Western Arizona Hiking Guide
Wabayuma Peak TrailDon't take this hike. Okay, do take this hike, but only if you meet two criteria: You have an insatiable desire to hike in a remote wilderness, and you can make the trip to the trailhead in a high-clearance, four-wheel-drive vehicle. The Wabayuma Peak Trail may not be the most demanding you'll ever hike, but either of the two routes to the trailhead may be among the toughest you'll ever drive. Wabayuma Peak, at elevation 7,601 feet, rises about 30 miles southeast of Kingman. The second-highest peak in the Hualapai Mountains, it dominates the 40,000-acre Wabayuma Peak Wilderness. There are two routes to the trailhead, but the better and slightly easier road lies south of Kingman. At the trailhead elevation of 6,047 feet, the rewards of this wilderness reveal themselves in instant solitude, birdcalls and the rough expanse ahead.
For the first mile, the 2.5-mile trail climbs at a reasonable incline, with occasional steeper sections, through turbinella oak, pointleaf manzanita and scattered piñon pine and juniper trees. It takes about 45 minutes to travel 1 mile and reach the crest (elevation 6,700 feet) of a sharp ridge line and a couple of exceptional campsites, flat and shaded by tall ponderosa pine trees, which overlook the southern end of the mountains. If you're spending the night, camp there. The trail gets tougher quickly. If you're not careful, about a half-mile farther, you'll miss a cairn that directs you toward the summit. If you do miss it, you'll wander north and downhill, along an overgrown jeep track through dense chaparral until you realize you've wasted an hour and a half-gallon of water. Read the cairn correctly and a steep climb of approximately 400 yards through thick brush takes you to the summit of Wabayuma Peak, where the western face of the wilderness opens before you.
Trail GuideLength: 2.5 miles, one-way
Elevation: 6,050 to 7,600
Directions: Drive 25 miles south of Kingman on Interstate 40. Take Exit 25 near Yucca and follow the signs for the Alamo Road. After approximately 3 miles, take the Boriana Mine Road, and drive northeast for another 10 miles to the wilderness boundary. The trailhead is 3 miles past the Boriana Mine.
Travel Advisory: Spring and fall are the best seasons to visit, but summer heat at this elevation is tolerable. In winter, the road can be impassable because of limited maintenance. Contact the Bureau of Land Management, Kingman office, for road conditions. The area is remote, so carry ample water. Four-wheel drive and high-clearance vehicles are essential. The road to the trailhead is too rough, steep and narrow to tow a trailer, and the trail is too steep to ride a horse or a mountain bike.
Information: Bureau of Land Management, Kingman Field Office, 928-718-3700.
Palm CanyonThe cactus-covered, arid rockiness of the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge doesn't seem a likely place to find an oasis, but tucked high in a narrow canyon, palm trees native to Arizona flourish. A 1-mile round-trip trail leads to a view of the 20-foot-tall palms rising defiantly from the side canyon carved in the rocky desert, 70 miles northeast of Yuma. About 45 California fan palms (Washingtonia filifera) thrive in Palm Canyon, the biggest grove known in the Kofa Mountains, but additional palms grow scattered in other area canyons. The trail begins at the upper end of a parking lot and winds through the bright-green paloverde trees and blooming creosotes. With occasional stair-step rocks, it twists through the underbrush between the high, volcanic rhyolite walls of the Kofa Mountains. The footpath ends at a sign pointing up to the just-visible fronds of the palms, which seem impossibly adhered to the boulders that fill the narrows of Palm Canyon. Although the official trail ends at the viewpoint, more adventurous hikers can clamber up the boulders for a closer look. The narrow canyon splits at the base by a jagged ridge.
Trail GuideLength: 1 mile, round-trip
Elevation: 2,100 to 2,500 feet
Directions: From Phoenix, drive west on Interstate 10 about 134 miles to Quartzsite, then drive about 23 miles south on U.S. Route 95 to Palm Canyon Road, marked by signs. Take the graded, gravel road 7 miles east to the trailhead parking lot.
Travel Advisory: The refuge has no facilities or drinking water, and there is no shade. Carry plenty of water. Hiking alone or during the summer months is not recommended. The road to the trailhead is adequate for a passenger car, but the ride is rough.
Information: Kofa National Wildlife Refuge, 928-783-7861; www.southwest.fws.gov/refuges/arizona/kofa.html.
Short Painted Desert TrailArizona has two painted deserts – the official one between the Grand Canyon and Petrified Forest National Park and the largely undiscovered one tucked away in the Imperial National Wildlife Refuge along the lower Colorado River. Fortunately, Imperial's Painted Desert Trail takes hikers on a relatively easy, 1.3-mile loop through geology as colorful and curiously eroded as anything you'll find in its better known sibling landscape. The short Painted Desert Trail heads away from the river into a dry desert landscape that sees, at best, only 3.5 inches of rain each year. A handful of prickly pear cactuses, ironwood and mesquite trees and brittlebushes offers a beleaguered token of vegetation. However, if enough winter rain falls, wildflowers miraculously cover the gravelly slopes. During the first half-mile, the trail winds around ruddy mounds, passes a distinct hoodoo and then climbs a little hill that gives big views. Colorful ash mounds spread to the west. A bit farther westward, a sliver of the Colorado River shimmers. After another short climb, the path twists back down to the desert floor and enters Shady Canyon Wash. Animal signs and tracks show that this shaded segment makes a cool hangout for reptiles and mammals. Finally, an odd, but beautiful, assortment of colored mounds closes the loop.
