Living in a very rural part of Arizona, I do a LOT of hiking. Aside from the occasional snowbird on a 4-wheeler, I don’t encounter a lot of foot traffic or interruptions. On the contrary, many of the Phoenix trails are crowded with people rushing to get their morning cardio sesh in before the heat. The city mountains have stunning views and are great for focused cardio workouts, but I use my hiking time similarly to those who attend a Sunday church service. I can work out at a gym, or run around the track at our local high school, but hiking is my time to re-energize my soul and to take time to realize that I am a part of a universe that is much larger than myself.
With that being said, my feature hike is a beautiful low-key trail at Palm Canyon, in the Kofa Wildlife Refuge.
For you city-dwellers, it is a little bit of a drive, but the diverse wildlife is well worth a weekend camping trip with friends or family. Palm Canyon is also the only location in Arizona where the California palms grow natively. Yes, all of the palms you see around the Valley are impostors! The palms are obviously the main attraction (hence the name), but that shouldn’t take away from the selection of birds that live there, as well as big horn sheep that you might see scaling the peaks of the mountains early in the morning.
I have hiked this trail a few times; once alone and a few times with friends, and have only seen one or two people each time. During my first (and only) overnight stay, I arrived at dusk the night before my hike, as I knew the temperatures were going to be hot. I had intentions of sleeping out among the stars, but the uncomfortably close howls of coyotes scared me back into my 1998 Infinity i30. I gobbled down some of the snacks I packed and got some rest.
I woke up around 4:30 am. It was still very dark, but you could start to see the sun peeking up over the mountains to the East of the canyon. As soon as there was enough light to guide me to the trail head, I splashed some water on my face, grabbed a Cliff bar and hit the dusty trail, literally.
I had no idea what kind of trail this would be, and as I soon found out, it was very short (only .5 miles), but it was fairly rocky and took a bit of effort to tackle. As I approached the end of the marked trail, I could still see a lot of the canyon up ahead of me, and it was covered in more native palms! I couldn’t resist walking along the unmarked path to climb to the highest walls of the canyon to get a better look. It was a difficult climb up a mound of loose rocks, but I saw some amazing sights and hundreds of birds.
I sat at the peak of one of the canyon walls for awhile, took in the sights, then started my trek back, which seemed to only take a fraction of the time it took to get IN to the canyon. I captured some even more beautiful sights of the mountains on the East side of the refuge.
When I got back to my car and looked back at the beast I just conquered, I could feel all of the post-workout adrenaline pumping through my body. I knew I was leaving with a good workout under my belt, some amazing photos, and a new appreciation for the rare Arizona wildlife I had just witnessed.
Kofa wildlife Refuge ▪ 356 West First St. Yuma, Az