Wah Wah Mountains
The Wah Wah Mountains, a mountain range on the western edge of Utah, are perfect for those who want to explore unique geologic wonders in the solitude of the desert. The Wah Wah Mountains Wilderness Study Area, which extends 55 miles from south to north over 42,240 acres in Millard and Beaver counties, is among the most remote areas in Utah. Besides state Route 21, which bisects the range, the nearest pavement is more than 50 miles to the west (Interstate 15) or more than 30 miles to the north (U.S. 50, a.k.a. the “loneliest road in America”), with hardly a trace of man in between. If you take the time to journey out to this little-known area, you won’t be disappointed.
While there are some 4WD and horse trails to explore, there are no designated hiking trails. Summiting one of Wah Wah’s peaks will involve cross-country hiking and scrambling. Within the Wah Wah range, the most popular destination is Crystal Peak, a 7,105-foot summit, made of “Tunnel Spring tuff,” ash spewed from an ancient volcano that hardened into rock over millions of years. You can spot Crystal Peak’s whitish tuff, which seems to glow in different shades depending on the time of day, from more than 50 miles away.
As you approach, you will notice the “tafoni,” a geologic term for small caves and holes that form in rock, giving the appearance of a giant honeycomb. While most of these pockets are no more 13 feet wide (and many are much smaller), some are as big as 65 feet wide. Some parts of the peak look like the inside of an anthill, while other parts look like lava that was flash frozen as it flowed down. You will have to scramble the last third of the trek, so be careful on the exposed low 5th class moves. Also, some of the rock is very brittle and could break off in your hand.
If you’re not comfortable with the scramble, you can be comfortable knowing you’re standing high in one of the most untouched mountain ranges in the region. And like all ranges in this province, it boasts a unique ecology of life.
Once at the summit, you will have expansive views of the open desert stretching out before you in all directions. You will also be able to see Pine Valley and the peaks of Nevada’s Great Basin National Park to the west, the Wah Wah Valley to the east, the Escalante desert to the south, and the Confusion Range just to the north. While you’re up there, take some time to admire another of the Wah Wah Mountains’ special features, the bristlecone pines along the summit ridge. Some of these trees stand more than 50 feet tall and are more than 4,000 years old.
Camping and Coordinates
There are unimproved camping sites located at the base of Crystal Peak. While there is no permanent water supply (make sure to bring enough with you), there are plenty of wood scraps you can collect from the area’s Pinyon-juniper woodland in order to make a campfire. If you camp out here on a clear night, you will have extraordinary views of the stars.
The start of the hike is off of Crystal Peak Road — this unpaved road can be rough, but is usually passable to passenger cars given good weather. The hike starts on the east side of the peak, but as close as you can get to the peak in your car. Park here. The hike takes most people about two hours round-trip. Fall, winter, spring and very early in the day in summer are the best times to hike the peak, as summers can be really hot. Precipitation is rare, but dust storms are common in the area.
GPS Coordinates: 38.79080, -113.6003