Castle Dome Mountains Trail
On this scenic trip in the rugged Kofa N.W.R., drive through the seldom explored Castle Dome Mountains to the historic Castle Dome Mine Museum. Extend your weekend by exploring additional trails and camping in the area.
Where to go:
From Quartzsite, head south on Highway 95. After 28 miles, and just before stone cabin, turn left onto the signed King Road. If you’re coming from Yuma, head north on Highway 95 for 53 miles to King Road –OR– complete the trail in reverse (beginning on Castle Dome Road and ending on King Road).
From Highway 95, head southeast on the wide, graded King Road. This fast moving portion of trail is uneventful and will be the easiest part of the whole trail. At 1.8 miles you’ll cross into the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge. Make sure to observe all posted rules and stay on designated trails. Maps are available at the kiosk on the right. The trail continues east as it climbs through a scenic section of the mountains. As the trail descends, you’ll pass numerous great dispersed camping spots. The road remains easy although has some washboards and crosses several dry washes.
At the 6.2 mile mark, turn right onto the lesser Castle Dome Mine Road (marked by junction #60) that goes south. This turnoff can be easy to miss but has a marker post and a sign pointing towards McPherson Pass. The going immediately gets rougher as the trail becomes less traveled. The slow section of trail crosses numerous washes some of which have been eroded out over the years. High clearance will prove to be necessary although with careful driving, you shouldn’t need 4WD yet. Continue to head south as the views improve. Eventually, you’ll be able to see a large weather balloon (which is actually tethered to the ground near Castle Dome Mine) come into view. The balloon is part of, and used by, the Yuma Proving Ground military operations that dominate the southern part of Kofa.
At 12.2 miles the trail enters a large wash and comes to a ‘T’ junction at marker post #53. Turn right. The trail gets rougher as you head southwest. You’ll continue to cross and drive in numerous washes, but the road climbs and often has rocky and/or eroded sections until you reach McPherson Pass. The trail clears the pass at 15.1 miles and begins downhill. There are a couple really rocky and narrow sections where we found 4WD useful.
Continue driving south as the trail gets progressively easier, but still crosses several dry washes. The views off to the left get better as you drive on the western flanks of the Castle Dome Mountains. Stay left at 20.4 miles where the road begins following private property. The Hull Mine (off to the right) is an active property and has several signs and warnings posted. At about 20.7 miles, the trail crosses through the property where both sides of the road have been fenced off by the land owner. Posted signs tell you not to stop, walk, or park along the road and that armed patrols occur. Continue south observing all signs. The fenced section eventually ends and you’ll cross through two gates at 21.8 miles. After the gates, stay right to access Castle Dome Mine Museum or continue straight for Big Eye Mine/exit route to Highway 95.
Notes & Trail Ratings:
The entire Castle Dome trail is mostly easy, with just enough rougher, more moderate, sections to have fun. The 22 miles from Highway 95 to the museum should take 1-3 hours to run at an average pace. Numerous other trails in the region can extend your trip. We’ve rated the trail a ‘4’ out of ‘10’. You’ll need high clearance for sure, and possibly 4WD in one or two spots, but an aggressive stock SUV could navigate this trail. In the winter, this trail can receive moderate traffic due to the snowbirds out 4-wheeling. Avoid during the peak heat of summer.