To attain the trailhead to Ubehebe Peak, travel on the Racetrack Valley Road is necessitated- this is a high-clearance vehicle road, & is looooooooooong. Ensure your vehicle is in good working condition before attempting this, & that you BRING WATER, as
THERE IS NO WATER ON RACETRACK VALLEY ROAD, AT THE RACETRACK, AT THE MOUNTAIN, OR AT THE CAMPGROUND!!
Travel in the summer during the day is also discouraged- average temperatures well above 100 degrees F (38C), and you averaging between 15 & 20 mph will ensure your vehicle gets inadequate engine cooling.
.2 miles north of the Grapevine (N) entrance to Death Valley National Park, go west on the Ubehebe Road towards Ubehebe Crater. Shortly after getting onto the 1-way loop, before reaching the parking lot for Ubehebe Crater, a dirt road turnoff to the right & a sign indicate the way to the Racetrack. Take this road and driiiiiiiiiiiv-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-ve for 26 bone-rattling miles across the longest scheite road you’ll likely (& definitely hopefully) ever encounter. Stay right at Teakettle Junction, approximately 20 miles into the endeavor. Soon the Racetrack, with the Grandstand protruding from it as a tiny speck, will be apparent, wedged between the Cottonwood Mountains on the left (east) & the Last Chance Range on the right (west). When you reach the Grandstand parking pullout on the right, you’re there.
The beginning of the route is obvious enough- start down the trail that begins between the prominent rocks next to the parking lot, on the other (west) side from the Racetrack. As is obvious, the start is mellow, going across the valley floor until the base of the peak. Here the trail swings right. Going across numerous switchbacks, the view of the Racetrack and Grandstand getting constantly better, the trail will eventually head towards a whitish deposit of rock at the brink of the ridgeline north of “Little Ubehebe Peak,” Ubehebe Peak’s north subpeak. Upon attaining this landmark, you will notice the green stones all around it. This provides a good example of the copper that was once mined from the mountain. Reaching the ridge north of Little Ubehebe Peak, one is greeted by a white post embedded in the mountain.
From here, hang a left. Follow the trail, which initially goes along the ridgeline. Approaching the imposing towers that appear to form the summit of the north peak, the trail will turn to the right, skirting the difficult sections.
Make a mental note of your surroundings (especially size of the towers to your left, as well as their proximity)- quite helpful for the return (easy to get into more difficult terrain)!
The trail, which gets fainter & fainter until reaching the beginning of the ridge that separates Little & Big Ubehebe Peaks, is even more of a nuisance to find on the return. Passing the large boulders that compose Little Ubehebe Peak’s summit, as well as a prominent tower slightly below it, skirt the conspicuous boulders that define the ridge (on the R). You will now be at the saddle between Little & Big Ubehebe Peaks.
Here is a good spot to take a break, & have some food & water before making your assault on the summit. It is also a good place to examine the unlikely-looking ridge leading to the main massif of the mountain.
Upon dispersing the butterflies in your stomach, forge on! Though stimulating (& a lot of fun!), the route is quite manageable, assuming you’re comfortable with class 3 (YDS) rock. Merely stay on the ridge for its entire length. If it presents you with any difficulties, it is usually possible to go slightly down and to the right (W), to avoid them. Expert routefinding could possibly negotiate the climber past this section at class 2, but chances are (fun anyway!) class 3 scrambling will be necessary to surmount this section. Same goes for the next. While the overall rock quality around here is decent, expect rubble on some of the good rock, and a loose section or two.
Upon surmounting the ridge, you will be at the base of the true peak of Ubehebe. Basically, just stay on the ridge until the slopes mellow out at the top. While I seem to remember miniscule trail segments along this stretch, they were by no means definitive, & might well have been imagining them. Either way, use your routefinding skills & common sense (staying away from where it gets too steep), and soon you will be at the glorious summit of Ubehebe Peak.
When the unfortunate time comes that you must return to your vehicle, simply retrace your steps. Be mindful once surmounting the ridgeline, however. Be sure to stick to the trail (using your visual cues from before) until you reach the saddle on the other (N) side of Little Ubehebe. Class 3-4 downclimbing may be encountered otherwise. Fortunately, while the rock on this peak may look somewhat suspect to those unfamiliar with its composition (& there is a bunch of loose rubble everywhere, it seems), it is in fact fairly solid, and a fair amount of satisfaction may be had in climbing the class 4 variations.
A sturdy set of hiking boots + poles perhaps.
Summer: water & sunscreen!
Winter: layers, in case it gets cold on top.
Route landmark elevations:
* Trailhead parking: 3,710'
* Initial saddle (@ pole): ca. 4,900'
* Saddle between N & true summits: ca. 5,200'
General beta about the route:
* As the crow flies, from parking to summit is less than a mile.
* Total elevation gain is slightly less than 2,000'.
* Trail length = 2.8 miles.
* Distance, as the crow flies, between the N & true summits, is slightly less than 1/8 mi (however, this brief distance is quite invigorating!).
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