El Pinacate Unesco Biosphere Reserve: Sonoran Desert, Mexico

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One of the best kept secrets in Northern Mexico is located in the Sonoran Desert about 40 minutes from the Sea of Cortez. ?Here you?ll find a field of 400, four-million-year-old volcanic craters that make up the El Pinacate and Gran Desierto de Altar Biosphere Reserve UNESCO heritage site.

El Pinacate UNESCO Biosphere Reserve is a group of volcanic peaks and cinder cones. The reserve is also North America’s largest area of active sand dunes and has the highest concentration of maar volcanic craters in the world. The Biosphere Reserve is considered one of the most significant visible landforms in North America seen from space.

It?s no wonder ?NASA sent astronauts to the Gran Desierto de Altar from 1965 to 1970, to train for walking on the moon, due to the similarities of the terrain to the lunar surface. In 1970 ?the Apollo 14 astronauts also trained here for their moon landing.

Today, the Biosphere Reserve is a favorite spot for hiking, exploring and camping for those in the know. It is open to the public and visitors can follow a scenic loop drive around the park which will visit some of the most important places in the park including Cerro Colorado Crater and El Elegante Crater.

When you enter the reserve, you?ll pass through a ranger station where they will provide a map, and information about the park. The driving tour is very well laid out, and while it is a dirt road, a 4-wheel-drive vehicle is not necessary. The drive will take you to the edge of volcanic craters, which are the most dramatic stops in the biosphere.

The Pinacate Peaks volcanoes have erupted sporadically for about 4 million years, but no need to worry about visiting as the most recent activity was about 11,000 years ago. .

There are ten enormous, deep, and almost perfectly circular craters, believed to have been formed by a combination of volcanic eruptions and collapses.

When visiting the volcanic peaks and cinder cones that make up El Pinacate, be sure to bring lots of water and sun protection. Most of the year, it?s quite hot, and this is not a place you want to get dehydrated.

El Pinacate UNESCO Biosphere Reserve is a unique mix of desert, ocean, and volcanic ecosystems. On the self-guided tour of El Pinacate you’ll find volcanic craters that can be seen along with numerous species of plants, mammals, reptiles, and birds.

You’ll find certain types of Cholla cactus that grow inside the reserve that don’t grow anywhere else in the world.

In the area, there are over 540 species of plants, 40 species of mammals, 200 of species of birds, 40 species of reptiles, as well as amphibians and freshwater fish.

The biosphere is truly an out of this world experience!

How to get there: If you are traveling from the United States, El Pinacate is most easily accessed from Arizona, The Pinacate Reserve Information Center is located just off Highway 8, at milepost Km 52, just 32 miles south of Lukeville, Arizona.

Address: Carretera Sonoyta-Puerto Pe?asco Km. 52, Ejido Los Norte?os, 83550 Puerto Pe?asco, Son., Mexico

El Pinacate Info & Resources:

Reserva de la Biosfera El Pinacate y Gran Desierto de Altar on Facebook

puerto-penasco.com/pinacate

El Pinacate UNESCO information

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