Wednesday, January 14, 2015

A Short Hike up Pilot Knob in California…

Pilot Knob and Imperial Wildlife Refuge 021

Another hike we wanted to do was at Pilot Knob which is only about 8 miles to the west of Yuma making it only about a 20 minute drive from our park. Pilot Knob was a historically significant and well known landmark back in the 1800's and early 1900's for riverboat traffic on the Colorado River.. It rises 897 feet and we decided we wanted to do the short hike up to the top as well as check out the LTVA park just west of it.

Pilot Knob and Imperial Wildlife Refuge 018Pilot Knob and Imperial Wildlife Refuge 016

Surprisingly there isn’t very much information available on the internet about this hike so when we pulled off onto Sidewinder Road we weren’t sure what we were looking for. We passed 20 or so RV's boondocking at the LTVA park and it did look like a nice place to stay.  There was no signage to guide us to our trail so we drove around a bit and eventually spied a slightly used trail ambling upward to the summit on the south side of the peak. We parked and began the upward trek to the top of Pilot Knob.

Pilot Knob and Imperial Wildlife Refuge 019Pilot Knob and Imperial Wildlife Refuge 026

Down on the lowlands at the base of our trail there was unfortunately quite a bit of trash albeit most of the trash looked old and not recent.  We think probably this area was used a a trash dump or at the very least a shooting range as there were lots of broken bottles and rusted cans with holes in them scattered about. As we started to climb it the first thing we noticed was the very sparse vegetation with only an occasional Creosote Bush. Yet even the Creosote Bushes looked to be quite stressed even though we just had about 1/3 of an inch of rain the other day (a lot for this area as January receives on average 0.3 inches per month). 

Pilot Knob and Imperial Wildlife Refuge 028Pilot Knob and Imperial Wildlife Refuge 027

We did, however, notice a few creosote bushes blooming with their delicate little yellow flowers. Also on one bush I found some quite interesting roundish balls that resembled the spineless discarded fruit of a sweet gum tree (above left photo). I have no idea what these are or where they came from. Could it be some type of growth or some type of insect cocoon? Anyone venture a guess? I have some research to do…

Pilot Knob and Imperial Wildlife Refuge 024

Despite the lack of vegetation we enjoyed seeing the many varieties of weathered rock many with a nice coat of desert varnish on them.  Occasionally on the trail we would pick up a rock or two to admire and discuss.  A common rock on the trail was… well let’s just say I kept telling Sharon it was a nice rock… it is actually called Gneiss (pronounced nice). The white and grey/black striations found in the gneiss rocks were very interesting in that they each had a pattern seemingly as unique as fingerprints.

Pilot Knob and Imperial Wildlife Refuge 023

Once we summited it was cool to suddenly see the fields of green in Mexico and the town of Algondones below us on the opposite side of the mountain. It was a sharp contrast to the expanse of brown on the other side. I wouldn’t rate this as a great hike but it was one we nevertheless enjoyed and it was fun looking down on Algodones, a city that many Americans and Canadians travel to for dental or optical needs. We have yet to visit the Mexican town of Algondones but surely will before we leave…


  1. That is a nice spot there. We have stayed at the LTVA and Pilot Knob resort quite a few times and really enjoy the area. We had planned a few weeks there after Qiuartzsite, but I guess it want not meant to be.

  2. Gneiss to see Pilot Knob area from a higher perspective! We will be traveling north again so will not get to there on this trip. Nice to spend a morning with you two after all these years!

  3. Pilot Knob can be a crowded place at times. Nice hike!