If there are any nice beach places on the northern Sonoran coast, I haven’t found them. On this driving trip with Megan and Ferda, we went to both Desemboque and Puerto Peñasco, and both were stunningly awful. With a cold wind blowing, dust in the air so we could barely see, no pedestrians, and more closed buildings and businesses than open ones, Puerto Peñasco felt like the apocalypse. It was unrecognizable for my first visit 25 years earlier. I don’t even think we found a part of the city that existed 25 years ago.
The draw to this region is a real gem — Pinacate National Park, a place that has changed for the better in the last 25 years. Roads and access have improved, but it still feels like a bit of an adventure. There’s a fantastic visitor’s center with solar power, excellent exhibits and information, and a couple, short interpretive trails adjacent to the visitor’s center where you can learn about desert vegetation and Tohono O’odham culture. A bit farther north is a 80km sign-posted scenic dirt road to get near some of the craters that the park is famous for. There you’ll learn about the region’s geology including the difference between tuff and maar craters and the difference between aa and pahahote lava flows. There’s even a designated campsite at Tecolote with picnic tables and fire pits where we stayed two nights. If you go, come prepared with food and water as there’s not much out there. You can, however, buy firewood from El Chicle who lives near the Biological Station.