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Castle Dome Peak - KOFA, AZ

no permit
213 19 1
Guide 19 Triplogs  1 Topic
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Southwest > Yuma NE
4.7 of 5 by 10
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Difficulty 3 of 5
Route Finding 3 of 5
Distance Round Trip 5.52 miles
Trailhead Elevation 2,000 feet
Elevation Gain 2,081 feet
Accumulated Gain 2,089 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 15.97
Interest Off Trail Hiking & Peak
Backpack Yes
varies or not certain dogs are allowed
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
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11  2018-03-28
Thumb Peak - Castle Dome Mountains
13  2017-03-12 Jim_H
4  2017-03-03
KOFA sampler
42  2015-12-19 Jim_H
15  2015-12-12 chumley
12  2015-03-08 Tsd906
5  2013-11-30 Booneman
18  2013-03-10 Kaps
Page 1,  2
Author RedRoxx44
author avatar Guides 5
Routes 0
Photos 19,173
Trips 523 map ( 3,347 miles )
Age Female Gender
Location outside, anywhere
Associated Areas
list map done
Kofa National Wildlife Refuge USFWS
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Nov, Mar, Feb, Jan → 8 AM
Seasons   Late Winter
Sun  6:24am - 6:35pm
Official Route
0 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Geology Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Off trail peak bagging
by RedRoxx44

Castle Dome Peak is an off trail trek in the Kofa Wildlife Refuge north and slightly east of Yuma, Az. It's not a technical peak but you had better have good route finding skills, endurance for endless bouldering and scree surfing, bushwacking, and there is some exposure on the route.

My partner and I got an early start, slightly after 8:00 after trying to find the TH in the dark, not recommended. The wash is wide and finely graveled, with a little vegetation to dodge. It is very scenic right from the start with the towering dark and reddish rocked spires enclosing the area. Keep an eye out for Bighorn Sheep here. The wash winds around. Some cairns show up, there are several ways to leave the wash. Castle Dome is right in front of you here. Your goal is to get to a prominent small spire next to the main rock massiff. We decided to almost head the wash, very narrow, constant boulders and lots of catclaw.

From the saddle looking over into Kings Valley and back down our route, it was surprising to see how much we had gained in elevation already.

Here we climbed several ridges, skirting large rock outcroppings. Its rough, somewhat loose and very steep. We gained the "cactus filled saddle" just below the spire. Here you will see a faint trail that will lead you to the spire base. Now you have a choice of a couple of Class 3 short pitches, one very easy we descended, one more vertical and about 200+ feet exposure.

We climbed that one, a bit tight under some boulders. We didn't have a rope and it was a bit scary for me. Next you will see cairns skirting along the cliffs that then lead you up over sharp jagged rocks. A fair amount of exposure here but the rock is solid and footing good.

The summit is elongated and undulating, you have 360 views that are tremendous. The peak register is in an ammo can on a prominent rock outcropping to your right when you gain the peak. This is a training climb for the Golden Knights team, so quite a few military sign ins up there. Looks like light use overall.

The downclimb was worse than the up, lots of scree, we both sat down three times. We cliffed out twice; you either have to do a traverse at the base of the main peak across or go down some ridges almost going away from where you want to go to the wash. In the middle are sheer unclimbable cliffs unless you have a 150+ foot rope and climbing gear.

We descended a lovely dry waterfalled chute, it dropped off and we climbed out to continue down a drainage to the wash. We couldn't have timed it better for weather, cool, a little wind, and although hazy on top, it started to clear as we descended. The next day blew like heck so I headed home. We did some other exploring in the area. Really gorgeous once you get off the beaten path.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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2006-01-16 RedRoxx44
    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 of 13 deeper Triplog Reviews
    Castle Dome Peak - KOFA
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    My plan was to drive to hike Thumb Peak this day and Castle Dome after on Thursday. I figured I could make the trailhead as I watched parts of a youtube video of the drive which seemed to show the road to be decent enough for my Outback. It took me 75 minutes to drive that 10 miles, and I was getting sick of the road. When got to the 10 miles in "technical" section, I got out to examine the road. Maybe I could get down safely, maybe not, but up and out was what I was really concerned with, also, a short section in the lower part of the gully was concerning, too. I could have road walked if it was a great hike, but it was already late enough in the day that walking for 2(?)+ hours to complete the last 5 miles of road would have prevented me from completing the hike and then setting up camp. It wasn't worth it.

