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Old Smokey Mountain - KOFA, AZ

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Guide 4 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Southwest > Quartzsite S
4.5 of 5 by 2
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Difficulty 4 of 5
Route Finding 3 of 5
Distance Round Trip 5.34 miles
Trailhead Elevation 4,354 feet
Elevation Gain 1,191 feet
Accumulated Gain 1,503 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 4 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 12.86
Interest Off Trail Hiking & Peak
Backpack Possible - Not Popular
varies or not certain dogs are allowed
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5  2016-11-16
Old Smokey - Tunnel Spring Loop
12  2016-11-16
Old Smokey - Tunnel Spring Loop
25  2016-03-12
Old Smokey - Tunnel Spring Loop
18  2016-03-12
Old Smokey - Tunnel Spring Loop
Author chumley
author avatar Guides 75
Routes 667
Photos 13,162
Trips 1,416 map ( 10,534 miles )
Age 46 Male Gender
Location Tempe, AZ
Associated Areas
list map done
Kofa National Wildlife Refuge USFWS
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Apr, Oct, Mar, Nov → Early
Seasons   Late Autumn to Early Spring
Sun  6:21am - 6:40pm
Official Route
4 Alternative
There's no banjo on top!
by chumley

One of many pointy and prominent peaks in the rugged Kofa Mountains, Old Smokey is a non-technical ascent with some serious exposure on a narrow knife ridge to the summit.

This is an off-trail hike with no established route. The Kofa Mountains are remote and extreme. There is no water or shade and this peak should not be attempted in summer or by inexperienced hikers.

The hike begins at the end of the Kofa Queen Canyon road, at the signed wilderness boundary. The shortest route to the peak heads south from this point. You could stay in the drainage and climb to the saddle in front of you or climb the steep hill to the left of the drainage and drop down into the shallow valley on the other side. Though steeper, the hill is free of brush and easier to travel.

Once dropping into the basin, follow the main drainage to the south and follow it for about 0.75 miles and follow a wash that comes in from the left at about 33.346879 -114.045782. Stay on the slope above the drainage on the right, and climb toward the peak while traversing the steep slopes on Smokey's northeast side. When you reach the scree slope at 33.34238 -114.044625, head straight up toward the notch in the summit ridge. This ascent is very steep and very loose. Near the top you will find a few firmly planted steps on bedrock, but about 400 feet of the final ascent is a footing challenge!

Once on the ridge, head to the right toward the summit. The view to the west side reveals some awesome exposure and several hundred feet of drop to the valley below. Heading toward the summit, you will quickly encounter what looks like the summit block with a very challenging climb. This isn't it! Head around this to the right and approach the actual summit block next. Getting to the top requires what is otherwise an easy class 3 climb that will get in your head due to the 400 foot drop on the left of a 1 foot wide knife ridge with a more comfortable 20 foot drop on the right.

Once past the knife edge, the final 20 feet to the summit are a piece of cake and allow you to finally breathe easy and enjoy the views and sheer drop around you while contemplating the trip down!

Alternate Route
From the end of Kofa Queen Canyon Road, hike up the old closed roadbed into the Wilderness for 1 mile until it drops into the wash at another road closed sign and wilderness boundary. Turn right and follow the wash upstream for about half a mile to a fork at 33.351533 -114.034291. Take the left wash and follow it about 1.25 miles to about 33.343516 -114.039864 where you should climb out of the wash to the left and follow the ridge straight up toward the peak visible in front of you. This route is about a mile longer, but offers easier terrain than the shorter route described above.

Either option can be traveled in either direction, or the two can be combined in a loop. The official route posted to this hike is a counter-clockwise loop and the statistics reflect that route. An out-n-back via the short route would be a mile shorter, and via the long route would be a mile longer than the posted stats.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

This is a moderately difficult hike.

Leave No Trace and +Add a Triplog after your hike to support this local community.

2016-04-20 chumley
    WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

    Most recent Triplog Reviews
    Old Smokey Mountain - KOFA
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Old Smokey - Tunnel Spring Loop
    The CHUMS trip to the KofA Cabana last March was an eye opener so I was eager to return. I paid more attention to the drive in. It's aggressive. The last mile would be wise to have 4wd high clearance. jj stopped near the parking and we were both shocked he was stuck. Apparently the front passenger worked into a campfire ring. The bigger rocks kept that tire in place and the others dug in the small loose gravel without momentum. Easily moved the fire ring rocks, just odd.

    A printed map or a working phone would be great for this type of off-trail hike. The extent of my planning blows. Basically... what time do we meet. So we spent more time figuring out the route on Fenix than needed. It works great when you keep moving, not so much for slow off trail.

    Old Smokey was great again. JJ read the register notes aloud as did CHUMS. I could probably recite 'em now.
    - Possible 1st summit 1982 ( ish )
    - UofA Ramblers, 12 days after 1st possible

    Somehow forgot about the scree getting up Smokey, ugg. The descent down pastel hill still fascinates. Cloudy most of the day, pleasant temps and a breeze made the hike enjoyable throughout.

