In The Desert
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High Tanks, Arizona
El Camino Del Diablo, Highway of Death
The El Camino Del Diablo at one time was a great road to take a trip in the desert on. Now it's been graded and over run so much by the Border Patrol that it's lost it mystique and is now only a one day trip from Wellton to Ajo, Arizona. Years ago it would take you 2 days in a good 4 wheel drive to make it from Wellton to Ajo. Not any more. So for this day trip were going to stay in the desert in the area of the Gila and Tinajas Altas Mountains. To include Cipriano Pass, High Tanks (tinajas altas), and Spook Canyon.
When you get down to the Cipriano Pass you'll see Raven Butte to the southwest. Covered in black vocanic stones. There is a sign for the Cipriano Pass. If you follow it you'll go west into the mountains. The Cipriano Pass is the dividing line between the Gila Mts. and the Tinajas Altas Mts.
Download GPS Topo Track HERE
There are a lot of interesting plants to found here in the mountains -- like this Elephant tree. Not very often found this far north. Usually found in Mexico and particulary in Baja. This area is also full of caves for those that like exploring.
Here's another odd one -- a Soap Tree Yucca and these were found right in the mountains in the Cipriano Pass. We've never seen them anywhere else in the Gila or Tinajas Altas mountains. These have grown very tall as you can see here. Linda is 5 ft. 3 inches tall.
This is the wash and canyon just before you get into Spook Canyon. This is located on the Western side of the Gila Mts. and can be accessed going North from the Cipriano Pass. This is not shown on the GPS topo track and you'll have to check with the military to see if you can still access this area.
Looking back out towards the wash where you have to enter Spook Canyon. You used to be able to drive in this far, but it was rough and rocky. It is a beautiful hike into the canyon and if you want to go any farther then your walking anyway -- see below.
This is pretty much what the rest of the canyon looks like. Narrow and steep walls with quite a few tanks, often filled with water. At times the sand in the canyon is like a quicksand and hard to walk on. The farther in you go the rougher it gets. It is worth seeing.
Back out to the Cipriano Pass area. This is just south of the pass and may no longer be accessible, check your map! Linda is standing in front of one of the many caves in the area we called the Thousand Caves area. It would take years to see all the caves in the hills here. Also don't miss the story on the gold page titled Lost 1895 Winchester Rifles. We believe these lost rifles are to be found in this area.
Linda is standing in front of a strange rock that certainly has seen it share of campers and travelers over the years. Large enough to hold a family of 4 easily and keep you dry and out of the blowing dust. This is just South of the Tinajas Altas Pass road and just North of the High Tanks (Tinajas Altas). We found an old Model A Ford piston and spark plug next to this rock. It may still be laying there.
This flat top rock was almost 6 ft. high and on the top of it are grinding holes where Indians ground up nuts, etc. This is right next to the lower tank at high tanks. There are 5 tanks altogether.
This rock is on ground level and right next to the bottom tank and you can see the grinding holes in it made by the Indians. This must have been a popular stop for the Indians at some time.
The bottom tank. It does hold a lot of water and at this level it was aprox. 5 ft. deep. There was a lot of sheep and rabbit scat right next to the tank so the animals are getting good use out of it. To see the other tanks you have to climb up the mountain and some of them are very hard to get too. We've heard that there are petroglyphs on an overhang up near the top, but have never seen them.
If you go through Tinajas Altas Pass the road takes you right to the border. See photo to left. You can see cars and trucks on Rt. 2 in Mexico not very far away. This area may now be off-limits and I think there is a fence along this section now also. Please consult you map before trying to get to this area.
On the way down to High Tanks or on the way out you'll see this sign with a short history of the road. This is a really nice trip and you'll probably run into others making the trip down to the Tinajas Altas (High Tanks).
Inter-active map of the entire area
Back to El Camino Del Diablo
Be careful it's around 30 miles one way of off road travel if you go straight to the High Tanks area.This area has some really sandy spots, but most of the El Camino Del Diablo is well graded. Thre is a lot of other roads in the area to explore, Have fun.