Overland Route - Kofa Pioneer Trail


Gone Traveling
Dec 31, 2020
Yorktown, Virginia
Kofa Pioneer Trail
by Chet Szymecki​

The Kofa Pioneer Trail is a 243 mile overland route that will take you deep into the 665,400 acres of the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge. This 4-5 day adventure is comprised of graded gravel roads, sandy washes, and rocky Jeep trails and since your average speed on the route will be approximately 10 mph, you should plan on departing the trail at some point to refuel or alternatively, carry 5-10 gallons of spare fuel. The western sections of the trail are the most frequently traveled but once you dive into the heart of Kofa, you may not see another person for several days. The name Kofa originates with the King of Arizona mine which was operational in the late 1800s. They tagged all of their property "K of A" which became Kofa to locals.

Aside from fuel concerns I would strongly suggest you perform a pre-adventure check on your vehicle with specific attention paid to tires, fluids, etc. The next most critical life-saving resources are water and food and I always pack two to three times what I believe I will need. For example, if I am expecting a five day adventure, I will make sure to have ten to fifteen days worth of supplies. And if anything happens, just stay with your vehicle since it provides a steel cage of protection for you and all of your supplies. Plus, it's a hell of a lot easier to spot a vehicle from the air compared to a human wandering around the desert.

Also, don't be surprised if you hear explosions in the distance since Kofa boarders the US Army Yuma Proving Ground and you will be required to drive through a portion while on the trail.

Previously I mentioned this trail is composed of graded gravel roads, sandy washes, and rocky Jeep trails. You will be happy to hear that only a small amount of your time will be spent on graded gravel roads while the majority will be spent on rocky and sandy trails more suited for Jeeps or side-by-sides. When you jump onto a graded gravel road that is five miles long and pick up your speed to 25 mph, you will be off and crawling again within minutes.

Along the trail there are several homesteads which serve as camping or gathering points for other adventurers. In this instance, I met Scotty from AZOFFROAD.NET, who was having troubles with his 1994 Grand Cherokee ZJ. Since I have owned, wheeled, and worked on many Jeeps since the early 1990s to include my personal CJ, TJ, XJs, and ZJ, I stopped to see if I could help out. The engine was cranking but not firing so after a bit of electrical and mechanical diagnostics, she fired and everyone was back on the trail. Scotty has a great site with many trails available so if you are going to be in Arizona, make sure and check his site out.

Here is the Wilbanks Cabin where I camped one night. The cabin is always open and has two single steel beds in it and all are welcome to sleep in the cabin - there is also a wood stove inside also. What was most memorable to me was falling asleep next to a cabin that was built in the 1930s while listening to the windmill occasionally turn and pump water in the soft evening breeze. It was so quiet at times I could hear my heart beat. The cabin is just off of a wash and is surrounded on all sides by small hills - there are many trees and shrubs surrounding the area so it may be one of the most peaceful and serene sleeps you will ever encounter. Make sure to go alone and imagine what it was like to live out here around a century ago.

Oh those beautiful mountains. Along the way I stopped to take dozens of pictures of mountains - like a pretty girl, they all had their own look, but were beautiful in there own special way. The best time to view them is in the morning or evening when the sun is low and colorful, and you can really study their shape and texture. During the middle of the day, the sun is high and strong with many details being washed out. It's for this reason I routinely take long breaks on the trail during lunch. The desert is still pretty during mid-day, just not as pretty as earlier or later. Night time in the desert is like being on another planet.

Just a simple man and his truck, roaming the desert...

I am beginning to become better at spotting springs in the desert. When traveling for days in the desert you become accustomed to seeing certain types and vegetation within a normal range of density. And then you take a turn into an oasis and immediately recognize a wide variety of vegetation that is concentrated in a small area. There is so much fun to be had in the desert you really need to see for yourself.

When spending time alone in the desert with virtually no cellular reception you have much time to think. What I have noticed is that in our daily lives were a literally polluted with synthetic man-made sights and sounds while being bombarded with false information. Let me tell you man, out in the desert you go through a detoxification and your mind becomes clear. Everything you touch, feel, see, smell, hear, and sense...is real, and made for us by our one and only God. My only concern is that most people prefer the make believe world, and not the real.

When you live outside, your body becomes more synchronized and regulated with nature - the sun begins to go down, the temperature falls, and you begin to prepare for sleep. In the morning, with the sun still below the horizon, the twilight is my alarm clock. I have taken up a new hobby, waking up during astronomical twilight and watching the sun slowly progress through nautical then civil twilight, and then smiling as a new day has been born.

Have you ever cleared your mind and stopped to think that most everything you have been taught, and believe, has been a lie?

Dein Atem kalt, so jung, und doch so alt...
Great report!
Aways amases me how few people you run into deep in Kofa.
We always explore during the week even less people.
We notice that most people pretty much stay on or close to vehicle
routes but if you park and start wandering away a whole new understanding of
the area opens up.

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