Juab County Highpoint Trip Report

Ibapah Peak

Date: July 3, 2004
Author: Brett Abildso

I had climbed Ibapah once before, in July 2001. Back then, I was with friends who had a Jeep Wrangler, so we were able to drive all the way to the end of the Jeep Trail at 8000 feet. All three of us achieved the summit that day but, as soon as we reached the top, we heard a clap of thunder from dark clouds we had turned a blind eye to. We scurried down below tree line as fast as we could, almost running at times. Another friend of mine is trying to top all the Utah county high peaks and has been talking about Ibapah for years. So I thought it would be worth a return visit. Our wives came along as well.

From Salt Lake City, we drove south to Nephi, then west on UT 132 to Lynndyl, and out the Brush-Wellman Road towards Topaz Mountain. Near Topaz Mountain, we picked up the Weiss Highway, which we took all the way to the Snake Valley Road. Then we followed the usual route up Granite Canyon. Up until Granite Canyon, the roads were in excellent shape. With virtually no washboard, we were typically able to sustain 50+ MPH. All junctions were well signed.

Webmaster's comment: Note how the above driving approach differs from the route described in both High in Utah as well as in all other existing trip reports. I make no judgement as to their relative merits.

The road up Granite Canyon got quite rough from the first stream crossing on up. Both of us were driving Subaru Foresters, and the extra clearance, as well as the AWD, really came in handy. I won't say a car with decent clearance couldn't make it past the first crossing but it would be very tough. We drove to what is supposed to be the end of the road, at the WSA boundary. I had been in contact with the BLM, and they told me their barrier at the WSA boundary had been destroyed. Sure enough, the barrier was gone. Immediately past where the barrier should be, there is a short steep hill that it eroded and rocky enough that a genuine 4WD vehicle is needed. It looked insurmountable in our pseudo-SUV's. Not to mention the ethical/legal ramifications of breaching a WSA. Of course, though the jeep trail becomes easier after this initial hill, and we saw relatively fresh tire tracks, several major deadfalls across the road mean that you won't be able to drive more than 0.5 mile or so past the WSA boundary anyway.

When we got to the WSA boundary (elevation 6900 ft), we scoped out camp sites. The trailhead itself is passable in a pinch, but just barely. Looking for something nicer we explored on foot, and even drove back down the canyon as far as the second crossing. There was really only one decent spot above the second crossing and that had flat space only for one tent. However, my wife stumbled upon a couple of choice sites just up the hill from the WSA boundary. It was maybe 100 yards from the vehicles, or about a 2 minute walk, but well worth it. There are a couple nice flat tent spaces with huge rock outcroppings nearby, affording a stunning view up the canyon. (You have no such views 100 yards below at the WSA boundary). Further down the canyon, there are other camp sites (some of which were occupied) but we were intent on camping at or very close to the trailhead.

The hike started at 7:50 AM. In retrospect, I wish that had been about 2 hours sooner. It took about an hour and a half to get from the WSA boundary trailhead (6,900 ft) to the end of the jeep trail, though we stopped to filter water on the way. From the end of the jeep trail (8,000 ft), the foot trail was quite easy to follow all the way up to the meadow, which we reached at 11:10 AM. Lots of flowing water until we got to the meadow. The best (and last easy) place to fill water is at the spring right below the meadow, where water gushes out of the rock just a few feet off the trail. Impossible to miss if you're on the trail.

From the meadow, you have to route-find a bit, as you make a sharp turn to the right and head north towards the peak. I went a little bit too high on the subsidiary peak, and ended up back tracking a short distance. Once you get to the talus, you again pick up a faint, yet obvious, trail to the summit. However, as our party of four approached the summit, the dark clouds seen to the west drew steadily closer. After my previous scare on this peak, I was very nervous. Sure enough, as I achieved the summit ridge, maybe 50 yards from the top, I heard a clap of thunder. The time was now 1:30 PM. My friend was ahead and virtually at the summit. I snapped some photos then backtracked to check on the others, who were 5 to 10 minutes behind us. In the time it took for me to cross paths with them we heard more thunder. By the time we had descended below tree line, the thunder had abated. After a rest in the meadow, we quickly made our way back to the trailhead, reaching the cars at 5:50 PM, meaning our hike lasted 10 hours.

The total elevation gain measured was 5,430 ft, virtually all on the way up. It was the Saturday of July 4th weekend, yet we saw only two other hikers all day -- a pair of backpackers who were heading up to spend the night.

For the drive home, we took the standard route north through Callao, then Gold Hill, then to Wendover and across I-80 back to Salt Lake City. Roads were in fine shape and the time was virtually the same as for the Weiss Highway route we took on the way out. Both are good routes to follow.

As a footnote, that there was very little snow left on the mountain, and my guess is that it had been a couple of weeks since snow has hindered the typical hiking route. Also note that, after the first stream crossing, the road narrows considerably, such that your vehicle will be scratched by the sagebrush lining the road. Our vehicle ended up with a lot of 'Rocky Mountain Pinstriping' as a result of this outing!