By Azucena Mazón
The winter season and its lower temperatures are no impediment for visitors to take in the magic and wonder at the Pinacate Reserve. The Reserve, which encompasses craters dotted across the desert landscape, offers one of the most biodiverse spots in the world and is located just about 30 miles north of Puerto Peñasco.
This mystical spot, which in 2013 was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, offers visitors an immense gamut of landscapes, from the largest crater, the “Elegante” which is the most visited along the Reserve route given its proximity to the entrance, as well as dunes, water tanks, rocky lava terrain, and infinite flora and fauna. All these wonders can be enjoyed even more fully during the cooler season.
Although temperatures in this area can reach down below zero °C, particularly in the higher parts of the Pinacate mountain range, days are generally sunny and perfect for hiking and enjoying the varied landscapes at a time when the heat is not as extreme as in other parts of the year.
During this time one can see winter foliage across the desert, and there’s the possibility to catch glimpse of white tailed deer “venado bura”, as well as birds that migrate to the region during colder months, including eagles. Reptile species take advantage of this time to hibernate and therefore do not represent risks for visitors.
According to statistics at the Pinacate Biosphere Reserve, the number of international visitors from the U.S. and Canada tends to increase considerably in the winter given the temperate climate.
Staff from the National Commission on Natural Protected Areas (CONANP) at the Pinacate Reserve recommend visitors first stop by the Schuk Toak Visitors Center and Museum where one view the modern, interactive museum exhibit complete with videos and images about the Sonoran Desert. The museum specifically houses information about the volcanic shield of the Pinacate and Grand Desert of Altar, as well as cultural information in furthering the goal of nature conservation.
Winter Visitor Recommendations
CONANP provides the following recommendations for those interested in visiting the Pinacate during the winter season:
Entry to the sand dunes is through the Schuk Toak Visitors Center uhder the following guidelines:
Biological Station (along Sonoyta – Puerto Peñasco highway): 638 383 1433
Schuk Toak Visitors Center: 638 108 0011