OverviewAnother gem of the western Utah desert, Indian Peak is located east of Milford Utah and is a good four hour drive from Salt Lake City. It is an attractive peak, with it pyramidal shape making it readily identifiable (as noted below). Almost a ten thousand foot high peak, it misses that distinction by just a couple hundred feet. It is one of the Utah prominence peaks, coming in at #23 with 3660 feet of prominence as noted on the Utah top 100 prominence peak list found HERE.
One of the attractions of Indian Peak is its isolation and the effort it takes to get there and one of the detriments of Indian Peak is its isolation and the effort it takes to get there. Hmmmmm, so whichever one of those you choose depends on your perspective. If you visit this peak, you need to go fully prepared as it is a long way from help and you may find yourself having the whole area to yourself at certain times of the year. While a 4wd vehicle isn't absolutely necessary, it is nice to have that extra bit of security and high clearance is beneficial as you could have problems with low clearance due to the roughness of the road in places. Carry all the water and supplies you might need, fill your gas tank up in Milford or Cedar City and be prepared for your visit to this area.
Getting ThereAssuming you are coming in from I-15 via Beaver, follow your road map to Milford. I will describe this from Milford Utah although you can come in from the west via the Great Basin National Park area. Road 21 is the key road and from Milford it goes like this:
The Oak Tree Inn Motel is on the west edge of Milford and a good place to sleep and grab a bite to eat (the diner in front). When you leave town, you will note a sign that says next services 83 miles and you can believe that, it speaks the truth. That "services" it speaks of is in Baker, Nevada, just on the doorstep of the Great Basin National Park.
Drive west for thirty miles until you reach Wah Wah summit. As you drop down the grade, watch for milepost 42 as the turn to the left that you want is just beyond it at the 34.2 mile mark. There is a very small BlM sign on the right side of the road indicating Lund and Vance Spring but it is easy to miss. Should you miss the left turn, you will have another chance shortly as there is another turn off not far down the road. Zero your odometer once again and head down the dirt road into Pine Valley. Assuming you made the correct turn off, you will encounter a crossroads at the 4.6 mile mark where you will turn left onto the Pine Valley road. Stay on this road and you will pass a road going left at around 9.5 miles (from highway 21)and that road heads for Wah Wah South's HP. Don't turn there but continue straight on the Pine Valley road to a signed road (indicates Indian Peak -see pic) at the 15.2 mile mark (from highway 21). Turn right onto this road and it will be close to 6 miles (even though the sign says 5) to the small building which some might call the Indian Peaks Wildlife Management Area Headquarters. First you will cross a cattle grate and a fenceline and see a sign denoting the area and the HQ is down the road (road goes downhill).
From the HQ area, take the road that goes to the north a bit and follow it as it makes it way to the northeast side of the mountain. I parked at the 8000 foot level (nice spot to park) and headed uphill cross country.
Red TapeThe roads are closed at the gate from Jan 1-April 30. This adds another 6 miles to the hike if you go at this time of year. See Eric Willhite's page
on his visit to this area in early April.
CampingNo official campground but there is a table and spots near the headquarters where others camp. There is also a picnic table next to the HQ building
and a spot on the north road that has a picnic table which might also work as a camp site.
Indian Peaks Wildlife Management Area
The area, which covers more than 10,000 acres, is made up of pinyon/juniper woodlands with a mix of mountain brush and open meadows. Originally the mountain and its surrounding area was part of the Indian Peak Reservation (Piute Indian tribe)but by the 1930's, the area was abandoned by the tribe and was bought up by the Utah Wildlife Resources department in 1958 and the department turned the area into a game preserve with elk being the primary
wildlife of concern. Elk were introduced into the area in the 1940's and this became a way of protecting them and allow controlled hunting. (If anyone has additional information on any of this, please let me know so I can add it) Most of the above information was found on page 252 of Mike Kelsey's book about "Hiking, Climbing & Exploring Western Utah's Jack Watson's Ibex Country". This book is very hard to find in bookstores so Amazon is your best chance to find a copy.
