Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Hiking to Mt. Waas, La Sal Mountains

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Hiking to Mt. Waas, LaSal Mountains, Grand County High Point, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
Mt. Waas (12,331 ft) is the Grand County High Point, and highest peak on the north end of the La Sal Mountains near Moab, Utah. The La Sals can be seen as far away from Green River and parts of Colorado, yet hardly anyone makes the trek to the several summits available, making a great place to seek solitude. The Moab valley can be in the 100s for daily high temperatures in the Summer, yet in the LaSals, it can be at least 20-30F cooler depending on how high you reach. The La Sals area only accessible during summer months when the gates are open, and the roads are dry and clear of snow, typically July - October. Winter of 2017 was extremely dry so we were able to summit late June 2018 with only one patch of snow.

One of the best things about the La Sals is that it is a super dog-friendly mountain range. There are no leash laws, and because of all the snow melt, there are plenty of streams and lakes to visit. Keep in mind that there is obviously wildlife here, and a leash should be handy at all times. Dogs should be able to hike long distances over rocky terrain, when summiting any peak in the La Sals. Be prepared with at least 3 liters of water per person/dog.

The La Sals offer plenty of camping and backpacking as well. On my Utah Benchmark Atlas (my favorite road map book), it labels the TH with a campground. There is literally one campsite available here, so plan to camp at a larger campground nearby or lodge in Moab, UT.

From Moab you need to get on the LaSal Scenic Road, which is a point-to-point road. I highly recommend driving the whole route - up one way, back down the other after hiking, so you can see the whole thing. It's a really pretty drive. The scenic road is paved - all other roads are dirt.

From Moab (North), use this driving map.

From Moab (South), use this driving map.

4x4 vehicles are required.

Distance: 8 miles RT
Elevation gain: 2,700 ft
Time: 4-8 hours
Dog friendly? Yes, off leash
Kid friendly? Maybe for older kids - depends on their peak bagging experience
Fees/Permits? None

Hiking to Mt. Waas, LaSal Mountains, Grand County High Point, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
 LaSal Scenic Loop Road - Castle Valley Overlook.
Hiking to Mt. Waas, LaSal Mountains, Grand County High Point, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
 Turn at the signed Miner's Basin TH (it is not signed if coming from the south - we had to turn around after missing the turn off initially).
Hiking to Mt. Waas, LaSal Mountains, Grand County High Point, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
 Take FR 065 - you WILL need a 4x4 car to reach the TH. I would not advise that even mini-SUVs drive this. Only trucks and a 4Runner were driving along this road. There are also very few pull outs - so cross your fingers no one is coming the opposite way! The car more downhill is the one that needs to move - the upper car has the right of way.
Hiking to Mt. Waas, LaSal Mountains, Grand County High Point, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
 You'll even need to moooove out of the way for cows.
Hiking to Mt. Waas, LaSal Mountains, Grand County High Point, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
Ready to hike by 8am!
Hiking to Mt. Waas, LaSal Mountains, Grand County High Point, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
For a bulk of the hike, you are hiking on an old jeep/mining road. 
Hiking to Mt. Waas, LaSal Mountains, Grand County High Point, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
First trail split, go right. You'll quickly cross a stream.
Hiking to Mt. Waas, LaSal Mountains, Grand County High Point, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
I think these beautiful flowers are Utah Blue Delphinium.
Hiking to Mt. Waas, LaSal Mountains, Grand County High Point, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
Pass a red gate within 15 minutes of hiking. About another 10 minutes past this gate (0.8 miles from the TH), you'll see a junction with no trail split signs - go left. Make sure you are following another old jeep road and hiking uphill.
Hiking to Mt. Waas, LaSal Mountains, Grand County High Point, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
You should be hiking East, and now steadily gaining elevation.
Hiking to Mt. Waas, LaSal Mountains, Grand County High Point, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
I think these flowers are called Golden Banner.
Hiking to Mt. Waas, LaSal Mountains, Grand County High Point, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
At 1.4 miles you'll reach your first switchback. From here, the next 1.5 miles are switchbacks all the way up to the ridge that you can see here.
Hiking to Mt. Waas, LaSal Mountains, Grand County High Point, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
Climbing higher and higher...
Hiking to Mt. Waas, LaSal Mountains, Grand County High Point, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
The nice thing is, you can always see where the trail will go, up to the saddle.
Hiking to Mt. Waas, LaSal Mountains, Grand County High Point, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
Anyone know the name of this flower?
Hiking to Mt. Waas, LaSal Mountains, Grand County High Point, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
Whew, getting tired but still working hard. What a view to the NW! Moab is waaaay down there.
Hiking to Mt. Waas, LaSal Mountains, Grand County High Point, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
"We're going here?!"

