The timing of deposition of fluvial sediments now forming the >7-km-thick McCoy Mountains Formation is one of the key uncertainties in reconstructing the Mesozoic paleogeography of southern California and western Arizona. Ion-microprobe U-Pb geochronologic data for individual zircons from nine sandstones from the McCoy Mountains type section and six associated igneous rocks provide significant new constraints on the tectonic setting and the timing of deposition within the northwest-trending McCoy basin. U-Pb zircon data from a metavolcanic rock of the underlying Dome Rock sequence in the Palen Mountains confirm that the McCoy Mountains Formation was deposited after regional Middle to Late Jurassic arc magmatism. U-Pb zircon data from a Late Cretaceous granodiorite intruding the formation in the Coxcomb Mountains confirm that the formation was deformed and metamorphosed prior to 73.5 ± 1.3 Ma. Populations of detrital zircons vary systematically with both rock type and stratigraphic height; lithic arkoses predominantly derived from the west have consistently more abundant younger zircons than do litharenite sandstones predominantly derived from the north, and the youngest zircons yield maximum depositional ages that decrease from 116 Ma near the base to 84 Ma near the top of the section. The detrital-zircon data permit a Late Jurassic age for the basal, comparatively quartz-rich sandstone. However, the data further suggest that >90% of the formation was deposited between middle Early and middle Late Cretaceous time. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that most of the McCoy Mountains Formation represents a retroarc foreland basin, deposited behind the active, evolving Cretaceous Cordilleran continental- margin magmatic arc that lay to the west and in the foreland of the actively deforming Cretaceous Maria fold-and-thrust belt.