Kofa National Wildlife Refuge trip summary

cartercd

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Chandler, AZ
I drove through the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge in southwestern Arizona recently and thought I’d share a description and resources for this area.

Location: In the southwest corner of Arizona - northeast of Yuma and southeast of Quartzsite. This is between I-10 and I-8, with the Army’s Yuma Proving Grounds to the east. It is 2.5 hours from Phoenix or 3.5 hours from Tucson. This is 666,000 acres of typical Sonoran Desert, with max elevation of 4,877 feet.

History: The name Kofa comes from a former area gold mine: the King of Arizona mine (active from 1897 to 1910). The refuge was established in 1939 for the conservation of bighorn sheep and other wildlife.

Time of year: November to April. This is one of the hottest places in the U.S., so avoid the risk of the summertime heat.

Mileage: The route highlighted on the map below was around 100 miles, but there are numerous other routes in the Refuge where you could easily double that. Plan on at least 2 days and up to a week if you really wanted to explore everything.

Vehicle requirements: Stocker friendly. Most of this can be done in 2-wheel drive in dry weather, but there is deep sand in some of the washes where 4-wheel drive is desirable. 8+ inches of ground clearance should suffice. As this is a very remote area with rocky terrain, having reliable and tough tires is advisable. This is not a frequently travelled area, so minor pinstriping can be expected.

Permits: None required

Resources:

Refuge website: Home - Kofa - U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - https://www.fws.gov/refuge/kofa/ has all the regulations and pretty good map. Major intersection on the refuge are marked with wooden posts.

GPS: I have a Gaia GPS subscription, which allows me to also download tracks from Trails Offroad. Trails Offroad has most of the major trails on the Refuge mapped. If you splurge for the Trails Offroad membership, you also get access to turn-by-turn directions, photos, and videos of each route. It also provides info on camping sites, points of interest that are not easily found (e.g. Kofa cemetery). This is very helpful for trip planning.

Good write up here of a 243 mile trip through the refuge: Kofa Pioneer Trail | Overland Southern AZ - https://www.overlandtrailguides.com/post/kofa-pioneer-trail


My Route (going counterclockwise)

King Road (blue on map): 25 miles. The first half of this is a pretty well-maintained road, but it gets narrow in the second half and has wash crossings. Mile 18 has a large white mound of minerals deposits of unknown origin. The North Star Mine and Antares Mine Cabin are a short detour at mile 22.6. The trail ends at the intersection leading to the King of Arizona Mine, which is on private property and off-limits.

Engesser Pass (green on map). 20 miles. Apparently, this is one of the most remote places in Arizona based on mileage to the nearest human habitation. At the beginning of this trail is Kofa Cemetery a few hundred yard east of the trail. It is best to have this marked on GPS as it is not readily apparent from the trail. This area is very scenic, with views of King Valley, desert playas, and the Kofa Mountains.

Kofa Manganese Road (purple on map) 23 miles. More beautiful scenery, with lots of weaving through the Hoodoo Wash. A short detour takes you to the Hoodoo Cabin and well (there are numerous active wells to provide wildlife with drinking water). Passes through Red Rock Pass.

Pipeline Road (red on map): 23 miles. This road follows the El Paso Energy high pressure gas line. The road is not maintained, but trees and brush have been cleared in a wide swath, so no pinstriping here. The road also follows a high voltage transmission line. Towards the end of the road, near Hwy 95, is the Crystal Hill Rock collection area.

I’m looking forward to going back and exploring more of the area.

Kofa map.png
Kofa montage.png
 
Joined
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Prescott Valley, AZ
Nice write up. Was there back in March and will definately be returning. Engasser Pass looks interesting. I went in on the Blue Rte last time, King Valley Road I believe. Stars at night back then were stunning. Nice and remote with dark skies.

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Mattman

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Peoria, Arizona
We enjoyed (among other areas) the trail from Kofa Cabin to Northstar Mine last March. It was amazing. Only got hung up once in a very rutted out wash. Dark, quiet and beautiful out there. Saw only hikers on the trail all two days until almost to Northstar Mine when a guy in a Jeep asked where we came from and said "you brought that rig through that?!?!?! You're crazy!":p That route is not really stocker friendly. I don't have lockers (hence why I was hung up in a wash) but a quick bit of rock stacking got me out. Pinstripes guaranteed. Highly recommended if you like desert camping.

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Stepmurr

Lookin' fer the end of that old white line
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Was out in KOFA over Christmas. Great area only have the lower 1/2 to cross off the list
View attachment 2893541
View attachment 2893487
I've got a little left in the Northwest to cover:
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Your drone pic looks close to where I camped out for three days straight
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I was rewarded after two days when the sheepz started coming over the hill.

This guy kept getting closer and closer until he was just across the road about 50 feet from me.
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His 'ol lady kept a lot farther away
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Came down to the roadbed level for some tasty Ocotillo flowerz
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This family was a lot farther up the hill
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LandCruiserPhil

Peter Pan Syndrome
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Scottsdale Arizona
I've got a little left in the Northwest to cover:
View attachment 2893926


Your drone pic looks close to where I camped out for three days straight
View attachment 2893987View attachment 2893988

I was rewarded after two days when the sheepz started coming over the hill.

This guy kept getting closer and closer until he was just across the road about 50 feet from me.
View attachment 2893989

His 'ol lady kept a lot farther away
View attachment 2893990

Came down to the roadbed level for some tasty Ocotillo flowerz
View attachment 2893991

This family was a lot farther up the hill
View attachment 2893992
The drone pic canyon is not highlighted on your map.
 

Stepmurr

Lookin' fer the end of that old white line
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KOFA is great, I like to set a fire and sleep in a giant skull when I'm out there.
Sounds like you found the Peyote patch . . . ☮️
 

re_guderian

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For you KOFA trivia file, Signal Peak inside the KOFA is the highest point in Yuma County...

(pics from 2010)
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sdnative

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Thanks for the report. Looking forward to checking it out sometime.
 

TheGrrrrr

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Is this something that would combine well with El Camino del Diablo for a 6-7 day trip? I'm working on a December 2022 trip and the two seem like a good combo.
 

Stepmurr

Lookin' fer the end of that old white line
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Is this something that would combine well with El Camino del Diablo for a 6-7 day trip? I'm working on a December 2022 trip and the two seem like a good combo.
I spent eleven days in KofA during one trip. It is really a huge area to explore!
 

sdnative

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We just returned from spending two days and a night in Kofa. We basically took the same route that @cartercd did in the first post, CCW from King Valley Road to Crystal Hill, adding Horse Tanks and Hoodoo Cabin. It was actually a great intro tour of the area for someone that hasn't been before, but it was a lot of driving with not much time to get out of the vehicle and explore. Definitely looking forward to going back sometime and exploring more of the areas when we have more time.

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