Chemehuevi Valley Trailheads
(Stepladder, Chemehuevi, Whipple)

Revised Jan 2009 - please send updates to the webmaster

home See Driving Directions > Sonora Desert for context and how to get here.
info GPS waypoints: download GPX file
This trailhead file will get you to three peaks: Stepladder, Chemehuevi, and Whipple.

West of Lake Havasu, between Needles (I-40) and Vidal Junction (Hwy 62), the huge bumpy sandbox called the Chemehuevi Valley is bisected north-south by US Hwy 95. Trailheads for these three peaks are described in the same file because the best access for each of them is the same powerline maintenance road which crosses US Hwy 95. The DPS Guide routes you on a pipeline access road, which should be avoided except where required since you can drive twice as fast on the powerline road.

(Yes, State 95 almost touches US 95 in Needles, and yes the state one is right there on the other side of the Colorado River, but this one is US 95 which is also the same as I-40 in Needles. No confusion here, right? If that's not fun enough, the Havasu Lake Road goes to a town called called Havasu Lake on the west side of Lake Havasu, not to be confused with the town of Lake Havasu City on the east side of Lake Havasu, except some maps don't label the lake at all because it's just a wide spot in the Colorado River which is labelled the Bill Williams River just south of Lake Havasu.)

Overview Map, see also Whipple details map below:

Labels here, and on the Whipple detail map below, are in the waypoint file.

Stepladder Mtn

Leave US Hwy 95 by turning west on either the pipeline maintenance road at Lobeck Pass (waypoint LOBECK), or on the powerline maintenance road near Havasu Lake Road (waypoint PWRJ95). The powerline is 45mph quality, the pipeline is 25mph with hard braking for erosion humps and washouts, and you'll need to bear slightly left at a big solar panel installation (waypoint PIPPGE). Both roads are fine for passenger cars.

Drive to the intersection of these two roads (waypoint PIPPOW), which is about 9 miles on the pipeline road or 11 miles on the powerline road. Continue half a mile west to where a flat sandy wash crosses the road (waypoint PIP4WD). The road crews have built a tall berm beside the powerline road to channel water into this wash, and in so doing they have hidden the 4WD road you want! Turn south into the wash for no more than 50 feet, then turn west along the berm for 100 feet, then turn south again on the 4WD road that will take you directly to the trailhead. You cannot see this turnoff or the 4WD road from the pipeline road!

The 4WD road is very narrow and rutted with erosion gullies. You will need high clearance and you will scratch your vehicle. You won't need 4WD.

The DPS Guide does not describe this trailhead well. There are stakes marking the wilderness boundary at waypoint STEPTH, well beyond the mileage indicated by the DPS. When we were there in 2009, there were tracks around the stakes. We stopped anyway. The DPS Guide says to continue walking south on the road, which takes you downhill and does two sides of a triangle. We found it worked better to walk straight to the entrance of the valley used to approach the peak, as indicated by these waypoints. It's open terrain with no obstacles. Be sure to mark your vehicle's location with a GPS or take some really good bearings, because you'll be walking around a broad alluvial fan that blocks your view.

Chemehuevi Peak

Chemehuevi is approached via the powerline maintenance road, but what the DPS Guide won't tell you is that there are TWO places you can get on this fine high-speed dirt road. The west approach starts immediately north of the Havasu Lake Road where the powerline crosses US Hwy 95 (waypoint PWRJ95). The east approach is where the powerline crosses Havasu Lake Road (waypoint HAVPWR) about 10 miles southeast of US Hwy 95. If you're doing Whipple also, just stay on the powerline road and do Chemehuevi on the way. Both approaches are fine for passenger cars.

About 4 miles from US Hwy 95, the powerline road crosses under the powerlines proper (waypoint CHEMTH, near USGS BM 1689). There is a slight wash here, and you can drive into it on the south side of the road to park. The north side is staked as wilderness. It's a fairly quiet place to spend the night, with the bonus of cell phone reception.

There is a more obvious parking place just under half a mile southeast, but you'll have more up-and-down climbing from there. Stay left of most of the small bumps, but be careful not to drift too far left or you'll end up in the wrong canyon. Enjoy the cholla cactus! When returning to your car, you can navigate by steering left of the dark bump labelled Rotten (1800') on the USGS topo maps - it's on the other side of the road, but it's identifiable from almost everywhere on the way down.

Whipple Mtn

Whiple is approached via the powerline maintenance road, but what the DPS Guide won't tell you is that there are TWO places you can get on this fine high-speed dirt road. The fast approach starts where the Havasu Lake Road ends at US Hwy 95 (waypoint HAVJ95). If you're doing Chemehuevi also, you can take the powerline road all the way from US Hwy 95 (waypoint PWRJ95). Either way, find the place where the powerline crosses Havasu Lake Road (waypoint HAVPWR) about 10 miles southeast of US Hwy 95. Both approaches are fine for passenger cars.

From waypoint HAVPWR, follow the powerline road southeast just over 3 miles to the Chemehuevi Wash (waypoint CHEMWA). This wide and deep drainage has tracks leading down the wash, but stay on the powerline road as it climbs directly out the other side of the wash. We investigated the 4WD road which parallels the powerline road, and found it was too washed out for travel (although it would be a fun place to play if you can get yourself unstuck).

Continue southeast about 3.5 miles, through increasingly hilly terrain, until you come to an unmarked and easily missed junction with the War Eagle Mine Road (waypoint WEMRDJ). Turn southwest on this poor dirt road which leads to the War Eagle Mine. Cross the road at WEMRD1 (which we only got a mile on when we tried it) and go straight for almost 4 miles from the powerline road. At waypoint WEMRD2 turn left into a side canyon, and at WEMRD3 stay right as the road gets steeper and more winding.

You can drive past the old War Eagle Mine ruins at waypoint WHIPTH, but it doesn't help any. You'll need to drop into the wash to your left for the best walking, rather than staying on on the road's ridge. This trailhead seems remote, but you can see the city lights from here. There are lots of burros in the area, which we both saw and heard.

Detailed Whipple Map, see also area map above:

Labels here, and on the overall map above, are in the waypoint file.

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