Hikes at Castle Dome in Arizona
Castle Dome’s square knob rises more than 2,000 feet above the desert floor, jutting into the sky from a mountain range by the same name. The dome is easy to see as you drive south of Interstate 10 near Quartzsite, Arizona, but you’ll need to drive nearly 50 miles south to access the trailhead, which lies along a four-wheel drive road.
Hike and scramble to the top, where you’ll have 360-degree views overlooking the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge.
The Castle Dome Trail embarks at 1,700 feet above sea level along a sandy desert wash, gaining 300 feet along a gentle climb before a series of cairns exit to the right, leading you up a faint trail to the base of the peak.
The trail to the base is covered in scree and becomes increasingly steep as you approach a narrow saddle between the main part of the dome and an adjoining spire. You can scramble to the top up a steep slope or climb a 20-foot crack to gain the 360-degree views from the top.
If you are physically fit and have some basic rock scrambling capability, you will be able to gain the summit without use of ropes or other special equipment.
The hike will take approximately five hours, depending upon your physical fitness and how much time you spend at the top, and you will be in open sun during most of the journey. The hike is not suitable for those afraid of heights, first-timers, small children or pets.
When to Go
The months of November through March provide mild temperatures for climbing the peak. Daytime highs range from the 60s during December and January to the upper 80s in November and March.
Temperatures can exceed 100 degrees from late April through October, with temperatures above 120 degrees common during the hottest months of July and August. Sun reflecting off the barren rock can increase temperatures near their surface by 40 degrees during the heat of day during summer months.
If you begin early in the day, you’ll probably see some desert bighorn peering down from the cliffs. The Kofa National Wildlife Refuge surrounds the mountains, and you might see species such as deer, coyote, bobcat and a variety of birds. Watch for rattlesnakes, which emerge in spring.
At first, they can be so groggy you might step on one before you know it is there, so use a hiking stick or trekking pole to tap stoutly near boulder and brush.
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