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Old Smokey Mountain - KOFA - 2 members in 4 triplogs have rated this an average 4.5 ( 1 to 5 best )
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Nov 16 2016
joebartels
avatar

 Guides 241
 Routes 830
 Photos 11,838
 Triplogs 4,676

50 male
 Joined Nov 20 1996
 Phoenix, AZ
Old Smokey - Tunnel Spring Loop, AZ 
Old Smokey - Tunnel Spring Loop, AZ
 
Hiking avatar Nov 16 2016
joebartels
Hiking12.65 Miles 3,556 AEG
Hiking12.65 Miles   7 Hrs   28 Mns   1.86 mph
3,556 ft AEG      39 Mns Break14 LBS Pack
 
Partners partners
JuanJaimeiii
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 summit...lol

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 =)

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water 4 out of 5 De La Ossa Well 76-100% full 76-100% full
full, thin scum layer on top

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water 4 out of 5 High Tank 76-100% full 76-100% full
full, thin scum layer on top

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water less than maxwater less than max Tunnel Spring Quart per minute Quart per minute
Big tank is full, little is empty. Evidence of Big Horn shows they jump up into the tunnel.
_____________________
- joe
Nov 16 2016
JuanJaimeiii
avatar

 Routes 566
 Photos 7,969
 Triplogs 1,703

53 male
 Joined Jan 30 2011
 Chandler, AZ
Old Smokey - Tunnel Spring Loop, AZ 
Old Smokey - Tunnel Spring Loop, AZ
 
Hiking avatar Nov 16 2016
JuanJaimeiii
Hiking12.65 Miles 3,556 AEG
Hiking12.65 Miles   7 Hrs   28 Mns   1.86 mph
3,556 ft AEG      39 Mns Break
 
1st trip
Partners partners
joebartels
Several years ago I did Palm Canyon in the Kofa's on my way to do Cactus to Clouds. That was my last and only visit to this unique and intriguing Mountain Range. The rock formations are rugged and visually stunning.

The drive in is smooth on the main road and then rocky and rough on the Queen Canyon Road. It can be navigated just fine with a high clearance vehicle but be prepared to be rattled by the end of the 8.6 mile road.

The highlights of this off trail loop are Old Smokey and Tunnel Spring. Old Smokey really delivers with a fun scramble at the end and amazing views in all directions. I'm not one to spend much time on a summit but I could have easily spent a half hour on this one. As it was we were probably up there 20 minutes while I read off the old entries in the register. The register is intriguing since the posts date back to 1980. The last recorded visit was by Chumley and Joe in March.

After Old Smokey it was a seemingly long off trail trek across this rugged range and then Boom, there it was! Tunnel Spring which is one of the coolest things I have encountered on a hike. This would be extremely hard to describe and do it justice. It's a huge cavern in the side of a massive rock that has a spring inside and water trickling out. I know it doesn't sound like a big deal but it is! It is super cool and it was evident that the Big Horn Sheep think so too.

From tunnel spring it's more off trail hiking over the easily traveled range back to your starting point. I wouldn't attempt this one in the summer unless you started really early and took a ton of water. Best done on a cooler day.

From my home this was over a three hours drive. Totally worth it!
_____________________
2 archives
Mar 12 2016
joebartels
avatar

 Guides 241
 Routes 830
 Photos 11,838
 Triplogs 4,676

50 male
 Joined Nov 20 1996
 Phoenix, AZ
Old Smokey - Tunnel Spring Loop, AZ 
Old Smokey - Tunnel Spring Loop, AZ
 
Hiking avatar Mar 12 2016
joebartels
Hiking12.50 Miles 3,400 AEG
Hiking12.50 Miles   9 Hrs      1.56 mph
3,400 ft AEG   1 Hour    Break14 LBS Pack
 
Partners partners
chumley
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.
Named place
Named place
Kofa Skull Rock
wildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observation
Wildflowers Observation Light
Most notably globe mallow for the "light" rating. Isolated poppies, stubby lupine, etc you see in a weak display season.

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water 4 out of 5 De La Ossa Well 76-100% full 76-100% full
Nice maintained area. Canopy is nice for a break area. Nice thing about water sources in the area is no cattle... rare!

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water 4 out of 5 High Tank 76-100% full 76-100% full
Full and fine. Nearby De La Osa looked more appetizing.

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water less than maxwater less than max Tunnel Spring Quart per minute Quart per minute
Upper large catch full, trickling from overhead. Lower small catch appeared empty from vantage point. Access is a hoot!
_____________________
- joe
Mar 12 2016
chumley
avatar

 Guides 78
 Routes 679
 Photos 14,842
 Triplogs 1,535

47 male
 Joined Sep 18 2002
 Tempe, AZ
Old Smokey - Tunnel Spring Loop, AZ 
Old Smokey - Tunnel Spring Loop, AZ
 
Hiking avatar Mar 12 2016
chumley
Hiking12.41 Miles 3,515 AEG
Hiking12.41 Miles   8 Hrs   59 Mns   1.55 mph
3,515 ft AEG   1 Hour    Break
 no routes
1st trip
Partners partners
joebartels
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.
Fauna
Fauna
Bighorn Sheep
Culture
Culture
Water Well Windmill
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Championing breakfast since 1994.
1 archive
average hiking speed 1.71 mph

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.

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