On this trail, take the long yet very scenic road to the historic Hovatter Homestead site in the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge. After crossing the remote Ranegras Plain, you’ll pass old mines and then ultimately have to traverse through the rough Little Horn Mountains before finally arriving at the site. At the site, explore the homestead occupied from 1951 to 1976 by Ray Hovatter, his wife and two daughters. Easily extend your trip by taking one of the many others trails in the area such as the one that leads to the historic Willbanks Cabin, Hoodoo Cabin, or the Kofa Monument
How to get there: From the I-10 and Loop 101 interchange in the west valley, take I-10 west for 80 miles. Take exit 53 (Hovatter Rd.) and turn left. Continue south ½ mile to a large staging area off to the right just before the canal. Total mileage is just over 80 miles and should take just over an hour.
The trail: From the staging area, head south along the paved road over the CAP. Follow the paved road right at 0.1 miles and then take an immediate left at 0.2 miles onto Hovatter Road, now a dirt road. Head south and pass several communication towers near Black Rock Hill at 0.9 miles. The trail snakes its way in a southwesterly direction and remains easy. Stay left at a small fork at 2.9 miles. The trail crosses the Upper Bouse Wash at 3.2 miles. The deep sand stretch, which lasts until 4.3 miles, can be a challenge when wet and should be crossed with caution. The trail continues southwest through the impressive and especially scenic Ranegras Plain. At 7.3 miles you’ll pass a small well off to the left. The trail passes underneath power lines and then at 7.7 miles crosses over the El Paso Natural Gas Pipeline road – stay straight here. Stay left at 10.1 miles where the trail merges with Vicksburg Rd.
Off to the right at this point is Coyote Peak, an interesting formation that juts out of the otherwise flat plain. Off to the right at 11.0 miles is the Bob Crowder dam, a small dam named after a pioneer Arizona cattleman. Off to the left here is an old corral. Continue further south along the trail and stay straight at 13.7 miles. The trail then crosses several washes and crosses into Yuma County at 18.8 miles. From here, the trail will deteriorate as it nears Hovatter Homestead. The trail climbs as it passes between tight mountains and then begins to turn westward at 20.0 miles. At 21.5 you’ll come to a very worthwhile side trip to the Oakland Mine. Turn right here and head north for a mile. The large mine and tailings are off to the right. When you’re done here, head back to Hovatter Road the way you came (if you don’t do this side trip, subtract 2.0 from the mileage from here on out).
When back on the main road, continue west. Cross a wash at 23.8 miles and then roughens as it continues to climb and descend through the Little Horn Mountains. Stay straight where a lesser road goes right at 25.7 miles, again at 26.2 miles, and again at 27.2 miles. The trail descends towards yet another plain, crosses a wash at 28.8 miles, then does a 180. Hovatter Homestead is off to the right just shy of the 29 mile mark. You’ll know it by the large number of saguaros and the old bus.
After checking out what’s left at Hovatter Homestead, head back to the staging area along the same trail or if you have extra time, check out the numerous other trails that continue west of here and go into the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge. Make sure you have a map and make sure you stay on designated routes.
Overall this trail is easy for the first two thirds, than gets more rough as it crosses into Yuma County. Most SUV’s will be able to do the entire trail with careful driving and good judgment. No permits are required so this trail is open to any type of OHV (just make sure you have a decal). In inclement, this trail should be avoided because of the crossing of the Upper Bouse Wash near the beginning of this trail. The deep sand here will become quick sand with nearly any amount of rain.
Allow about 4-6 hours to complete this trail which is 58 miles to the Hovatter Homestead and back to I-10. Carry extra water and supplies because this area is remote. For a very thorough history of the Hovatter family and their homestead, check out this website from the Arizona Pioneer & Cemetery Research Project. Pictures linked above are from pbase.com.
Overview of Hovatter Homestead Trail
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