Routes » El Camino Del Diablo

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History

El Camino del Diablo – The “highway of the devil” – so named from the original 1540 expedition commissioned by Francisco Vasquez de Coronado due to the hardships encountered. The route lived up to its name during the 1849 gold rush. Some traveled during summer to avoid Apache marauders, and they paid the ultimate price in 120 degree Yuma heat. Historians estimate from 400 to 2,000 people have lost their lives on the Camino, meaning that it is the most deadly immigrant trail in North America.

The route once linked Caborca, Mexico with Yuma, AZ. The modern version (after pavement) of the Camino starts in Ajo, AZ and ends in Yuma, AZ. It’s occasionally run in 4wd vehicles, but this route makes a good bikepacking route, provided you are prepared to deal with a little SAND! Enter fatbikes!

Permit Information

The Camino Diablo route enters the Cabeza Prieta Wildlife Refuge. A permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge) is required to travel on the refuge. You can obtain the permit at the Wildlife Refuge office in Ajo, AZ. You also need to call a number to inform the Goldwater military range that you are entering the Camino. They can explain it all at the Wildlife Refuge office — you just have to hit them when open. You can also obtain permits by mail.

See: http://www.fws.gov/refuge/Cabeza_Prieta/visit/permits.html

Water

If you ask any federal employee they will likely tell you there is no water available anywhere on the Camino. However, occasionally either of Papago Well and Tule Well may have functioning faucets. Also the Tinajas Altas (high tanks, just off route and near the Yuma side of the Camino) are very deep and almost always have rainwater stored, though it is not fresh. In general it’s best to carry all you need, and treat any you find as a bonus.

Border concerns

The Camino travels very near the US/Mexico border, so both border crossers and smugglers may be encountered. The border patrol runs regular patrols along the Camino. Border issues are no reason to not travel the Camino, but definitely something to be aware of.

GPS Data



Camino Del Diablo – Ajo to Yuma
Camino Del Diablo – Wellton and Tacna Loop

The Camino through the Cabeza Prieta is almost entirely hemmed in by Wilderness on both sides, so the route options are limited. However, there is a loop that can be done by branching north to Wellton, following the I-10 frontage road to Tacna, then continuing back to the Camino via a quite sandy road. That loop could be done on its own, skipping Ajo completely and giving water resupply at the Tinajas Altas. Though a complete passage of the Camino is a worthy goal as well.

Trip Reports

Fatbikes on the Camino Diablo
The Highway of the Devil – supported trip

Links

Fish and Wildlife site on the Camino
4×4 now’s trip report
Nice site on the Cabeza Prieta Wildlife Refuge, including permit information

Comments (3)

Theodore ParkerMarch 14th, 2009 at 8:12 pm

I took a four wheel drive and spent two days in this beautiful desert traveling the devils highway. It was worth my time and efforts. The history and humans that died traveling this trail in wagon trains is a true test of humanity and resolve. Tread lightly we only have one desert.
Ted…

ScottMNovember 25th, 2014 at 9:20 pm

Updated page with new info on permits, water, and new GPS data on the Tacna/Wellton loop.

This is a fantastic route for fatbikes!

Mike IngramDecember 1st, 2017 at 3:48 pm

Thanks for this resource Scott. Rode it a couple of weeks ago, had a good time. Good water at Papago and Tule Wells, and water still in the lower tank at Tinajas. Write up at

http://mikesrideforcleanair.blogspot.com/2017/11/el-camino-del-diablo.html

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