    The majority of the hike is to/from Tunnel Spring. The off trail is mostly brush free, or at least that is what I told myself. Still is but boy my shins took a beating. Tunnel Spring must be witnessed to understand the lure. Once again, I'm not a fan of getting down with the slimy mud. jj avoided it easily whereas I looked like a two year old that jumped in it. The aggressive hike out didn't seem so bad this round, the continuous breeze probably helped.

    Love this loop, next time something else =)
    Old Smokey Mountain - KOFA
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    Old Smokey - Tunnel Spring Loop
    Ol' Smokey has been on the list since a former hazzer introduced me to it two years ago. The KofAs have what I view as about a 4-month window of enjoyable visitation. November-February. Others tolerate the heat more than I do, but this is a place of extremes. A cold front was coming through and the temperatures were set to drop 10-15 degrees so I figured that with highs near 70 Saturday would make a good day for what would likely be my best last chance to spend some time here this season.

    I penciled in a few routes with options as I wanted to explore potential water sources for future endeavors out here, and figured that the trip up Smokey would certainly not be an all-day affair. In fact, I think a Smokey, Signal, and Ten Ewe trifecta might be a killer day sometime!

    We opted for the more direct route to Smokey (almost due south), beginning with a climb straight up a steep 500-foot hill from the end of the KofA Queen Canyon road before generally following a drainage until it swings around to the steep, rock-scree northeast flank that makes the easiest approach to the summit. Upon reaching the "crux" ... a short stretch of ridge about 2-feet wide that climbs to the summit ... I was happy to realize that I would in fact be able to fight off the mental block that the ridiculous exposure hits you with. The footing and hand holds really are abundant, and the wind was perfectly calm.

    The summit register was placed in 1980 and there are not many pages with names. The register is in a rusted container that could use a new replacement. We took a short break before making our way down the steep slope.

    My next primary objective on the day was to find Tunnel Spring, for which I had found some teasing information online, but not much else. Along the way we spotted some bighorn sheep, an old well, a well-developed tinaja with a trickle of flow below a 50-foot dryfall, an incredible diversity of geology, and some impressively developed sheep trails.

    Tunnel Spring was even more impressive than I had envisioned, and we managed to climb up to it with the assistance of a rope left in place by AZGFD which maintains the trough here for the local sheep population. The current rope doesn't have much life left, so if you come this way, bringing your own might be a good idea. It would be a challenge to get up without a rope, and likely impossible to get down. The shade of the "cave" was welcome and cool, and the water clear and delicious. A real treat in these rugged mountains!

    From here we had to make our way back to KofA Queen Canyon and the road to the truck, but that involved ascending about 900 feet over one ridge, dropping into Tunnel Mine Canyon, and then climbing over another smaller ridge. I had originally planned a longer route for this part of the hike, but we opted for a shorter, more direct route back, and were happy with the result as it made it possible to get out to the west of the range in time for a colorful sunset.
    Old Smokey Mountain - KOFA
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Old Smokey - Tunnel Spring Loop
    18 years since my last visit to Palm Canyon, back into the KOFA Cabana!

    Old Smokey was seemingly the highlight of the loop and a done deal in just over 2 miles. It's rated c3 ( class 3 ) over a narrow ridge. The kicker is a ~500 foot shear drop to the left and a ~40 ft drop on the safer right. c3 seems correct. Never figured there was an upper limit on c3, this fits the bill! You would pretty much have to jump off, there are countless holds. I'm sure many have walked up it. Nevertheless the pucker factor seemed similar to Cheops Plateau. Great to feel alive again!

    The next major destination was a spring in a tunnel some seven miles away. CHUMS' loop took us over some interesting terrain. We headed down over painted desert. Areas reminded me of the ♡ PHX Preserves ♡, yet lacked the scorched terrain. The Sonoran Kiddie Rollercoaster was fun yet quick flat ravines were more relaxing. Enough shin whackers to warrant pants if you do not enjoy second day sting.

    Tunnel Spring is in an alcove, high on a wall in a narrow ravine. This little jewel is a worthy destination you will probably remember for years to come. Climbers probably ascend upside-down blindfolded. People like me need the community rope to access. Heading down I heard a crunch in the rope that sent rotted shock wave alerts to my nerves. Think I was still shaking five minutes after getting down. CHUMS got down five times faster swinging like Tarzan so I burned jitter-calories for nothing.

    Great hike, couldn't have asked for better weather. Don't let the short mileage fool you, it's all off trail. The jagged silhouette KOFA's deserve more love.

    The rock on Old Smokey had a hollow pinging sound in areas. My best guess is basaltic or dacitic lava. We were out-of-view west of Big Horn Pass on this 51MB pdf geology map.

    Most notably globe mallow for the "light" rating. Isolated poppies, stubby lupine, etc you see in a weak display season.

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    High Clearance possible when dry

    To hike
    From Quartzsite drive south on US 95 for 19 miles to Palm Canyon Road. (From Yuma it's about 50 miles north on US 95). Follow Palm Canyon Road 3.3 miles to the entrance kiosk for the Kofa NWR. Turn left onto Queen Canyon Road and follow it 9 miles to the signed end of the road at the wilderness boundary.
    page created by BobP on Apr 19 2016 11:36 pm
    3 pack - loud whistle
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