Nearby Great Basin National Park
Route directionsFrom the HQ area, we headed up the road that goes north of the peak and then cuts back along the side of it. It was 4.8 miles along a often rough but not overly diffiucult road and following it we found a spot at the 8000 foot mark that looked promising. In checking my map and GPS, I figured it was only a mile to the summit and about 1800 feet of elevation gain. So, I grabbed my daypack and left my wife to tend to her iPod and some reading she wanted to get done and started up the slope, following the elk and deer paths that were everywhere. Some of the paths were better than others and I just kept zigzagging up them until I crossed over a barbed wire fence and then plunged into a steep draw that had some trees in it along with some residual snow. I worked my way to the left of a cliff face and soon found myself on the north ridge with 800 feet of gain behind me and a thousand to go.
I couldn't go directly up the north ridge, it was a cliff face so I traversed around to the right (west side) and worked my way through some brush, some trees and then a couple of talus slopes. The talus was just loose enough to require attention to my footwork and I worked my way across them to more solid ground and then went directly up for the ridgeline again. It was here I hit more snow and had to traverse a bit more to the west side but all in all, it was all class 2 with no difficulties really.
Finally, I saw the top of the ridge near the summit and was I surprised to see a barbed wire fence strung right along the ridgeline which extended right up to the summit where a large cairn stood. Inside the large cairn was a mailbox with a register filled with entries from the past, mainly atv'ers and hunters who had visited the top. The views were panoramic although the clouds cut down visibility in some directions. I descended the way I went up but I'm sure there are better ways than the way I went. Avoiding that talus slope would be a big plus.
Distance from HQ to parking spot 4.8 miles (see my map)
GPS waypoints: lat/long nad 27
I parked here at 8000 feet
As I went up cross country, I can suggest that you study a topo map before you go. This mountain is climable from many other directions so
you have many choices as to how you want to get to the top. My route worked
for me but it may not have been the best way or the easiest way to the top.
Recently Greg and Kadee climbed this peak and took a different way by following the fenceline up to the summit. Just a side note, it is roughly 60 miles from Milford to where I parked for this hike.
Visible from other desert peaksThe pyramidal shape of Indian Peak makes it easy to identify from just about any other spot in the western desert. Here is a view from the neighboring
Wah Wah south range HP.
"Where is this peak located?" asked my wife as I drove north from Zane on a dirt road that seemed to head nowhere. We had driven up in the late morning from St. George where we had spent the night and I wanted to visit Indian Peak, the 23rd most prominent peak in Utah. One of my quests is to visit every one that I can that is on the 100 highest prominence list and I had whittled the number down by one the day before on West Mtn Peak that is near St. George. At 9790 of elevation, Indian Peak looked like a worthy one to get on the way home, BUT to get to it, we would have to drive a lot of dirt road miles and after leaving the pavement at Beryl, we were destined to see some of Utah that few ever visit.
The road we were on hooked into the Pine Valley road and from there it pretty much headed straight north as it made its way between the Wah Wah mountains and the Indian peak range. Using the map I pointed out to my wife where the peak was and she became the navigator and started watching for roads that the BLM had put names on. Some spur roads had names, others
didn't. As we went past one that headed for the Hamblin Valley, I thought of those two people who were stuck in the snow for many days the past winter. This country was no place to get stranded in during that time of the year. After about 20 miles, we saw our first vehicle in the past 60 miles, an ATV actually, with a young lady holding a small child on her lap.
Shortly after waving and passing her, we met three more vehicles and that was to do it until we got onto the road that led to Indian Peak itself. My wife felt this was the most isolated place she had ever been to and hence the warning below.
From the website called Utahnature.com comes this ominous warning:
Cautions and Warnings
The primary goal the environmentalists have in wanting to declare parts of this area as Wilderness, is to have solitude. This whole area has lots of solitude. If you were off the beaten path with a breakdown, it might be quite awhile before someone came your way. As it is, even on the main highway, Highway 21, vehicles are few and far between. Be warned. If you drive out here, prepare. Let others know your schedule and travel routes and ask them to send for help if you don't show up when expected. Take lots more water than you think you will need. Take warm clothes, a hat and good boots. Don't expect any cell coverage.
Story about a couple who were stranded by a snowstorm near the Hamlin Valley area (not far from Indian Peak) The link to that story is HERE. The couple ended up being rescued after they walked out 10 days into their ordeal but it was a reminder that this is an isolated area that they had ventured into. Story of rescue HERE.
Personal note: I had no cellular coverage at all, even in Milford. I use AT&T. Verizon may be the best choice but I know AT&T is of no help. Don't expect to have cellular coverage in most areas of the western Utah desert. A ham radio might be a good option if you have a ham license.