Warming up to the Kofas

sunrise in the Koa Mountains
Morning in the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge

I’ve been dreaming about visiting the Kofa Mountains of southern Arizona for about a decade now. I believe I saw my first photo of this iconic location in a shot by landscape photographer Marc Adamus. I’ve seen numerous other photos from the same location by a slew of well-known professional nature photographers, it’s a not-so-well kept secret location that obviously captures the imagination of the aesthetically inclined.

Since moving to Northern Arizona, the Kofas have been high on my list, but it took me about a year to finally plan a quick trip to this remote area in southwest Arizona. I wanted some good sky conditions for a good sunset and/or sunrise, and every time I had some time to spare it seemed the weather would not cooperate. So, when I eyed this opportunity this week to catch some good sky conditions, I could not pass it up, despite the fact that the forecast was calling for record high temperatures in the desert. But I figured, “it’s still April, how bad could it be?”

Well, according to my car thermometer it was 120 degrees bad as I started driving up the dirt road that leads into the refuge. And based on my other temperature readings it was likely in the 105-106 degree range when I got there. Overnight, as I slept not-so-comfortably in my Hotel Subaru, parked alongside the rocky road, it just barely dropped below 80 degrees by morning. So…it was bad enough. Moral of the story: Don’t visit this place outside of November-March!

Kofa National Wildlife Refuge sunset
Sunset in the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge.

The plus side of the blistering heat is that I’m pretty sure I was the only person in this part of the refuge; I only saw a couple other campers driving in, and no one drove by the night and morning I was camped there. So I got to soak up the sense of isolation and feeling of solitude. True wilderness. If it were not for the amazingly good cell signal, I would surely have felt alone!

Sunset in the Koa National  Wildlife Refuge.
A variety of blooming desert plants greet the end of April in the Kofas.

And what an amazingly beautiful place this is! The photos I had seen do not do it justice. Were it not for the swarms of flies, Cholla cactus spines, and blistering heat, I would have thought I was in heaven. It was all so incredibly remote, rugged, raw, and radiant. Sublime beauty in the desert. I hope to go back this year…but in the winter. 🙂

Sunrise in the Koa Mountains
Pre-dawn colors in the Kofa Mountain desert.

About Stan Rose

I am a full time landscape and nature photographer based out of Flagstaff, Arizona. I opened my first gallery at Hillside, Sedona in May 2019, and am currently concentrating on the unique landscapes of Northern Arizona.
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