Located about 30+ miles west of the Utah town of Milford, just off of State Route 21 on the north side of the highway is the northern section of the Wah Wah mountain range. According to Mike Kelsey, this area is also known as the Ranch Peak area and contains two peaks that are close to the same elevation. The northern peak is known as Ranch Peak and the southern one, the one this page is about, is actually unnamed but most people associated with prominence refer to it as Wah Wah North. Mike Kelsey
likes to refer to it as "South Ranch Peak".
The Bureau of Land Management, which administers most of the land within this area has designated the area that also includes the peak as a wilderness study area
. This was one of those that didn't limit the use of a 4wd vehicle.
Of all the western Utah desert peaks, Wah Wah North has the easiest road access and yet has very few visitors. It is well defended by steep brushy and somewhat cliffy approaches and is of little interest to most folks unless you are interested in climbing the prominence peaks of utah. It ranks as #53 on the 100 highest prominence list
with over 2520 feet of prominence.
The Wah Wah mountain range is divided into two parts with highway 21 going between them. It is a very dry area and water is scarce in these mountains although a few springs are to be found by those who know where to look for them. See the Wah Wah South page
for information on attaining the highest peak in that part of the range.
Find your way to Milford Utah first and then head 30+ miles to Wah Wah Summit. Just beyond milepost 45 is the signed Wah Wah summit pass and you will need to turn right (north) onto the dirt road that is at the pass. Drive in on the rough dirt road and you will soon pass an old rusty car body, riddled with holes from those who are practicing their limited marksmanship. After passing this relic, the road will start to curve to the east but you need to watch for the lesser used track that heads north, directly at the mountain. You will know you are on the right road when you see the two BLM markers straddling the road that indicate you are entering a wilderness study area.
The TH is 0.6 miles up from the markers and about 1.0 mile from the highway
Heading up the drainage
Our route and summit stuff
My two partners on this one were SP'ers Greg
Kadee on the descent
There is no trail to the top of this peak and the only way to get there is to take a GPS bearing (waypoint) and head up what looks like the most promising way to you. I'm sure there are several ways that will work just fine and when all was said and done, we found that we had traveled:
3.4 miles roundtrip
feet of elevation gain.
It is not a big mileage effort as you can see but you will find it takes a good effort to work your way up some brushy areas and talus. Long pants and gloves would be a wise addition but this will be a very hot peak in the summertime and the fall is a really good time to do it.
Our route up
Thanks to the fact that this is close to a paved highway, this prominence peaks sees a fair number of visitors. As of late August 2015, at least 20 people have made it to the summit (See lists of John and peakbagger.com for more detail on this) A link to the lists of John page is to be found on this peakbagger page.
There is no red tape that I know of but the land that the peak is on is within a BLM Wilderness Study area. Two brown BLM signs straddle the rough track that leads up to the end of the road that I would call the trailhead for this peak. The signs make no mention of prohibiting 4 wheeled traffic so I feel that you can proceed to the end of the road legally. A passenger vehicle can be parked near the signs as the road gets too rough beyond for low clearance
vehicles. That adds but 1.3 miles roundtrip and about 400 feet of elevation gain to the hiking effort.
Just off the highway, I noticed several spots where others had camped. Basic car camping spots with fire rings still in place. I believe that most all of the land north of the highway is BLM land. Generally, BLM land is land you can car camp on although I recommend that you are careful to leave as little impact as you can and not create new fire rings or the like. There are no organized campgrounds in the area but according to Mike Kelsey's book
, there are a few campspots indicated on his map (pg.249)
My wife and I stayed at the Oak Tree Inn
in Milford and found it to be a very nice motel and the price of the room includes a full breakfast. ($80 range)
The register is hidden in the cairn and is contained in a glass jar. Please
remember to put it back as you found it. Thanks to those who take the time and effort to place registers, it adds a special touch to a successful summit.
What is it about these Utah western desert peaks that intrigue me so much? I've been asked that question by friends and co-workers as they know I spend a lot of time out visiting these lonely areas and peaks. I think, there are several reasons.
First: Prominence peaks are one of my passions
Second: The beauty of the desert is so different from alpine beauty.
Third: Bristlecone pine trees absolutely fascinate me.
Fourth: Proghorn antelope and wild horses. This is their country.
Fifth: The history of the desert is filled with courage and adventure.
Those are some of the reasons but let me add that Utah is a diverse and marvelous state. From the alpine heights of the Uintahs and Wasatch to the red rock of southern Utah, there is not another place like it in the world. I have been thrilled by the views from the tops of unlikely places like the Cricket mountains, the difficult effort necessary to attain the top of a George Hansen Peak in the middle of nowhere or the incomparable beauty of a hidden mountain range such as you find if you seek the top of Ibapah Peak. I have enjoyed the friendship of Greg and Kadee, who share the same love for these desert peaks. I feel the love and support of my wife who often accompanies me on my forays into these lonely areas of the western desert and makes sure I get back to the vehicle safely and in one piece. I tip my hap to Mike Kelsey who has written an interesting book about the western desert. Then another tip of the hat to John Vitz, Andy Martin, Marc Nichols, Richard Carey, Barbara Lilley and Gordon Macleod. They have often been the signatures found in the registers that I have found placed on so many of the western desert peaks and are the folks that have taken the time and effort to place the registers. Suffice it to say, I will return again and again to this marvelous area also called the Utah Outback by some of the resident of Delta and Milford.
