V6E8 - The Depths of Kofa

Written By Chris Shontz / @venture4WD


I was almost ready to leave Prescott, Arizona, and resume traveling, but I had some unfinished business in town on Monday.

On Saturday evening, I ventured into the desert to the south, off of Bloody Basin Road, hoping to find a comfortable campsite that was devoid of snow.

Unfortunately, where there was no snow, there was mud. The road itself, which is usually well-groomed and easily passable was a churned-up bog. I nearly got stuck twice, and it didn’t take me long to realize that I should turn around and camp closer to pavement.

I found a flat spot where I could pop the camper not far from the highway. It wasn’t pretty, or comfortable, but it served its purpose.

With the recent snowfall, and the muddy conditions, it was neither safe nor ideal to wander into the wilderness around Prescott, so on Sunday night, I did something completely different.

I got a hotel room.


Hotel Vendome

Seeking out a hotel room isn’t something I’m practiced at. I used an iOS app called KAYAK  to peruse lodging options around Prescott. There was everything from large chain hotels to smaller, privately owned inns. I opted for the latter. Perhaps it was the time of year, but all of my options seemed competitively priced.

One stood out - Hotel Vendome, a charming, historic hotel in downtown Prescott. KAYAK listed rooms for $75 a night, but I went directly to the front desk, showed the innkeeper the pricing on my app, and she gave me a very nice room with a king size bed for $69!

The hotel was very clean and tastefully adorned. There was a bar in the lobby that served coffee, craft beer, and they offered a complimentary glass of wine to the guests during the evening hours.

It was a heavenly retreat. I had a wonderful stay, and resolved to get hotel rooms more often - whenever I feel like life-on-the-road is taking its toll.


Eastern Kofa

Following my business on Monday, I resumed traveling south, through Phoenix, and then westbound. Not far from Quartzsite, on Arizona’s western border, I turned south into the desert, toward Kofa National Wildlife Refuge.

Kofa is a protected wilderness area. Most of the time, when I encounter such a wilderness area, there are no roads in the region. However, Kofa is different, and has a sizable network of primitive roads throughout, approved for street-legal motor vehicles.

The sun was setting as I wandered into Kofa. Upon my arrival, I had just enough daylight to seek out a place to camp, and it was a wonderfully quiet spot in the middle of the desert.

I finally arrived at a warmer climate, and I haven’t slept so soundly in days!

The next day, I plotted a route on my GPS that would take me through the northern section of Kofa, however it wasn’t to be. A road that appeared on my GPS had been retired decades ago, and signs marked it as closed. So instead of traveling west, I traveled south into the heart of Kofa with the intention of looping back around, and perhaps spending another night in the eastern part of the Refuge.

As I drove, the road degraded considerably through a varied and colorful desert landscape. I passed in and out of washes, scaled eroded hills, and crawled carefully over rock fields. It was a delightfully worn overland route that gave me a wonderful taste of what Kofa had to offer in terms of scenery and terrain.

Not to mention, I didn’t encounter another soul.

I had driven through the desert for 40 miles before I pulled into camp - an arbitrary flat spot off to the side of the road with a small fire ring. I figured I would get a good night of sleep and then resume traveling north, back to the highway.

The next morning, I followed another 20 miles of primitive road, at a slightly more brisk pace than the day before, and returned to the highway - westbound to Quartzsite, where I would fuel up and regroup!

From Quartzsite, it was my intention to drive south to Yuma, Arizona, but not all in one day. That section of highway ran parallel to the western side of Kofa, so I was bound and determined to experience more of the Wildlife Refuge.

First, with a hike.


Palm Tree Canyon

An app that I find myself using more frequently is AllTrails for iOS. It quite simply displays hikes, and sometimes even four-wheel drive routes, in your vicinity. It does so in a very well-presented and informative manner.

A quick search on AllTrails revealed a hike on the western edge of Kofa called Palm Tree Canyon. This was a short, two-mile round trip into a dramatic desert canyon where there might be palm trees. It sounded enticing!

It was only a few miles off of the highway along a well-traveled dirt road lined with campers and RVs. The parking lot at the trailhead already contained several cars and OHVs, so it was clearly a popular destination.

The hike itself was enjoyable, in a scenic canyon, with some technical terrain and a minor change in elevation. The palm trees, however, were very few, and located in a crevasse high up on the canyon wall!


Western Kofa

The western side of Kofa, south of Quartzsite, is a bit of a different story when it comes to seclusion. This portion of the Wildlife Refuge is easily accessible from Quartzsite, which is a sort of cultural hub for full-time RVers looking for a warm place to spend the winter.

Thus, the desert on the western side of the Refuge is teeming with campers, and during the day, many head into Kofa for recreation.

Following my hike, I drove the Jeep back into Kofa to explore a mountainous section of road, and I encountered many other four-wheel drive vehicles, OHVs, and hikers. It was still beautiful and worth exploring, but the feeling of solitude was notably absent.

That night, I enjoyed a campsite high in the desert, overlooking the valley to the west. I made spaghetti for very first time while on-the-road, and witnessed a spectacular Arizona sunset!


Onward to Yuma

The next day, I continued south, to Yuma, where I would wrap up the week.

After exploring town to seek out Internet access for my work, I drove into the California desert, just north of the city. Officially, it was California, but Yuma, Arizona, was still the closest city.

I wandered for several miles until I found a secluded, and very barren place to camp on BLM land south of Yuma Proving Grounds. There was very little flora and fauna - just a dry, very open landscape, under a starry sky… and wonderful, summer-like temperatures!