side. If you climb up to the deep pools in the rock they hold water year round.
- Recent trip report: www.topofusion.com/diary/2014/03/11/fatbikes-on-the-camino-del-diablo/
- Permit info: www.fws.gov/refuge/Cabeza_Prieta/visit/permits.html