The Senita Basin is a low area between spurs of the Puerto Blanco Mountains, west of the visitor center and campground of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. For about a decade, the western backcountry of this park was closed to the public due to concerns about border-related smuggling activities. With illegal activity way down, the Park Service has recently reopened this area to hikers. They now offer shuttles to two trailheads that are normally only accessed by four-wheel drive roads. This option allows hikers staying in the Twin Peaks Campground to hike in the remote backcountry and return to the campground without needing to use their car.
The shuttle ride from the campground to the Senita Basin is interesting, as it passes within a few yards of the U.S. and Mexican border. Close views are possible of the recently-erected 12-foot-high border fence, the older wood and wire fence, and the new video and motion-detection tower complexes that are still under construction. Halfway through the approximately one-hour ride the road turns north and deposits the shuttle in a large parking area at the trailhead. Hikers may opt to drive to this trailhead and hike one of the many loops through the Puerto Blanco mountains instead of using the ranger shuttle.
From the trailhead, the trail primarily follows old wagon roads originally built to transport miners and ore by wagon. The entire Senita Basin has a network of these old roads that are now closed to motor vehicles. The trail to the Victoria Mine passes through a typical Sonoran Desert setting with near and distant views of the surrounding mountains and the occassional traces of old mining activity. Train intersections are well-marked. The mine site will take about an hour to reach with very little elevation change.
The mine site consists of a partially collapsed stone building that housed the mine store, a main shaft that is gated, and several air shafts that are now encased by steel frames to allow bats to enter and exit while keeping the site safe for people (the shafts are hundreds of feet deep). The mine is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and it is noted for being one of the oldest mines in the southern Arizona. Though it never actually produced very much valuable output, the mine actually operated until 1976, when most of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument was designated as wilderness area.
Another hour of walking takes the hiker back to the campground across a desert flood plain that is crisscrossed by washes, or dry riverbeds that flash flood during the monsoon rains of summer. Coyote calls can sometimes be heard early or late in the day, and cactus wrens are commonly seen perched on the saguaro cactus.