    I will say that I am still interested in this hike, even if I took it off my wish list. So, if you read this and are planning a trip with a sufficient vehicle to access it, and you want me to join you, I would be interested. I'm sure there with be a lot of takers.

    So, with Thumb out of the question for me, I decided to head for my main event, a repeat of Castle Dome. Castle Dome was actually what got me to want to drive out here, as I love that hike, the summit, and the views. It always feels much higher than it is, and the last few hundred feet are a lot of fun. Well, I didn't get any further than the Museum, as the road which was always gated at both ends, is now pad-locked and closed to the public. It wasn't in December, per another hiker I met, but it is now, and there are signs showing this at the KOFA entry kiosk. Too bad.

    There is an alternative, but that takes a lot of time, and is reported to be very rough. Lacking options and short on time, I opted to head to Signal Peak, and enjoyed a repeat of that hike.
    Castle Dome Peak - KOFA
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    A thoroughly enjoyed repeat. Awesome weather and conditions, views to San Jacinto, and they improved the road in to the TH so I was able to get my car all the way there, and therefore past what I called the "Jaws" feature in my December 2015 TL. Doing this, makes me want to return for Signal and Ten Ewe.
    Castle Dome Peak - KOFA
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    KOFA sampler
    Started with an early morning ascent of excellent Castle Dome Peak on a very well-cairned and established route that's better than a lot of official trails I've been on, with some fun scrambling and 3rd class near the top. Then Palm Canyon, short and interesting. Then Signal Peak, another good climb to a big summit, also follows a well-established route.

    Visited Castle Dome Mining Museum the previous day, its well worth the $10 and a couple of hours.
    Castle Dome Peak - KOFA
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    Leaving Cunningham I headed south as the sun set and I started in on the dirt road after dark. I passed the museum, the mine property and a few washes before locating an area I wanted to camp. It was a nice spot. This was good, as while the road is more or less fine, a few wash crossings were something to slow down to go through, and about 1/2 mile past my camp there is a wash that requires a jeep or higher clearance 4x4, which is to say it is not Outback friendly. I estimated this wash to be about 2 miles from the actual TH. Had I encountered it the night before, I may have foolishly gone into it.

    I stopped by my impassable wash and walked roughly 1/4 mile to a wash with a sign in it. Here is one of several areas where the hike description and directions need updating. This is one of several washes with no vehicle signs. The first one a good mile back is after a curve to the right. This particular one has the road run by it perpendicular to it, with no real curve. My confusion came from human tracks that went up it, but died out, possibly because the prior hikers realized they were not in the right wash. There is only one where a cairn is built near the sign and people have scratched, "Castle Dome Trailhead", on to the sign.

    I quickly realized I was not in the correct wash, and headed cross country back to the road. I found the correct TH soon after, with a red pickup truck I saw drive past my camp earlier in the day, parked by the sign. The correct TH is at the top of a horse shoe shaped curve or Omega shaped curve, and has a small cairn by the sign, as well as Castle Dome Trailhead written on the sign. However, because the road curves to the east, the TH is at the east side of this curve.

    Starting up wash I followed the cairns and some obvious heavy use tracks, and I also noted instructions on the TH sign to bear left at one point (which is about 200' past the start) which is marked by a cairn. Once in the correct wash, one need only follow the heavy tracks up stream for 1.6 miles and look for stone arrows in the wash. If you reach the narrowing and eroded sediment cliffs, you went too far. The official (bot generated?) gps actually has the correct route, which surprised me when I got home. I am not a gps user, so I can not be a lazy hiker when solo. As such, I noticed the arrows, and was happy I did. These arrows could probably be larger, as at least 2 other parties (this day) missed them.

    (I went) up the side trail off the wash and continue to follow an obvious and highly cairned route on a trail that almost looks to be constructed, but isn't. If you miss the cairned trail and attempt the ridges that extend out from the peak toward the wash, I understand those can be very loose and exposed. This cairned trail is really a very good social route and it takes you to the bottom of one of the steep faces of CD. Hike along the bottom, and head in the direction the cairns take you. You never need to do more than some easy scrambling, and eventually you summit. You'll never cliff out, or come in any real danger if you stay on route.

