Pinacate Peaks

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Pinacate Peaks
(Sierra Pinacate)
(Mountain Range)
Country Mexico
State Sonora
Region (north-central)-Sonoran Desert
El Pinacate y Gran Desierto de Altar
Municipality Puerto Peñasco, Sonora
Borders on Gran Desierto de Altar-(west)
Mexican Federal Highway 8-SE
Coordinates 31°46′N 113°29′W / 31.77°N 113.49°W / 31.77; -113.49Coordinates: 31°46′N 113°29′W / 31.77°N 113.49°W / 31.77; -113.49
Highest point Cerro del Pinacate
(Volcán Santa Clara)
 - elevation 3,904 ft (1,190 m)
Length 41 mi (66 km), N-S
Width 30 mi (48 km), E-W
View to the Pinacate craters from the sand dunes
Pinacate sand dunes and craters
Crater Elegante with the Pinacate Peaks in the background
Pinacate volcanics with teddy-bear chollas, ocotillos, young saguaros, and a paloverde tree. Photo by Jack Dykinga

The Pinacate Peaks (Sierra Pinacate, O'odham: Cuk Doʼag) are a group of volcanic peaks and cinder cones located mostly in the Mexican state of Sonora along the international border adjacent to the U.S. state of Arizona, surrounded by the vast sand dune field of the Gran Desierto de Altar, at the desert's southeast.[1]

The Spanish name for the Pinacate Peaks geographic feature is the Sierra Pinacate, which is used in their homeland of Mexico.


The Pinacate Peaks lie just north of the fishing resort of Puerto Peñasco. The tallest of the peaks is Cerro del Pinacate (also called Volcan Santa Clara), elevation 3,904 feet (1,190 m). The Mexican Spanish word pinacate is derived from the Nahuatl word for the endemic desert stink beetle, pinacatl.

Natural History[edit]


The volcanoes here have erupted here sporadically since about 4 million years ago, probably in association with the opening of the Gulf of California. The most recent volcanic activity was about 11,000 years ago. The Pinacate Desert is home to the largest sand dunes of the Americas.[2]

Flora and fauna[edit]

A variety of flora and fauna occur in the Pinacate Mountains, including the sculptural Elephant Tree, Bursera microphylla.[3]

Human history[edit]

Padre Eusebio Kino, founder of many Spanish missions in the Sonoran Desert, explored here in 1698 and several times later. NASA sent its astronauts here, from 1965 to 1970, to train for lunar excursions given the similarity of the terrain to the lunar surface.

El Pinacate y Gran Desierto de Altar Biosphere Reserve[edit]

The El Pinacate y Gran Desierto de Altar Biosphere Reserve is a biosphere reserve, in the spanish language Reserva de la Biosfera el Pinacate y Gran Desierto de Altar, managed by the Mexican Federal Government's SEMARNAT - the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources, in collaboration with the government of the State of Sonora's IMADES agency.[4]

The reserve[edit]

Facts about the reserve:[5]

See also[edit]


External links[edit]