Trail GuideLength: 1.3 miles loop
Elevation: 1,000 feet
Directions: From Phoenix, take Interstate 10 east to Interstate 8 to Yuma. Take the U.S. Route 95 North exit and drive for 25 miles to Martinez Lake Road. Turn west (left) onto Martinez Lake Road and drive 10 miles to Red Cloud Mine Road; turn north (right) to the trailhead, located 2.8 miles north of the Imperial National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters.
Information: Imperial National Wildlife Refuge, 928-783-3371; www.fws.gov/southwest/refuges/arizona/imperial.html.
Hualapai Mountain ParkHualapai Mountain Park southeast of Kingman offers hikers five interconnecting trails within a 10-mile trail system. Mohave County established the park in 1937, and the Civilian Conservation Corps built the first cabins and trails. The trail system has been improved and expanded ever since. The Hualapai Mountains are as ancient as the rock formations found in the Inner Gorge of the Grand Canyon – 1.7 billion years old. The summit is Hualapai Peak that has an elevation of 8,417 feet. The trailhead for Hayden Peak South Trail, like all trails in the park, lies at the main trail junction at 6,750 feet. On the trail system map available at the ranger station, this location is marked number 4, which corresponds to the trail information that comes with the map. The markers along the trail coincide with the map and information, so it's a good idea to have one with you. This is a strenuous hike, so you'll find a hiking stick a valuable companion. At location number 6 on the map, the Potato Patch Loop Trail junction (elevation 7,000 feet) take the right fork. From there, the trail heads south and up for a mile to the north end of the Potato Patch, where Boy Scouts from the area hold a summer camp.
The trail then leads down into the Potato Patch, which was a potato farm around 1910. This is a refreshing interlude before the challenging climb that's still ahead. There is a choice to be made when the Hayden Peak South Trail meets the Hayden Peak West Trail. Mount Tipton Overlook, only .3 of a mile farther on the west trail, offers a view of Kingman and of Mount Tipton at the north end of the Cerbat Mountains, 40 miles away. The Hayden Peak South Trail route yields the true reward less than a mile farther south. Soon you'll ascend through a narrow and shallow canyon that botanists call an interior riparian deciduous forest. The trail climbs out of that narrow glade to a wooden bench at Dinosaur Rock Overlook, some 200 feet below the summit of Hayden Peak. The hike is 5.5 miles round-trip, and takes three hours or so, depending on whether you attempt to locate and identify along the way the 23 species of trees found in the Hualapais.
Trail GuideLength: 5.5 miles, round-trip
Elevation: 6,750 to 8,500 feet
Directions: Take Exit 53 off Interstate 40 in Kingman and proceed south on Andy Devine Avenue for 2 miles. Turn left (east) onto Hualapai Mountain Road, and drive 11.2 miles to the Hualapai Mountain Park ranger station to pick up a trail map. For an alternate route from east of Kingman, take Exit 59 to Hualapai Mountain Road, and then drive east to the ranger station. Continue 2 miles south into the park, bearing right at every junction. There is ample parking below the trailhead.
Travel Advisory: Early spring through late fall offers the best hiking conditions.
Information: Hualapai Mountain Park, 928-757-3859.
Potato Patch RanchConsider the Potato Patch Loop Trail in the Hualapai Mountains southeast of Kingman a secret worth sharing. Those already in the know might question drawing attention to this beautiful trail, but they needn't worry: With its 1,000-foot elevation change, the trail requires strenuous effort. The switchbacks alone will cull the herd. The 4-mile loop forms the trunk of a 10-mile trail system in densely forested Hualapai Mountain Park, which also encompasses rental cabins, a lodge and opportunities to see a lot of wildlife, including mule deer. Signs and numbered markers along the trail coincide with waypoints on the free map available at the ranger station near the park entrance. The markers also indicate levels of difficulty for sections of the trail. The trail begins at an elevation of 6,750 feet with a steep 20-minute half-mile climb up switchbacks between thick manzanita bushes to the granite stairs leading to the Stone Step Lookout, which is about as far as most people go. For the intrepid, another 10 minutes of huffing and puffing past ponderosa pine, blue spruce and white fir trees leads to the Potato Patch Loop junction. The choices are to go south or west around the looming Aspen Peak with an elevation of 8,167 feet; either way returns full-circle to this junction. A round-trip on the Potato Patch Loop Trail takes about two hours if you stop to watch birds and butterflies. For all that exertion, though, the reward is handsome – dappled sunlight, solitude and clean mountain air.
Trail GuideLength: 4-mile loop
Elevation: 6,750 to 7,750 feet
Directions: Take Exit 53 off Interstate 40 and proceed south on Andy Devine Avenue 2 miles to Hualapai Mountain Road. Turn left and drive east 11.2 miles to the Hualapai Mountain Park Ranger Station to pick up a trail map. For an alternate route from I-40, east of Kingman, take Exit 59 south to Hualapai Mountain Road, and then drive east to the ranger station. Continue 2 miles south into the park, bearing right at every junction. There is ample parking below the trailhead.
Travel Advisory: The best time to go is early spring through late fall.
Information: Hualapai Mountain Park, 928-757-3859.