On the very edge of southwest Arizona, US 95 cuts a straight north-south line through a stretch of wild and rugged desert. In between Yuma to the south and Quartzsite to the north, this 57-mile highway travels alongside the 665,000-acre KOFA National Wildlife Refuge.
Even the most road-weary travelers will take note as they pass this wonderfully wild landscape dominated by a rugged mountain range of sheer cliffs and dramatic spires.
Back in the early 1900s the King of Arizona (KOFA) Mine scoured this land for precious mineral deposits. Today, in a twist of fate, the KOFA National Wildlife Refuge protects the region’s precious plant and animal life, including one of Arizona’s largest desert bighorn sheep populations. The wildlife refuge is an excellent place for viewing desert plants and wildlife, rock climbing, exploring old mines, or simply camping in the remote wilderness.
With no paved roads or facilities of any kind, this land is wild and perfect for camping & exploring.
Free camping is allowed inside the KOFA National Wildlife Refuge for up to 14 days within a 12 month period. In an effort to preserve the land, all vehicles are required to stay no more than 100 feet from the road and not within a quarter mile of a water source. Be sure to leave no trace (as always) when camping here.
There are four main roads running east from US 95 into the refuge that are suitable for RV travel. The roads are hard packed gravel and are generally kept in good condition.
Some roads may have a washboard surface from frequent use, and conditions can deteriorate with rain. However, slow and cautious driving ensure that RVs of any size can enjoy free camping at the KOFA National Wildlife Refuge.
Castle Dome Road Camping
The southernmost entrance to KOFA is Castle Dome Road. Located about 40 miles north of Yuma, this area offers plentiful camping along with access to the Castle Dome Museum. Built on the site of a former mining town, the museum is a veritable treasure chest of old west memorabilia.
Camping is allowed along Castle Dome Rd, but only AFTER you drive through the Yuma Proving Ground. The first few miles of the road run through this military area, so be sure you are well within the borders of the wildlife refuge before choosing a spot to call home.
Once inside KOFA there are numerous wide open areas suitable for camping. Keep in mind that there may be some traffic on this road. It not only leads to the museum but is also an access point for several popular 4X4 roads that zig-zag deep into the refuge.
Palm Canyon Road Camping
Travel 30 miles north to mile marker 85 and you will find Palm Canyon Road heading east in the refuge. Palm Canyon is perhaps the most popular camping area in the KOFA National Wildlife Refuge.
The scenery here is dramatic with the tall jagged peak of Signal Mountain looming overhead and a wide swath of desert stretching out in all directions.
Previously used campsites are scattered along the seven-mile gravel road. The first three miles of road and surrounding area are managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Camping is allowed here with a 14-day limit.
Once you enter the refuge you can only camp no more than 100 yards from the road. Keep an eye out for signs that say, “No Vehicles Past This Point.” Despite these limitations, camping options here are plentiful.
In addition to the spectacular scenery found along the road, it also offers access to several hiking trails, including one that goes up and into Palm Canyon. KOFA National Wildlife Refuge is one of the few places to see rare groves of California fan palms.
To reach the trail simply follow the road to where it ends at a parking area and trailhead. The short, steep trail climbs into the canyon before disappearing into a maze of jumbled boulders and palo verde trees. About a half mile up, a wooden sign on the left points toward the cluster of California fan palms perched on the side of the canyon.
MST&T Road Camping
Continuing north along US 95, MST&T Road is located at Mile Marker 92. Like its neighbor to the south, the first 1.5 miles of MST&T Road is BLM land that you must pass through before entering the wildlife refuge. There are a number of large, wide open areas with excellent mountain views along the road.
Once in the KOFA National Wildlife Refuge, MST&T Road travels for eight miles before dead-ending near a radio tower. Most of the route is suitable for RV driving, but the road does get bumpier the farther you go. The available sites for camping are numerous, although the local prickly fauna (aka cactus) is thick in places.
Crystal Hill Camping
A few miles farther, between mile markers 95 and 96, is the northernmost area for camping inside the KOFA National Wildlife Refuge. Crystal Hill is a popular spot not only for camping but also for collecting quartz crystals.
A small mountain littered with crystal formations attracts adventurous types looking for treasures. Most of the crystals have been removed over the years, but many small crystals remain.
The Crystal Hill camping area is close to conveniences such as water, food and fuel, but it’s not as scenic as the locations father south. Located about eight miles south of Quartzsite, the road runs alongside a power and gas line.
The surrounding mountains are smaller than those farther south, and the views lack drama and grandeur. The road to get to Crystal Hill is also not as well maintained as the other entry points. Because of the poor condition, it might not be suitable for some larger RVs.