I took a week long trip form my home in Medford, Oregon, to climb several peaks in California, Arizona, and Utah. On August 20th, I climbed Humphreys Peak in Arizona and then headed to Utah with the goal of getting to the trailhead that evening and climbing Signal Peak on Sunday August 21st.
I have a climbing guide for entitled “High in Utah” and wanted to follow their directions to climb Signal Peak in Washington County. I drove to Cedar City on I-15 and then headed west On Hwy 56 to Newcastle. I turned south in Newcastle and joined Hwy 18 near Enterprise and continued south to the town of Central. Here there is a road to Pine Valley and I took it heading east. I stayed on this road and went through the settlement of Pine Valley and on towards the National Forest Campground at the end of the road. The trailhead is supposed to be somewhere in this campground, but it was dark now and I slowly made my way through the campground where the trailhead was supposed to be. I FOUND IT!! Hurray. Only, there was a rope across the trailhead and a sign posted by the forest service that said “Trail Closed due to Fire Hazard”
Well, I had come this far and still wanted to climb Signal Peak. It looked like my only option was to go to another trailhead on the other side of the mountain. I headed back out to Central and Hwy 18 and went south to St. George. I then got on I-15 heading north up to the town of Leeds. There was only one road in town that went west toward Signal Peak, so I went under the freeway and headed up the hill on Silver Reef Rd. Silver Reef soon turned into Oak Grove Rd and then turned into a good gravel road. I followed this for about 9 miles where it ended at Oak Grove Campground. I found the trailhead next to the outhouse facilities and made sure that the trail was open for use. The elevation here is about 6,500 feet. It was late now, so I crawled into the back of my truck and went to sleep.
I woke up early, packed my stuff, made a copy of the crude map at the trailhead, and headed up the trail towards the Summit Trail. Within about 100 feet of the trailhead the trail crosses a dirt service road, I just went straight across the road. Within a few hundred feet further on the trail splits and I took the right fork to Pine Valley Mountain – 3 Miles. I could see a crest high above me where the trail was leading, but I didn’t have a topo of this trail with me. I didn’t know how far up the crest really was. I told myself, “It’s ONLY 3 miles, how bad could it be?” Well, the trail needs some maintenance. It is terribly overgrown with oak bushes that you have to push through. At times it is hard to follow the trail because it is so overgrown.
The trail gains elevation rapidly and was soon switchbacking up this steep slope to the crest. I continued climbing, the sun was up and getting warm on this south facing slope, and then I lost the trail. I kept going straight when the trail switchbacked back up the the hill. I was at about 8,300 ft elevation now, so I figured the trail would switchback again and I could find the trail by just climbing straight up the slope. After much bushwhacking and boulder climbing I found the trail again at about 8,700 ft. The crest was still way up above me and I was sweating profusely. I continued up and finally after nearly 3 hours reached the crest at about 9,800 ft elevation. This trail was steep gaining 3,300 feet in 3 miles. I paused to refresh myself and I was joined by 2 young men who had run up the trail in 1 ½ hours. I felt old.
There was no sign here but the trail continued over the crest and down into a little drainage on the other side. The scenery completely changed. I was in an alpine forest now and it was much cooler. I followed this trail down to a fork with a sign on the trial. One direction indicated Further Water was to the west and I knew that is where I should go next. The trail still wasn’t easy to follow, but I managed to stay with it.
It entered Deer Flat and the trail crossed 2 meadows that were beautiful to walk through. There was even a few patches of snow still laying under the trees. I continued following the trail and it came into another meadow with a small creek and this was Further Water. There were wildflowers blooming in this meadow and the bees were very busy doing there job. Soon a hill loomed up above this meadow and it was Signal Peak at last.
At about 4.5 miles from the trailhead I had crossed Further Water, the meadow, and had arrived at the base of this forested hill. My GPS now indicated I was about ½ mile form the summit and had about 500 feet to climb. I followed the trail a short ways and then headed cross country directly at the summit. I traversed south and to the west under the trees and the route was easy going with no obstacles. Finally, after 4 hours and nearly 5 miles I arrived at the summit. The summit is forested and it is difficult to find a good view. I stumbled around, found 2 cairns and 2 separate registers. I think the one to the southwest in the trees is actually on the highpoint. I signed them both anyway.
After a leisurely lunch and taking a few pictures, I headed back to my car. The walk out was uneventful, but the switchbacks seemed to take forever. I counted over 60 switchbacks from the crest down to the trailhead. Altogether it took me just under 6.5 hours for the 10 miles and I think there was a total of about 4,400 ft of elevation gain. This is a good hike, but be prepared for the long steep climb to the crest.