At 3.0 miles you'll finally reach the saddle and have your first view of Mt. Waas! It looks really far away and super steep, but from the saddle its only about 0.8 miles and a net elevation gain of 350 ft. From the saddle, continue left.
Hiking to Mt. Waas, LaSal Mountains, Grand County High Point, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
Pass the old weather station.
Hiking to Mt. Waas, LaSal Mountains, Grand County High Point, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
Pano from the weather station - we're hiking to the peak on the left. The basin below is called Beaver Basin. You can also access Mt. Waas from this side, and drive up pretty close, however there is no trail. You would just need to pick your own route to the saddle, then catch the trail to the summit.
Hiking to Mt. Waas, LaSal Mountains, Grand County High Point, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
The only rocky area you have to climb down on the ridge, after the weather station.
Hiking to Mt. Waas, LaSal Mountains, Grand County High Point, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
Charlie and I make our way down to the 2nd saddle. The view from here of the trail to the saddle looks really intimidating. In my opinion, ridges or steepness always look way worse than they actually are. But keep in mind I have done a lot of peaks, and am more comfortable with these parts of the trail. Whereas my friends who hiked with me haven't done nearly as many peaks, and were a little more worried and slow. Just keep in mind that there's no rush to summit (unless you are trying to get a PR or something). Take your time, take as many breaks as you need, and you'll make it.
Hiking to Mt. Waas, LaSal Mountains, Grand County High Point, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
After hiking down from the weather station, we took a break at the 2nd saddle before making the last climb to the summit. The dogs enjoyed a break in the snow.
Hiking to Mt. Waas, LaSal Mountains, Grand County High Point, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
Now begins the fun. Charlie leads the way.
Hiking to Mt. Waas, LaSal Mountains, Grand County High Point, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
More amazing flowers on the ridge to the summit. I think this is one of my favorite photos from the hike.
Hiking to Mt. Waas, LaSal Mountains, Grand County High Point, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
Almost there...
Hiking to Mt. Waas, LaSal Mountains, Grand County High Point, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
Can you find Charlie?!

Once again, it doesn't really look like there is a trail but once you are on it you can't get lost on the way up.
Hiking to Mt. Waas, LaSal Mountains, Grand County High Point, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
On the summit! It took me and Charlie 3.5 hours. What a happy pup! He seems to know he is on the summit.

Hiking to Mt. Waas, LaSal Mountains, Grand County High Point, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
I like taking my shoes off on the top to let me feet dry out and give them a break. I think this should be a commercial for the Darn Tough women socks! This view is looking directly south.
Hiking to Mt. Waas, LaSal Mountains, Grand County High Point, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
View looking North. You can't see it in the photo but you can see down to Castle Valley, the Colorado River, and Moab.
Hiking to Mt. Waas, LaSal Mountains, Grand County High Point, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
The "what really happens on a peak" photo. Caught in the act of napping! Haha!
Hiking to Mt. Waas, LaSal Mountains, Grand County High Point, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
Alright fine, I will wake up and take in the views!
Hiking to Mt. Waas, LaSal Mountains, Grand County High Point, Hiking in Utah with Dogs
The worst part about this hike? The hike back up to the weather station! It felt really hard since we had already hiked to the highest point, dropped down 350 ft, only to hike back up 300 ft! However the views this way are pretty sweet! Definitely an awesome, memorable hike!


Trail map


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