KOFA National Wildlife Refuge - Arizona

KOFA Mountains in southwestern Arizona

The KOFA Wildlife Refuge is a 664,327 acre refuge in southwestern Arizona between Yuma and Quartzsite. The name stems from the King of Arizona mine which used to stamp its property “K of A”.  The refuge is run by the US Fish and Wildlife and provides a conservation area for the desert bighorn sheep. The area allows free camping for 14 days within a 12 month period that is less than 100 feet from the road and not within ¼ mile of a water source. There are 4 main roads which run east from Hwy 95 for camping along with a multitude of 4WD roads for camping and/or exploring for those with a more vigorous vehicle. All roads are gravel/dirt and can be slow to drive depending on your vehicle. There is washboarding in some places and some of the boondocking areas require driving over or through a small valley or hill to enter the unofficial sites. The sites are large and flat and provide fabulous views.

The most northern road is known as Crystal Hill at Mile Marker 95 which is about 8 miles south of Quartzsite and runs near a power line and gas line and the mountains nearby are really more of hills. This road seemed the worst for us to drive with some larger rocks and a rougher road. We found the scenery to be not as nice as the other roads further south. The first couple miles of the road there is no camping allowed but as you continue you will eventually enter KOFA (well signed) and can camp along the road per the Refuge Rules and Regulations.

 

The next road south is MST&T Road at Mile Marker 92.  The first 3 miles is Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land where you can camp or you can continue on into KOFA and camp. We drove our tow vehicle through Crystal Hill and on to Jasper Springs Rd and eventually over to MST&T Road and then back to hwy 95. A great drive but a high clearance vehicle is recommended.

 

Further south is Palm Canyon Road at Mile Marker 85, where we camped. It is very similar to MST&T Road in that the first 3 miles is BLM land and then you enter KOFA. As soon as you turn off Hwy 95 onto Palm Canyon Road there are two parking areas, one on each side of the road, to unhook or hook up your tow vehicle.

 

We found the mountains and the scenery much more dramatic on Palm Canyon Road than the roads further north.  The sacrifice for beauty and solitude is that this area is further from towns than the roads to the north.  It is about 18 miles from Quartzsite and about 70 miles north of Yuma so if you want to be close to a town for shopping, fuel, and restaurants then this might not be the place for you. The road was nicely graded when we were there but we did have to drive the motorhome slow over the rocks. There was a campground host at the entrance to the refuge in a motorhome but that was the only other rig we saw in the entire KOFA Refuge while we were there except for a few Airstreams closer to Hwy 95. We did have a few vehicles drive by our site during the day to head to the Palm Canyon Trailhead to see the California fan palms but that was it. We could not hear any road noise or train noise or aircraft noise. It was peaceful and lovely.

 

Campground: KOFA Wildlife Refuge – Palm Canyon Rd
Location: Hwy 95 – Mile Marker 85 – about 3 miles east along Palm Canyon Rd
Site: N/A
Cost: $0
Comments: A beautiful area with fabulous views and endless hiking right out our motorhome door. It is far from amenities but that’s exactly how we like it. The 4WD roads seemed endless and allowed for a full day of activity exploring the back country. The site we were at was level and large and was easy accessible from Palm Canyon Rd. AND we could not see any other vehicle from our site only desert mountains and landscape.

 

King Valley Rd is at Mile Marker 76 where the Stone Cabin is located. This is our favorite area and leads to the King of Arizona (KOFA) Mine and North Star Mine. One of our favorite roads was Road 60 which runs south and is full of fabulous boondocking sites most with rock fire rings. The drive in a big rig on that road may be undoable but if you have a 4WD vehicle, such as an Earth Roamer, then it is a fabulous area for camping. The endangered Sonoran Pronghorn are in this valley along with fox, coyotes, rattlesnakes, and other desert wildlife. KOFA was used for military exercises in the days of General Patton so take care not to pickup any hardware you may encounter and report it to wildlife officials as it could be unexploded ordnances.

 

Castle Dome Rd is at Mile Marker 55 about 40 miles north of Yuma. This area is known for the Castle Dome Museum which is about 12 miles from Hwy 95. The museum is the remnants of an old town from 1878 which was larger than Yuma at the time. The area has buildings to tour and a grave yard and requires a fee to enter. Castle Dome Rd runs through and borders Yuma Proving Ground (Military Reservation) so take care to study maps and be sure you are actually camping in KOFA and NOT on the military land.  We didn’t visit the museum on this trip so I guess we will just have to plan to return!

KOFA Natinal Wildlife Refuge - Arizona

View of Castle Dome from Jct 00 Road