What to do after Quartzsite?
After an annual January visit to Quartzsite Arizona to meet up with RVing friends and take in the RV show and swap meets, we were a little burnt out. We needed to get off on our own and decompress a bit. Usually, we take off and head east which in the last couple years has meant the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument region.
This year, Anne suggested an area only 20 miles or so south if Quartzsite called the Kofa NWR (National Wildlife Refuge). She was pumped to photograph the unique jagged peaks of the Kofa Mountains. We have admired them many times from afar during travels up and down highway 95 between Yuma and Quartzsite.
Dry Camping in the Kofa NWR
I had been a little unsure whether there were suitable campsites in the refuge for a rig our size but a little internet research showed me quite a few prospects. There are several roads into the Kofa NWR. We picked Palm Canyon Road for its beautiful perspective of the mountain range.
The road in was gravel but well graded, flat and wide enough for two RVs to pass each other. We ventured in about 3 miles and found a spot off the road about a hundred yards that had signs of previous use with a fire ring. We stayed in this spot for a week hanging out and exploring the area. I found out we actually weren’t in the Kofa NWR yet and likely on BLM land. Anyway, camping is free all along Palm Canyon Road.
Once our water tank was empty we decided to head back into Quartzsite and dump and refill and come straight back. We needed a little more of the Kofa’s peaceful atmosphere. Although this time armed with some local knowledge we dragged the Cougar fifth wheel much further in (about ten miles) and set up camp near the entrance to Palm Canyon. Here we were right below the Kofa Mountains and surrounded by a lush field of Teddy Bear Cholla. Too Cool!!
The first day in our new camp spot was amazing, warm with gorgeous skies dotted with big puffy clouds. Unfortunately, the clouds were an early warning sign; a large cold front was bearing down on us and most of the southwest in fact. It packed some substantial 35 mph winds, some rain and lots of cold air. For the next few days, we were relegated to the rig to ride it out. Times like these I really love the large windows in our trailer. Too cold and windy to be outside but we could still admire the gorgeous scene.
Soon the temps normalized and the warm desert days returned. We enjoyed several long hikes among the cactus on the desert floor and up into the Palm Canyon. The Kofa NWR Palm Canyon is home to the only natural stand of California Fan Palms in Arizona. They cling to the cliffs high up inside the canyon. I’ve read they are likely remnants of the last ice age.
The Teddy Bear Cholla is a fantastic photography subject, even more so when clustered together. Very few places have I seen them this thick. With the craggily rock faces of the Kofa range as a backdrop to the east and a setting sun to the west, we got ourselves some dramatic photos. The Kofa NWR really fits the bill for our favorite RV travel activities. Photography, hiking, remote boondocking and spectacular scenery, it has it in spades.
Since it’s a wildlife refuge, after all, we were on the lookout for its natural residents. Our tally ended up being 3 mule deer sightings, 2 coyotes very closeup, a red tail hawk and several cottontails. It’s also home to lizards like the Gila monster but it was a little too cool when we were there and never saw any reptiles. I also had hoped to see some of the local bighorn sheep herd but got skunked. Maybe next time!
Logistical Information for Kofa – Palm Canyon
The turn off for Palm Canyon Road is between mile marker 85 and 86 on highway 95 and marked by a large brown sign. You’ll find campsites scattered along the 10-mile gravel road all the way to the trailhead at Palm Canyon. Camping is free with a 14-day limit and in the refuge area you must be within 100 feet of designated roads. Most spots are marked by a “No vehicle past this point” sign. Finding access to the camping spots can be a bit tricky due to dirt berms created by the road grader. You need to scout for lower spots used by others.
For supplies, Yuma is about a 60 miles drive and Quartzsite 20 miles. Kofa NWR camping is “pack it in and pack it out” with no services. Quartzsite has many places to dump tanks, get propane, fuel, and fresh water; I like the RV Pit Stop. Grocery stores are pretty small in Quartzsite but most essentials can be purchased. Garbage disposal at the transfer station just north of town is free but has odd hours and days. 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Sunday through Wednesday when we were there. Cell service at our campsites was good. We received full bars on our Tracfone and 3 bars and consistent, decent speed with our internet using a Verizon MIFI hotspot.
If you like quiet scenic desert boondocking you will love the Kofa NWR. I give it high marks and will definitely return again, still having tons more to see in this large wildlife refuge. We only scratched the surface, there are several more two wheel accessible roads and for you 4 wheelers all kinds of rougher roads and trails to explore.