new and beautiful angles
Viewing the Mustang Mountains from the West, you’ll notice several 6,000’+ peaks dominating the horizon, the most distinguishable of which include, [from North to South]: Mount Bruce [or better known locally as “The Biscuit”] (6,087’), North West Dome (6,162’), Peak 6,199 [aka UN 6199] (6,199’), and the Mustang Mountains Highpoint (6,469’). The subject of this write-up is UN 6199, the most boring of the four in terms of names. But make no mistake about it, the boredom stops there. This short off-trail summit hike is an absolute blast… the kind that might be a little too rough for those not seasoned in off-trail peak-bagging.
Hike: There are several potential starting points for tackling UN 6199. The access point described here worked extremely well: there is an unnamed dirt road that begins off of Upper Elgin Road, and it runs NE, toward the Mustang Mountains. This road is located 2.19 miles down Upper Elgin Road if approaching from the center of Elgin, and 2.47 miles down Upper Elgin Road, if having come from Route 82. Almost immediately after turning onto this dirt road, you’ll need to get out and open a gate. The gate was not locked, it was very easy to open/close, and there was no sign indicating that motor vehicle traffic was prohibited. Almost immediately after going through the gate, there will be another unnamed, main-looking dirt road on the left; you’ll want to stay on the road you are on. NOTE: The road is in excellent condition and easily drivable in any high clearance vehicle, and most of the road is also quite drivable in a low clearance vehicle; however, there is a shallow wash with some ruts after about 1/2 mile that will likely pose problems to those in low clearance vehicles. The good news is: if you're concerned about the road and not keen on doing an extra 1.55 miles each way of beautiful dirt road hiking, then please refer to the directions sections; I’ve discovered a slightly longer drive in that will eliminate or greatly reduce the amount of “road hiking”.
Whether you decide to drive or hike the dirt road, you’ll come to a second gate after 1 mile. Once again, there was no lock on this gate, it was very easy to open/close, and there was no sign indicating that motor vehicle traffic was prohibited. From this point, it’s approximately 1.05 miles before the off-trail fun begins. For those who prefer to do some easy trail/jeep road to “warm-up” and/or are looking to get in more mileage, I recommend parking by this second gate; [the grass is beaten down and there is tons of room to park]. While I could have easily driven the rest of the dirt road in my Forester, I choose to begin hiking from this point in order to get in some extra mileage. The Mustangs are quite rugged, and even the speediest of trail hikers are not going to make good time on the off-trail / off-road portions of this range. The excellent system of dirt roads makes for a great way to quickly get in some extra mileage if needed.
After 0.85 miles from the second gate, the dirt road will “T”, and you’ll want to go left. From the “T”, the dirt road continues for about another 0.20 miles as it gradually starts to ascend, before completely petering out. At this point, the off-trail fun begins. As one might expect, there are some very nice game trails that begin right in the area where the dirt road ends, heading up the side of the mountain in front of you. Game / animals trails will lead you all the way up; there are many to choose from, and the terrain is actually quite nice in most places. In addition to the well-beaten routes, the grip of both the soil and the solid boulders are excellent. While I could not identify the primary type of rock, I can say for certain that it offered excellent grip, [similar to super gripping volcanic rock]. There were a few spots with smaller rocks that made for some mildly loose footing, as well as some cacti to dodge; but luckily nothing too terrible in terms of footing, and in most places there was ample room to easily dodge the cacti.
If you follow my route exactly, then you’ll reach the SW ridgeline of UN 6199 after about 0.40 miles from having departed the dirt road. The ridgeline is extremely well routed and the 360 views are absolutely sensational. It’s a cool moment when the Mustang Mountains Highpoint, along with several other peaks on the SE part of the range, suddenly pop into view as you reach the ridgeline. From the point you reach the ridgeline, it’s only about another 0.25 miles before you reach the summit of UN 6199. The ridgeline is extremely well routed and the footing is excellent, making this last 0.25 miles a total breeze. However, this is one summit you won’t want to rush up. The many unique rock formations / peaks that the Mustang Mountains have to offer will seem to take on new and beautiful angles as you make you’re way up the ridgeline. Take your time to enjoy the views on this one. And when you reach the summit of UN 6199, you’ll be treated to even better views, including some killer views of Mustang Peak, [which is the slighter higher peak located East and slightly North of UN 6199]. I was unable to find a register atop UN 6199, but there is a large summit cairn/rock pile.
If you enjoy rock scrambling/bouldering, you’ll have a total blast coming off UN 6199’s North ridgeline. If not, [or if you are not comfortable with Class 3 climbs and/or some mild exposure], then I highly recommend returning the way you came and doing an ‘out and back’ versus the loop version described here. While nothing struck me as a definitive Class 3 climb, much of the beginning part of the descent would definitely be at the upper end of Class 2. Ironically, nothing was overly difficult; yet very shortly into the descent, a glance back up toward the peak had me thinking, “Holy ****, I came down that!” It’s cool to look back and marvel at the near vertical section you will have negotiated… but don’t let your guard down as the cliffy sections / ‘exposure factor’ fade away. The grip of the footing is generally very good, but as large boulders start to fade to smaller rocks, it definitely creates for some loose sections that I found to be more challenging than the near vertical sections encountered at the beginning of your descent.
After descending the Northern ridgeline of UN 6199 for about 1/3 of a mile, there are some excellent game trails / animal routes heading toward the East / slightly South. This makes for a good point to ease up on the descent and begin contouring, while gradually finishing your downward climb. If you drove right up to the end of the dirt road, you’ll want to depart from my track to complete your loop back to your vehicle. I reconnected with my ascent track about 2/3 of a mile after beginning to contour, [or about 1 mile after having departed from the summit]. For those who parked partway down the dirt road by the second gate like I did, you can retrace your steps at this point; or, for some added dirt road hiking in this exceptionally beautiful area, take a different and slightly longer route back to your vehicle as I did, creating a figure 8 loop. If this option appeals, then please refer to my GPS tracks for details; there are MANY interconnected dirt roads in this area that are not shown on topo maps, and many funky intersections. Therefore, rather than attempt to describe which dirt roads I took and potentially get you lost, simply reference my GPS tracks if interested in this option.
Gate Policy: If a gate is closed upon arrival, leave it closed after you go through. If it is open, leave it open. Leaving a closed gate open may put cattle in danger. Closing an open gate may cut them off from water. Please be respectful, leave gates as found.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.