I only spent a couple of days in western Arizona’s Kofa Mountains (named for the King of Arizona (KofA) Mine that ran from 1896 to 1910), but it is definitely one of the more spectacular mountain ranges around. I’d never even heard of the range (located in Kofa National Wildlife Refuge) before seeing it on a map in my Arizona state atlas, but a quick online search showed a remote area with crazy-looking mountains and rock formations.
My plan was to hike up the highest mountain in the range and the highpoint of Yuma County, Signal Peak (4,877 feet/1487 meters). I drove south from Lake Havasu City and then turned east and headed into the Kofas. The good dirt road through cholla, saguaro, ocotillo, and creosote gave way to a so-so dirt road that gave way to a rough 4WD dirt road. The rough road led me for 3 miles into Kofa Queen Canyon, which was lined on both sides with dramatic cliffs and spires. By driving very slowly and carefully, I was able to make it to the parking spot for what seems to be the most popular route up the peak, the route starting at Ten Ewe Canyon and then going up Indian Canyon.
The weather was perfect—a cloudless sky and temps in the high 50s. There is no official or maintained trail up the mountain, but over the years a use trail has emerged. I followed the trail through the bottom of a dry wash and past cairns until I could climb up to the right on the broad ridge that formed the left side of Indian Canyon. There was a cairn and trail at this point too. That led to steeper uphill climbing followed by switchbacks that took me below some big cliffs and formations. Ultimately I reached a flat saddle, and the route from here on out was much less steep. It curved around the left side of a bowl and then paralleled a mostly dry (there were some puddles still) wash with a few dryfalls. I passed prominent Ten Ewe Peak on its right side and saw the summit of Signal up ahead of me. The trail leveled off and it was just a few more minutes to the summit.
Conditions at the top were perfect—sunny, 66 degrees, and with a nice 5–7 mile per hour wind. The view was spectacular in all directions and particularly awesome to the north, where tons of spiky-topped mountains stuck up, several of which looked like they’d require technical rock climbing to summit. I stayed up there for half an hour or so before retracing my route back down to the car.
I used the Summitpost and Todd’s Desert Hiking Guide pages to plan my trip. Navigation and routefinding proved easier than I thought they’d be. I just followed the cairns and the trails that looked the most used and that made the most sense. I had loaded Todd’s coordinates into my phone just in case but didn’t need them. I didn’t encounter any bushwhacking as other people have reported.
Overall, this was a spectacular hike, one definitely worth doing if you’ve got experience hiking on unmaintained trails in remote areas. I didn’t see another soul on the mountain.
- Date hiked: January 28, 2016
- Hike length: ~4.1 miles round trip
- Elevation gain: ~2,050 feet
- 11:34 a.m. (0:00) – Started hiking
- 11:48 (0:14) – Left the wash at the large cairn to start hiking uphill
- 12:03 p.m. (0:29) – Flat spot/knob
- 12:18 (0:44) – Flat saddle
- 12:54 (1:20) – Summit plateau
- 12:59 (1:25) – Top
- 1:31 (1:57) – Left the top
- 2:43 (3:09) – Back at the car
- Elapsed hiking time not including the 32 minutes spent on top: 2 hours 37 minutes
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