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Cupcake Mountain - Whipple Mtns, CA

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Difficulty 3.5 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance Round Trip 4.8 miles
Trailhead Elevation 1,156 feet
Elevation Gain 1,723 feet
Accumulated Gain 1,993 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 3.5 hrs
Kokopelli Seeds 14.77
Interest Peak
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19  2021-01-09 LindaAnn
Author LindaAnn
author avatar Guides 60
Routes 401
Photos 4,338
Trips 1,344 map ( 9,692 miles )
Age 41 Female Gender
Location Ahwatukee, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Jan, Feb, Nov, Dec
Seasons   Late Autumn to Early Spring
Sun  4:46am - 6:41pm
Official Route
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An enjoyable treat
by LindaAnn

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Overview: Short but steep hike/scramble to the summit of a desert peak in the Whipple Mountains Wilderness, a short distance from the Colorado River.

Hike: Starting from the small parking area at the electrical tower, walk back down the road a couple hundred feet to the start of the trail, which is marked by a brown fiberglass trail sign. The trail heads south-southwest up a ridge, steadily gaining elevation. The footing is generally good, but there is some loose rock in places.

As you gain elevation, a two-peaked mountain appears in front of you as you get closer to it. Don't get too excited. This is not Cupcake Mountain, which is hiding behind this mountain. As the trail climbs towards this mountain, it will turn sharply to the right at about 1.25 miles and curve around the mountain's west side. Once you clear the west side, Cupcake Mountain suddenly pops into view, and you realize you have only completed half the elevation gain for this hike.

While a little dull initially, the geology and terrain steadily get more interesting the further you hike. There are some interesting rock formations, and several arches are visible if you look around. There is plenty of burro and bighorn evidence too.

At 2.00 miles, the hike suddenly switches from a relatively easy trail to a steep, easy scramble. You are now ascending the north face of Cupcake Mountain. The trail is still reasonably easy to follow as you head up some chutes. While steep, your hands are mostly only needed for balance, and you don't need to pull yourself up over any rocks. At one point, the chute seems to split, and it seems like there are two options, stay to the left on the more clearly defined, less brushy route, and you'll quickly realize you are still on the correct path. At the top of that chute, you'll reach a small saddle of sorts, then continue to head uphill on the trail. At the base of the summit block, the trail will turn sharply to the right, leading up to the final chute to the summit, which was easily visible from below.

As you are traversing up and along the base of the summit block, suddenly the trail will drop about 10', and you have to cross the top of a large crevice/chute. This is probably the most challenging part of the hike since it is steep and the trail is mostly scree right here, plus you are looking down an intimidating drop immediately to your right. Just stay along the wall on your left as you drop the 10' and immediately back up again, again staying against the wall. Once past that, the trail turns left again and heads up the final chute to the summit. There are a few trees in this final chute, but nothing too brushy. Once at the top, head to your left to the highpoint. There are great views in all directions and some places to sit behind a few windbreaks.

Heading back down is generally easy since most of the rocks are pretty grippy. While the upper 0.40 miles of this hike is a scramble, there is no exposure of concern. Even crossing the top of the intimidating chute just below the summit is not as bad as it looks. This is a fun short hike, sort of reminiscent of Picacho or Picketpost, but probably slightly easier than those two. I wouldn't attempt this one in the summer. It felt warm on even a cool breezy winter day.

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2021-01-10 LindaAnn
    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.

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    High Clearance possible when dry

    To hike
    Note: Parker Dam is closed daily between 11:00 PM - 5:00 AM, plan accordingly.

    Vehicle: The dirt portion of the road is mostly graded, but there are some sections of deep river rock, a dry wash crossing, and some steep sections. No large or sharp rocks. Medium clearance should suffice in most cases, and 2WD is probably okay when dry, although AWD or 4WD would be better, just in case.

    Parker Dam is located on US-95 Spur from US-95 between Parker and Lake Havasu City. Take the US-95 Spur (called Parker Dam Road) west across Parker Dam. Once on the California side of Parker Dam, take Parker Dam Road south to MWD Road. Curve right onto MWD Rd (there will be some signs for Black Meadow Landing), which is paved, and take MWD Rd west for approx 5 miles. At 5 miles, there will be a large fork in the road. Leave the pavement and take the left fork, which is signed for Havasu Palms, but the road is NS056 according to BLM. This road follows the power lines. Stay on this road for about 6 miles as it winds uphill. You will see the trailhead marker on your left. Drive past the marker another couple hundred feet to the curve in the road, and there will be a place for about two vehicles to park along the access to the next powerline tower.
    page created by LindaAnn on Jan 09 2021 10:40 pm
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