OverviewWahatis Peak. Several online search engines believe that name, if searched, might actually be a misspelling of the question “What is a peak?” rather than a mountain. What is a peak? Wahatis Peak is a peak.
Wahatis Peak is a mountain located in Grant County, Washington. The peak has several key distinctions that separates it from many other nearby peaks. Wahatis Peak is the highest point of the Saddle Mountain range in central Washington. The peak is also Grant County’s Greatest Prominence Point (CoGPP), with 1792’ of prominence. The mountain also overlooks important regional areas such as the Hanford Reach National Monument and the Saddle Mountain National Wildlife Refuge.
Wahatis Peak has a summit area that can be driven to (or at least near) during most times, although some road hiking and/or biking might be necessary. There are at least two gates located along the summit road, and the gates may be closed at any time without notice. The summit is reached by traveling along the informally-named Saddle Crest Road, a dirt and gravel road that traverses along or near the ridgetop of that section of the Saddle Mountains. Saddle Crest Road’s lower gate represents an entrance/exit to the Hanford Reach National Monument and Saddle Mountain National Wildlife Refuge. If that gate was closed/locked, it would add approximately 3.25 miles each way of hiking/biking for a summit attempt. Another gate is located within 0.25 miles of the true summit, representing the entrance to a communications tower area looming above the road on the false summit.
The summit, itself, is fairly uneventful. No original USGS Benchmark remains, although at least one large rock has a noticeable indentation from what could have once been the placement of a former benchmark disk. Peakbaggers and other outdoor enthusiasts might really enjoy the vantage point that Wahatis Peak offers. The summit has a 360° panoramic view of the surrounding areas. The views extend for many miles, as much of central Washington is fairly flat and the next-highest point is nearly 22 miles to the west.
Wahatis Peak has been spelled at least a couple of different ways over the years. The standard spelling is most commonly used, although some older maps show the peak name as Wahattus Peak. Either way, the name is a local Indian word for “lookout place”… which is very fitting for this mountain and its far-ranging views.
Heading east from the junction of Highway 24 and "Road 24-SW", between Mattawa and Othello:
1) Drive east along Highway 24 until reaching what would be Milepost 60.1. NOTE: Milepost markers are found along the highway, at every mile.
2) Turn north onto the paved, unsigned road at Milepost 60.1. Set the odometer to "0.0" at this location.
3) There are several informational kiosks found on the unsigned road, just beyond the intersection.
4) Drive north along the main (narrow, paved) road.
5) After 2.0 miles from the highway, the road passes over an aqueduct. After the aqueduct, the road condition gradually decreases, with occasional potholes and broken pavement.
6) After 4.2 miles from the highway, the road reaches the top of the ridge, known as Saddle Crest. The main road appears to head ENE, but a spur road turns left (west) at this location. Turn left (west) onto the spur road, which will be referred to as Saddle Crest Road.
7) After 4.8 miles from the highway, Saddle Crest Road encounters a gate. This gate represents an exit from the Hanford Reach National Monument and Saddle Mountain National Wildlife Refuge. If the gate is open, proceed with driving. If the gate is closed, turn around the vehicle and find the most suitable location to park off the main road.
8) After approximately 8.0 miles from the highway, another gate is encountered at the eastern side of Wahatis Peak's upper slopes. There is a communications tower prior to the gate, as well as another looming above from the false summit of the mountain.
9) Regardless if the gate is open or closed, park off the main road and walk the remaining 0.25 miles to the true summit. The true summit currently does not have any communications towers on it, and the highest point is easily recognized.
NOTE: If the Wahatis Peak gate is open, some people might opt to continue driving closer to the summit. There are currently no signs to prevent trespassing or access restrictions. However, although public access is currently granted to Wahatis Peak, it is recommended to park outside of the gate as a sign of respect for owners of the communications towers. That would also help ensure that public access to the peak continues in the future. Also, several (if not all) of the communications facilities have alarm systems and cameras. Those facilities are not to be disturbed by the public.
A high-clearance vehicle can drive to Wahatis Peak with little-to-no issues, and is highly recommended. However, most passenger vehicles can likely make it within 1.5-2.0 miles of the summit, prior to a brief rough section on Saddle Crest Road.
Red TapeThere are no fees or permits required to visit Wahatis Peak.
There are at least two gates located along the Saddle Crest Road en route to the summit of Wahatis Peak. These gates may be closed at any time, without notice, although traditionally they remain open.
When parking a vehicle on or near the mountain, make certain not to block the main road.
There are several communications towers and facilities one and around Wahatis Peak. No public access is granted for these facilities, at any time.