Peak 2,554ft
Peak 2,987ft P500
Peak 2,790ft P300
Vista Peak
Arch Peak
Peak 1,521ft P300

Nov 28, 2023

With: Eric Smith

Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 GPX Profile


Eric had come from Albuquerque to join me for a week in the middle of my two week desert roadtrip along the CA/AZ border. We'd camped off the BLM's Sunset Trail west of US95, near where we planned to hike today in the Chemehuevi Mtns on the east side of the highway. In the afternoon I would do a few minor peaks by myself before meeting back up with Eric in Parker, AZ for dinner.

Peak 2,554ft - Peak 2,987ft - Peak 2,790ft

The Chemehuevi Mtns are a fairly large range found south of Needles, CA, between US95 to the west and the Colorado River to the east. All of the range is enclosed by Wilderness, making many of the peaks very remote with long approaches. These three are found on the west side of the range not far from US95, making for a moderate outing. We would clock about 8.5mi with under 2,000ft of gain over the course of five and half hours. We approached from the northwest, allowing us to follow the flow of the drainages out in that direction. Google Maps and the topo map show a Jeep road running through the middle of the loop we did, but the road is all in Wilderness and no longer driveable (though it does show up on the satellite view and we noted a decent section of it when traversing between the 2nd and 3rd summits). Most of the range is granitic in nature and all our travel today was class 2, save for a short bit of avoidable class 3.

Starting around 7:10a, we followed a sandy wash for half an hour before turning sharply to the NE towards Peak 2,554ft, our nearest and first stop. We left the wash system to gain the peak's NW Ridge which we could easily follow to the summit, taking about 50min. We found no registers on the day's summits, and having forgotten to bring some, we left none of our own. The connecting ridgeline to Peak 2,987ft is not very direct and appears to have several difficulties along the way. Instead, we started down Peak 2,554's SE Ridge, past a short class 3 drop, then off the NE side to gain the wash system on that side. There was an abundance of cholla found in this drainage, one of several places on the day where we had to watch where we stepped very carefully. We followed this wash SE towards the 2nd peak, until the drainage got rocky and brushy and we started up onto the peak's NW Ridge, following it to the top. This leg took a bit over an hour. This was the highest of the day's peaks and the 4th highest in the range. We could just make out the Colorado River about 7mi to t he east. Our third summit was about a mile and a half to the southwest and would make the longest leg so far. Again, the connecting ridgeline was complex and inconvenient to get between the two. We started to the southwest along the ridge, then descended what turned out to be an unpleasant, rubbly gully for about 400ft before a sandy wash was reached. We went over a low ridgeline to shortcut into the adjacent Trampas Wash, then headed up Peak 2,790ft's NE Ridge, taking something over an hour and a half. From this last summit, we dropped west into a gully leading north and northwest to the wash system that we could follow back to the Jeep at the highway, about 2mi. It was 12:40p before we finished up, finding we'd been given warnings on our vehicles by the Highway Patrol for parking along the highway. I thought this odd since it's not an Interstate highway and nowhere did we see any Emergency Parking Only or No Parking signs. The biggest inconvenience was that the sticker made a mess of the plastic window when trying to remove it. Argh...

Vista Peak - Arch Peak

These are two minor summits found on the the SE side of the Whipple Mountains, about ten miles east of Vidal Junction and north of SR62. The area is designated for long-term camping by the BLM and has a network of Jeep roads. I followed these roads to the base of Vista Peak on its south side, parking at the Lucky Day Mine. This was one of the mines that Wyatt Earp (yes, that guy from the Shootout at OK Corral) and his wife worked in their later years, supposedly getting 33lbs of gold from it (or another nearby one, no one seems to know for sure). The short hike to the summit took less than 15min. There is a MWD benchmark at the summit from 1932 when the Colorado River Aqueduct was being surveyed and built (and 3yrs after Wyatt had died). Other roads led me to the north side of Arch Peak (Squaw Peak on the topo map, but recently renamed). An easy five minute hike leads to the summit. Where the arch is referenced in the name I did not discover.

Peak 1,521ft

This summit is located in Arizona, just south of Parker. It is overshadowed by its higher neighbor, Black Peak, a drive-up with a telecom installation. Peak 1,521ft is a volcanic cone covered in various-sized, dark varnished rocks. It looks tedious from a distance, but the footing is decent and I found it not so difficult. I parked at the bottom of the road going up Black Peak and walked around the southwest base of the higher summit to climb Peak 1,521ft from the west, taking about 45min. The sun would set before I got back down to the Jeep via the same route, but it was still plenty light out that I didn't need a headlamp. I showered where I'd parked, then headed to Parker where I met Eric at Dee's Curry, an Indian restaurant he'd discovered. Super nice owner/cook, a one-person operation with pretty decent food, too. Afterwards we drove to out to BLM land off Shea Rd (same road to Black Peak) south of town where we had a roaring good campfire...


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