The Upper Cretaceous El Chanate Group, northwest Sonora, Mexico, is a 2.8km thick clastic sedimentary sequence deposited in a continental basin closely related to volcanic activity. It consists of three formations: the Pozo Duro (oldest), the Anita, and the Escalante (youngest). Petrographic study, conglomerate pebble counts, and U-Pb geochronology of detrital zircons were performed to determine the source and age of this sequence, and to interpret its tectonic setting. In the sandstones of all three formations, the most abundant grains are those of volcanic composition (Q38F22L 40, Q35F19L46, and Q 31F22L47, respectively). The Pozo Duro Formation includes well-rounded quartz-arenite clast conglomerates, whereas conglomerates of the two upper units have clasts predominantly of andesitic and rhyolitic composition. The most likely source for these sediments was the Jurassic volcanic arc exposed in northern Sonora and southern Arizona. Zircons from five sandstone samples define two main age groups, Proterozoic and Mesozoic. The first ranges mostly from 1000 to 1800Ma, which suggests the influence of a cratonic source. This zircon suite is interpreted to be recycled and derived from the same source area as the quartz-rich sandstone clasts in the basal part of the section. Mesozoic zircons range from Triassic to Late Cretaceous, which confirms the proposed Late Cretaceous age for the sequence, and also corroborates Jurassic felsic source rocks. Another possible source was the Alisitos volcanic arc, exposed along the western margin of the Baja California Peninsula. Of regional significance is the great similarity between the El Chanate Group and the McCoy Mountains Formation of southeastern California and southwestern Arizona. Both are Cretaceous, were deposited in continental environments, and have similar zircon-age patterns. Also, both exhibit intense deformation and locally display penetrative foliation. These features strongly suggest that both units underwent similar tectonic histories.