AZ – Kofa National Wildlife Refuge, Palm Canyon

After 1,700 miles of driving over the past couple weeks, I said goodbye to California but couldn’t resist this short stop to admire Salton Sea and the surrounding geology. Sad to learn about it’s shrinkage and negative impact on wildlife.

Hello Arizona! Have you missed me?

I found myself in the middle of a butterfly migration. It was crazy seeing the thousands flying through traffic on Interstate 10. Sadly more than a few found themselves splattered across my car.

You know you’re in Arizona when . . .

I stopped in Quartzsite and was so disappointed in the quality of the library and services after my time in Borrego Springs where everything exceeded expectations. But when I drove toward the refuge and saw the beautiful Kofa Mountains all was forgotten.

I stopped at the kiosk on Palm Canyon  Road.

As I drove Palm Canyon Road in the late afternoon, I got this first view of the the area I planned to hike the following day.

Lighting was good for photography, so I stopped to explore further.

There was a sign at the informational kiosk indicating Big Horn Sheep so I was pretty excited to be welcomed by this little guy. It’s the only one I saw during my entire visit.

There are great dispersed camping options along the road. The Reserve has done a great job making designated areas for camping which provides plenty of privacy. I hiked a nearby knoll to watch sunset.

Sunset colors were phenomenal.

I like to align my car to capture morning sun.

There is a light use trail around the front of the mountain. Per internet research I found there’s a route around the mountain. The first day I hiked to the north. After about a mile the use trail disappeared. There were multiple cairns which could be followed but they were all over the place making it a bit easier to just make your own trail. I called it my Etch-A-Sketch hike.

I found a few blooms along the way including this Broomrape.

Phacelia and poppies.

Poppy love.

Ghost Flowers.

Globe Mallow.

After hiking for a few hours I arrived at this feature just before the Queen Canyon Road.

I loved the shapes and colors of the mountains.

I’d heard the palms in the canyon were only visible mid afternoon due to sun position and shadows. This was at 2:50pm and only the lower half was visible.

This is the canyon where the palms are hidden. According to the handouts these are the only native palm trees in Arizona and they are California Fan Palms. In 1986 42 trees were counted.

After my hike I saw this guy preparing to go out overnight. He was with three others who were not armed. This is a very family friendly trail. It was very disturbing to see someone going out with such armory.

I was delighted by another nice sunset my second night.

I hiked south along the front of the mountain the next day. You won’t hear me complain when there’s flowers.The use trail disappeared much sooner going south and there were far fewer cairns.

I was told by another hiker the palms were fully in the sun around noon so I hiked up earlier my second day. I arrived at 11am and waited until 11:30am. The sun still had a long way to go so I accepted what I got.

The only designated hiking trail in Kofa is the short one to the view the palms. There are many use trails and roads in the preserve but many of the roads are only accessible by raised 4×4 or ATV. If you’d like to hike maintained trails, check out those in nearby Dome Valley like Muggins Mountain. My friend Petra lives nearby and introduced me to the area. Loved the geology.

Here it is mid-March and temps are increasing quickly.

Adventure Date(s):

  • March 14-19, 2019


  • I found the travel center truck stops at the junction of I-10 and Hwy 95 were a great option for a shower. Pilot had a shorter line and nicer place to wait vs Love’s but both were extremely busy and noisy. Pilot also has free WiFi whereas Love’s charges.



4 thoughts on “AZ – Kofa National Wildlife Refuge, Palm Canyon

  1. Thanks again for another useful post. I’ll save the info for later (maybe next winter, assuming that I’ll be back in the U.S. by then).

    Meanwhile, in case you don’t know of The Roaming Bobcat, she’s put up a set of videos: “Solo across Death Valley”. Up to episode 5 just today. (I’ll actually view them real soon now.)

    The Roaming Bobcat
    Solo across Death Valley
    #middle-aged woman adventure

    • Small world! Yes I know Bobcat and in fact hosted her at my house during one of her roams. I haven’t had enough data or wifi to watch her videos but I’ve been loosely following her latest adventure.

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