First Light on Chemehuevi
Chemehuevi Peak is the highest point of the white granitic Chemehuevi Mountains, located on the eastern border of Southern California in the Mojave Desert. The word Chemehuevi means "those that play with fish". The namesake Chemehuevi tribe is a small branch of the Southern Paiute. These Native Americans have been indigenous to the area for thousands of years. They call themselves "Nüwü", (The People).
In 1994, 85,840 acres were protected as part of the Chemehuevi Mountains Wilderness. This area is home a small herd of big horn sheep, as well as desert tortoise, wild ass, rattlesnakes, jackrabbits, coyotes, quail, roadrunners and lizards. Some common plant species you will encounter include ocotillo, cholla, catsclaw, creosote and barrel cactus. Please respect the land and leave it just as you found it.
Despite being short in stature Chemehuevi Peak has significant rise above the valley floor. It is also featured on the popular Sierra Club Desert Peaks Section list. The standard route approaches from the southwest and is 7 miles round-trip with just under 2000 feet of gain. The open desert approach is pleasant but becomes more rugged after entering a wash to reach a steep gully. See the route section for more details.
This side of the Colorado River is sparse when it comes to development so it is best to bring your own supplies. But food, water and gasoline can all be purchased nearby, on the west shore of Lake Havasu. There is a small grocery store located there as well as a gas station and casino with a restaurant inside.
Interactive Route Map
Entering The Wash
From the powerline road (see Driving Directions below), hike north by northeast across the open desert. Initially there may be a few small hills in the way, but this will give way to a broad alluvial fan. Take extra care when navigating around desert flora and watch for rattlesnakes in the afternoon.
2 miles from the powerline road, enter the mouth of a wide canyon. This canyon becomes more narrow at the head. Follow the open wash along the base of the canyon as it turns more to the north. Scramble up class 2 terrain working around or over boulders and some minor dryfalls
Near the top, the gully becomes a narrow V with some catsclaw bushes. At 3000 feet there is a small plateau. Turn right (east) and the last slopes below the summit
Above The Wash
There are two rocky sides to this slope divided by a gully. I scrambled up the left side and then went around a corner briefly onto the north slope. However trails near the summit indicate that this west slope can be ascended a number of different ways. Just take care to avoid exposed slabs.
Above The Gully
A class 3 move might be required to reach the summit depending on the way you go. Watch for loose rock. As of February 2015, there was a PVC register tube.
Getting There / Driving Directions
From Needles, CA drive south on Highway US-95 for 19.7 miles. Turn left onto a dirt powerline road. If you came to the Havasu Lake Road junction, then you went too far. Turn around and backtrack 500 feet to the powerline road. Follow the well-graded powerline road for 4 miles and park. The peak will be visible to the northeast.
Chemehuevi Summit Panorama
When to Climb
This area is too hot to hike in during the summer, so plan your visit during winter or the shoulder seasons.
Camping is permitted. This is a wilderness overseen by the BLM.