The Hualapai Chief!
Overview: The Wabayuma Peak Trail is the only designated trail in it's namesake wilderness, a 38,000 acre parcel in the southern Hualapai Mountains of Mohave County southeast of Kingman. Established in 1990, the wilderness designation closed an old jeep road that serves as much of this trail, before a well-constructed single-track ascends 700 feet in 3/4 of a mile and ends at a saddle south of the peak. Gaining the summit requires an additional half mile of off-trail travel and a 200-foot scramble up to the peak, culminating in a short 15-foot class four climb.
Warning: This is an incredibly remote area. There is no water along this trail and shade is limited to a few isolated stands of ponderosa. I would not recommend this peak in the heat of summer. Spring and Fall are ideal. There is ok cell coverage on the peak, but not along the trail. Be prepared. If something happens, help is a long, long way away! Accessing the trailhead requires an OHV or 4x4 with low-range gearing an absolute must. More on the drive below.
History: The peak and wilderness are named after Chief Wauba Yuma of the Hualapai Indians. He was shot and killed in 1866 by Prescott fireman Sam Miller after Miller was told that Yuma had killed another man named Edward Clover. These murders violated the delicate treaties in place at the time and brought about two more years of the Hualapai War amongst the native tribes and the European American settlers.
Hike: The trailhead is signed and difficult to miss. A small informational board stands next to a metal register box, and a gate at the entrance to the wilderness. The first mile of trail follows the old jeep road over a mostly moderate grade through high-desert scrub with good views in all directions. There's a short steep climb in the road around the .75 mile mark as you make your way toward a saddle dotted with a handful of tall ponderosa a mile from the trailhead.
At the saddle, the road takes a turn to the left and climbs the ridge very steeply, gaining 400 feet in about a quarter mile. At the top of the hill, the old road follows the ridge, losing elevation at a couple of spots that will catch up with you on the return trip! As the road traverses the ridge, you can see the old road cut continue to the north around the looming mountain ahead. The trail will leave the old road at a low saddle at 2.1 miles. As you approach, look closely and you will see the switchbacks that lead straight up the left side of the main drainage toward the saddle on the rocky ridge above. The peak is not in view.
From the saddle where the single track begins at 2.1 miles, it's a bit difficult to follow the first couple of switchbacks, but the route quickly becomes clearly defined and easy to follow as it ascends toward the saddle above. Near the top, the trail disappears in a grove of Ponderosa, and you should just ascend the easiest route to the saddle. From here you might think you see the summit, but that's not it!
There are some cairns that lead toward the left side of the large false peak to your north. There's not much of a route here and the side-hill footing is annoying, along with some thick desert scrub and quite a bit of downfall. Despite the cairns and route as posted here, you may wish to consider a route directly over the top of the false peak. It looked to be a much clearer path.
Once around the false peak, the true summit of Wabayuma comes clearly into view, and you can begin to visualize your route to the top. There's a puzzle of manzanita to get through to start, but then some easy class 3 scrambling from one layer of rock to another. The very top features a 15-foot class 4 climb. There are several possible routes, the safest of which is in a crevice loaded with typical Arizona brush that will tear you apart. More exposed routes avoid the brush. Pick your poison! Up top you will find fantastic views, a small cairn and an old register placed in 1996.
Backpacker Magazine did a feature on this wilderness in 2002. They reported that it receives visitation of about 200 people per year. I'd be surprised if 5% of those visit the peak. There may have been a "spike" in visitation the couple of years after the article was published. The last name signed was 2012.
Perhaps the biggest obstacle to this hike is getting to the trailhead! It is located on BLM Route 7101 (sometimes called the Hualapai Ridge Road). The shortest access is to approach from the Alamo Road exit on I-40, 25 miles south of Kingman. After 3 miles on the paved Alamo Road, turn left onto the graded dirt Boriana Mine Road which is beautifully graded for about 8 miles before maintenance ends. Miles 8-11 of the dirt road follows a drainage, crossing it a few times and the condition slowly deteriorates. This portion is still manageable with just a high-clearance vehicle. Six more miles brings you to the old Boriana Mine. The road gets increasingly rough as you approach the mine (miles 11-17). From the mine to the trailhead, serious 4wd vehicles are required.
In the two miles above the mine you climb 1300 feet over numerous narrow switchbacks, absolutely awful rocky road, ruts, washouts, tippy shelves, etc. This would be a great road for a 4x4 Jeep club, but not what most hikers prefer to endure on their approach to a trailhead. I managed to descend this portion in my 2008 stock Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road (with BFG ATs KO2s ... which I think are critical on this road). I don't think I would have been able to ascend it, and it was a white-knuckle trip on the way down. 4-Low was a requirement, and several times I was on three wheels and one time teetering on just two. I've driven a lot of rough back roads in Arizona and this one is about as bad as it gets, primarily for the extended distance it is so rough. I managed to only knock the skid plates two times, so it is possible, but I didn't enjoy it and I'm not sure I'd recommend it to anybody! That said, when you get to the trailhead, you will be happy to have your two feet on terra firma! It took me 2 hours of driving to get from the trailhead back to Yucca.
The alternative to the southern approach from the Boriana Mine is to drive the 14 miles of ridgeline road from Hualapai Mountain Park to the north. This isn't any better of an option. There are a few short sections of road where 15 miles an hour is possible, but it is a rock crawl most of the way. I averaged 7.5mph on our morning drive to the trailhead, which took over 2 hours. Just as with the 6-7 miles south of the trailhead, the entire ridge road features jagged rocks, shelves, precipitous drops, boulders, ruts, and crazy steep switchbacks. Just know what you're getting into if you choose to drive to this trailhead from either direction!
The most difficult part of this hike is the drive!
Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.
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.
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