I needed to get out of Oregon and do some hiking where it was warm. I headed south from home in Medford towards Death Valley on Wednesday afternoon February 6th. I took I-5 because I didn’t want to deal with driving in the snow. I drove for about 4 hurs before finding a rest area and car camped for the night. The next morning I was up early and continued south. At Lost Hills I turned east on Hwy 46 towards Bakersfield where I picked up Hwy 58. Along Hwy 58 near Tehachapi there was snow along side the freeway from a storm that went through the area a week earlier. In Mojave I caught Hwy 14 north for a ways before turning east again towards Red Mountain.
Red Mountain is both a town and a mountain. The town of Red Mountain is on Hwy 395 and the mountain overlooks the town from the east. Red Mountain isn’t in Death Valley but I figured it would be a good warm up hike after a 600 mile drive. I knew there really wasn’t a trail to the summit of Red Mountain. A friend had told me he had climbed it from the north, so after looking at the mountain from town, I continued north on Hwy 395 to Trona Rd. This is less than a mile from the town and Trona Rd is paved and signed as it branches off to the right (east).
I turned right and then immediately turned right again into a dirt area that is the beginning of a trail system for OHV’s. The main trail is signed as Cuddeback Trail. It looked like it was heading directly at Red Mountain, so I followed it. It was washed out in spots and a little sandy. In 1.1 miles the road reached the lower slopes of Red Mountain and turned south. I parked in a wide spot and decided I could hike from there.
It was already past noon and thankfully it was warm. It felt good. I put on my pack and headed up a slope covered with short desert brush towards a saddle I could see ahead that was north of the summit. I figured I could just follow the ridgeline from the saddle to the summit. The climbing felt good and my first decision was to go to the right of a big rounded red colored knob labeled 4728 on the topo. The walking was easy, but the further I went the footing became more rocky and steeper.
On the south side of 4728 there was some route finding to avoid brush and steeper rocky slopes, but the route to the saddle that I was aiming for didn’t present any difficulty. Once I reached the saddle at an elevation of 4,900 ft, it was easy to follow the wide ridge over a false summit with elevation of 5,180 ft, down about 100 ft to another saddle and then up to the summit. There is a climber’s trail along the left or east side of the ridge between point 5,180 and the summit.
The views from the summit were great. I could see the snow covered Sierra’s to the north and wide expanse of the desert and China Lake Naval Weapons Center to the east. The little town of Re Mountain and Johannesburg were visible below along Hwy 395. Curiously, there were 6 industrial gas cylinders on the summit on a concrete pad. I was going to put one in my pack and carry it down but decided I really didn’t have a use for it. I didn’t stay long on the summit before heading back down.
No real difficulties were encountered on the whole hike. I’m sure in the middle of summer this hike would be brutal. The total hike was only about 3.9 miles, took 2.75 hours, and gained about 1770 ft. Red Mountain can probably be climbed from any direction, it just depends on how much effort you want to put forth and how hot it is. On to Death Valley and more hiking.