What gemstone is found in Utah that is rarer than diamond and more valuable than gold?
From an article by Carl Ege
The gemstone has several different names: red beryl, red emerald, or bixbite. Originally, the mineral was named bixbite, but now red beryl is the most accepted designation. Red beryl is estimated to be worth 1,000 times more than gold and is so rare that one red beryl crystal is found for every 150,000 diamonds.
In 1904, Maynard Bixby discovered red beryl in the Thomas Range located in Juab County, Utah. Bixby thought it might be a new variety of beryl, but the raspberry- red color did not correlate with any beryl known to exist at that time (green, blue, pink, yellow, and clear/white). W.F. Hillebrand, a geochemist from the National College in Washington, D.C., identified the mineral as a new type of beryl in 1905.
In 1912, Dr. A. Eppler named it bixbite in honor of its discoverer. Laboratory analysis showed that manganese and small amounts of iron, chromium, and calcium create the raspberry-red color of red beryl. Like other beryl, red beryl has a hardness of 7.5 to 8.0 and its chemical composition is Be3Al2Si6O18.
Red beryl formation began with the eruption of a topaz rhyolite lava from volcanic vents. As the lava began to cool, shrinkage cracks formed, creating pathways for hightemperature gases rich in beryllium to escape. Oxidized surface water also began seeping into these cracks and mixed with the rising beryllium gases. The gases reacted with the surface water, silica, alkali feldspar, and ironmanganese oxides from the lava to form red beryl crystals.
Red beryl probably grew at temperatures between 300 to 650 degrees Celsius. Red beryl is presently found at only three locations in the world: the Thomas Range and the Wah Wah Mountains in west-central Utah, and the Black Range in New Mexico.
In the Thomas Range, red beryl occurs primarily as short, flat, hexagonal crystals or more rarely as elongated, barrelshaped crystals. The crystals are generally up to 2 –10 mm long and 4 – 6 mm thick. Many of these crystals are too small to be faceted. They are found in cavities and fractures within the Topaz Mountain rhyolite that erupted approximately 6 to 7 million years ago from volcanic vents in the area.
Small crystals can be found in an area called "the Cove," where they may be attached to other minerals such as topaz, bixbyite, garnet, pseudobrookite, or hematite. Larger crystals that have been faceted into gemstones have been found in the northwest part of the Thomas Range near Wildhorse Springs.
The only known deposit of large, gem-quality red beryl in the world is from the Ruby-Violet claims in the Wah Wah Mountains of Beaver County, Utah. These are private claims and no collecting is allowed without permission from the present claim owners.
The crystals occur primarily as elongated hexagonal crystals that are up to 15 mm in length, and the largest crystal discovered to date is 14 mm wide and 34 mm long. Red beryl is generally found along large, near-vertical, northwest-trending fractures and clay-filled seams within the rhyolite member of the Blawn Formation. The rhyolite erupted approximately 18 to 20 million years ago from volcanic vents in the area.
The property has periodically been worked and continues to produce nice mineral specimens and stones suitable for faceting. Red beryl crystals from this location that have been faceted sell for an average of $2,000 per carat. For comparison, gold is currently worth $300 to $320 per ounce (one ounce is equal to 155 carats).
For more information regarding red beryl, contact the Natural Resources Map & Bookstore – (801) 537-3320, or toll free at 1 (888) UTAHMAP. The bookstore has several rock and mineral publications available for purchase that describe areas where to collect red beryl "
Want to see what this stuff looks like? Click HERE
Our trip report
One of the best things about Wah Wah North is the EASY access, a nice treat in the western desert. From the pavement to the trailhead is not much more than a mile on a dirt road. You can easily park at the pass and hike from there if you have a low clearance vehicle. That adds two miles roundtrip and about 500 feet of elevation gain but that isn't a big deal considering that the hike itself is on the short side.
Trip report: No need to post it separately so I will just include on this page. I made the drive from Lehi, leaving at 5:30 a.m. and met up with Greg and Kadee, who had done Indian Peak the day before, at Wah Wah Summit pass at 9 a.m. We both arrived at the pass within ten minutes of each other and we went from there to the trailhead. The road was a bit too rough for Greg's
passenger vehicle so the two of them piled into my Tacoma and rode the last 0.6 mile with me.
After parking at the end of the road, we followed faded tracks into the canyon (drainage) that was due north of us and followed a faint trail, with a few cairns (not necessary) which after it ended in a waterfall (dry) cliff, it pretty much ended and we went up a steepening slope and angled to the northwest where we entered and exited the head of another drainage. Continuing our angling ascent, we found ourselves in the neighboring gully and that was to become our pathway to the ridgeline, a thousand feet above our heads...(to be continued)
(talks about the animals found here)
(how the area got named)
More Wah Wah please.....
I know that sounds like a child's call for water but where else in the west can you find such a colorful name. Walla Walla (Washingon) maybe? Yes, Walla Walla stands for "many waters" but Wah Wah sounds like it sounds, wah wah.
Here's one explanation of the origin of the name:
"Alexa Robinson gives the following perspective on the origin of the name, "Wah Wah":"Wah Wah Valley was named by the Indians because there is a rumbling noise that sounds like WahWah. They say it comes from Wah Wah Springs. You can be 40 miles from the springs and hear the sound is just as loud as if you are right at the springs. We could hear it over in the Escalante Valley 30 miles away just as loud. It would take spells of doing it sometimes 2 months without, sometimes once a day."