    I arrived on the summit, enjoyed the hazy views, and head back with a partner who came up one of the bad ridges. Montana Jim, a tourist in a 5th wheel who saw the peak and just had to summit. He climbs normally, so isn't the typical 5th wheeler in winter.

    Hiking out was fun and easy. The descent on the social trail should never place you in danger, is not loose any longer to require sitting, nor will you cliff out- ever. If you do, you are off route. This hike and scramble has been done by locals so often, it is very defined. Anything less, and you are off route.
    Castle Dome Peak - KOFA
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    I sent Bob a text about Ragged Top after seeing it from Marana last week, trying to lure him out of hiding. Unfortunately he had done it just last year, but it got the ball rolling and we settled on heading back to the Kofas where we both have unfinished business. I came up with a list of 5 or 6 good ones and we settled on Castle Dome.

    I had read a recent trip report on another website that helped us get off track and the first half of the climb was off-trail before we found the well-established route. But it was more fun that way! :y: None of us was prepared for the 2 mile slog in a sandy bottom wash before the climb begins. I should maybe research more! :lol:

    The wind whipped up below the cliff face and I bundled up with beanie and poofy coat. Joe would have cried. :sweat: There wasn't much shelter on the summit but we managed to stay for a few minutes anyway. The summit register is a big notebook with enough entries to pass English 102 with honors. The trip down was cake and we met the over/under when passing three Yuman defense contractors from New Hampshire.

    It's a long drive for a short hike, so I had put together other options for the day, and we headed off to explore some more. Ultimately my plans took too long and we missed a visit to the Castle Dome Mine Museum and the aerostat blimp which sat on the ground all day ... presumably due to the high winds.

    On the way home we stopped in Quartzsite for camel rides with a syrian refugee, live country music and dancing with Silly Al along with a whole lot of cheese! Great day. Thanks guys! :D
    Castle Dome Peak - KOFA
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    I tried to get to the top last weekend but the rain was making things a bit slippery so I turned back about 3/4 the way up. Not to be discouraged, and after a tough week, I set out on Sunday at about 7am. Parked at the wash near some campers and proceeded up the wash solo. Made it to the top and enjoyed the rock to my self for about an hour and a half, or until my Cigar and Flask of The Balvenie were done. :y: Absolutely amazing views from up there! Heading back down was slow going in some areas, but not too bad. Passed a group of about three heading up and another straggler further down. Fun hike/climb, will definitely be back to enjoy those views again before the heat comes.
    Castle Dome Peak - KOFA
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    I did this hike 3 years ago, and thought it would fit the bill for a quick weekend trip to Yuma with cindyl. In order to have plenty of time for the hike we left town before dawn and, with a few stops along the way, we were on the trail at 10:40. The walk up the wash served as a good warm up, with a fair amount of Brittlebush and Chuparosa in bloom along the way, and we hit the arrow in good time and turned to start climbing. With two pairs of eyes, it was much easier to follow the primary route; on my previous trip I had lost it and bushwhacked on both the climb to the finger and descent from there. This time, we followed the same route in both directions.

    As we neared the finger, we sat down for a break out of the wind and were surprised to hear calls from above, since there were no vehicles at the parking area and we had seen no tracks. Once we resumed, we met up with and chatted with a pair of hikers who had climbed up the west face; we had passed their Jeep on the way in and wondered about what its owners were doing. They described the west side bushwhack as "not much more difficult, but with more exposure."

    After our chat, we resumed the climb and reached the finger, where we dropped our trekking poles for the hands on scramble up from there. This section is more well cairned, and we made our way up and finally reached the summit. We signed in and took some photos from the summit, and then dropped back down one level on the east side to get out of the wind and relax a bit before starting down. With the afternoon sun further up the hill, we got out of the shade pretty quickly and made our way back down with just one fall apiece, and then strolled back out the wash to the truck. We drove back out about a mile and a half and camped at a spot I remembered seeing people at three years ago. After a bit, we had the tent up, dinner made and a fire going for a wonderful evening.
    Castle Dome Peak - KOFA
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    southpawaz needed a special hike to get me out this direction to go to this geocaching "mega event" in yuma (on sunday). there wasn't anything about that event that made it sound appealing, other than his presence. but this hike sounded like an interesting way to spend a saturday. from the "don't go alone" from mel8 to the photos and description from redroxx. i do love a desert scramble. this hike did not disappoint. the first couple of miles were a mellow up the wash walk. then we started up. and up. and up. then it got to a steeper scramble and we ditched our poles for full use of all of our limbs. this hike was certainly worthy.

    other hikers: we ran into a couple of "white hairs" (for lack of a better term) who had done the peak from the front face. they said it was a bit more exposed - and that this was their ninth year to make the climb up this mountain. i can't even imagine, but wow. what amazing hikers/climbers! we also ran into a couple of marines on their way in the morning. i'm happy to be among such awesome company on that summit register. this is one i'll do again for sure.
    Castle Dome Peak - KOFA
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    My favorite non-technical summit in the area. Big day. Missed the turn-off, got cliffed out, fogged in, and otherwise had a blast.

    Followed the standard route up the wash wandering for quite a ways. Further than I tought we should. Missed a HUGE cairn and arrow of rocks. Ended up going way to far East then turning due south up a gully to a ridge, got cliffed. Harnessed Ginger the dog, got back down found the right trail and presto, the rest of the hike was on the really solid trail we shouldda been on.

    The actual turn out of the wash is really just so incredibly well marked . It starts in a tributary gully that enters the main wash from the right (south). Walk up the tributary gully for only about 15 ft. then exit it via a dispersed trail that angles up the left (east) bank of this tributary gully. You will now be paralleling the main wash, but above it, up on the south bank on a slight ridge. You will likely not get lost from this point. You will likely not get lost before this point unless you are inept. Ah, but really inept could be just another word for enjoying the sceenery, eh?

    Once on the strong trail we hiked at a steadily increasing rate of ascent until switchbacks deposited us at the base of a minor escarpment. Following the trail higher we scrambled up through scree and talus winding around the summit block clockwise until we were at the base of the steep stuff above the gendarme. We could see some folks had climbed up a waterfall-like route, but we elected to continue around to reach a really cool saddle on the south-ish side of the summit block. We then backed down out of the saddle about 50 ft. to a scrambly chute that exits up to the left as we back-tracked. This chute would be before the saddle on the right as you are going up. This chute proved to be the easiest route to the summit. From there we scrambled- with Ginger the dog harnessed ever upward to the summit. This last part of the trail offers plenty of class 3 scrambling with short non-exposed sections of class 4.

    Ginger the dog summited as did my wife and I. Ginger was in a fall-rated rock climbing harness complete with leg loops and a 20 ft. Dyneema tether for short roping and hauling. There were 20 ft. sections where we could climb up not quite vertical rock- that she had to be hauled up. Were we to repeat the route we would take Ginger again. 8.5 hours would be about right without the detour, but leaving plenty of time on the summit.
    Castle Dome Peak - KOFA
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    Wanted to do this one for quite some time. I'm so glad I did. It is one of the best low elevation desert scrambles around. The views from the top are outstanding! The color and contour of the Castle Domes is out of this world and the harsh surrounding ranges and desert are awesome. In the distance we could even see snow capped San Jacinto! The scramble up was a blast. We took the northern route. One in our group climbed up the shoot; the others of us scrambled up the wall about 5 yards before it. Good times.

    Permit $$

    Map Drive

    To hike
    From Yuma take hwy 95 north/ from Quartzite take the same hwy south. 35 miles north of Yuma turn right on the Castle Dome Mine road (left if coming from the north). This is a good graded dirt road. Drive north to the mining museum about 10 miles, past it about 5 miles on a narrow washed out track. Castle Dome will be in front of you and you will contour around the foothills to the northwest side. Look for a wide wash with a no vehicles sign in front of it after coming around a curve. Ample parking in the wash.

    This access road is currently closed and the gates are locked. Signs on the Castle Dome Mine Road were recently placed and show the road across the small section of private property are now closed to entry. Contact the NWR for more information and for when the road may reopen. There is an alternative from the north, but it is long and a strictly 4x4 rough road, I have been told. -Jim_H 3/29/2018
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