Turtlehead Peak Hike

Boulder City, NV

While hiking earlier this week, we spoke with a young couple who live in this area.  We asked about good hikes around Las Vegas and they recommended we look at a hike to Turtlehead Peak.  The peak is in the Red Rock Canyon National Conservatory Area, which is about forty miles from our base in Boulder City and a few miles west of Las Vegas.  After a little research we found the hike to the top of the peak is only about two and a half miles.  OK, that’s not too bad.  But the hike is listed as “difficult” as the route climbs over 2,000 feet.  That is pretty steep, but the hard part is climbing the 800 vertical feet in the gully and chute system that leads to the summit ridge in less than half a mile!

A view of Turtlehead Peak from the highway

We’re always up for a challenge and the hike is listed as challenging because it is strenuous, not because it is dangerous.  So off we went for a little adventure.  The parking area was crowded when we arrived as there are several trails that begin at the same point.  But we found a place along the road and set out.

We’re going where ? ? ?

The first half of the hike is on a well-defined trail with a gradual gain in elevation.

But as we approached the gully on the left of the peak things got a bit interesting.  This is an un-maintained trail with many paths to chose from.  So the best you can do is chose a path and stick with it.

OK, where’s the trail?

The rocky trail went up . . .

. . . and up . . .

. . . and up!

But the nimble hiker just kept climbing . . .

. . . until reaching the top of the peak!

The parking area is in the center of the photo above, but it is a bit far away and difficult to see.  So a zoom shot is needed to be sure the Jeep is still there.

Lunch with a view – Las Vegas is in the distance

A zoom shot of “The Strip”

While the hike up the trail was a challenge, the hike back down was equally difficult.

When not sliding down a steep rock formation, we had to navigate down long, steep stretches of loose gravel.  Lisa of Metamorphosis describes it as walking on marbles down hill.  We agree!

As we descended the views were pretty interesting.

A successful adventure!

The hike up to Turtlehead Peak might be the most challenging we have done.   But we took our time, drank plenty of water, and ate something at the top and were able to complete the hike without incident (OK, someone scraped and banged an elbow sliding down some gravel).  But it sure felt good to get back to the Jeep and head home!

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The Liberty Bell Arch

Boulder City, NV

In our last blog we wrote about missing a turn leading to the Liberty Bell Arch and ending up hiking down to the Arizona Hot Springs.  The next day we returned to the same trailhead, determined to find the turn leading to the arch.  We carefully charted the mileage on an app we use and followed the description found on a website. Sure enough, a trail split off from the wash and went to the north right where it was suppose to.  But we could see why we missed it yesterday.  The trail is poorly marked, with only a small cairn (pile of rocks) marking the turn, and that was partially obscured by a bush.

Do you see the trail on the right?

We climbed up the trail for about a half mile to where it joins an old mine road.  After a bit we came to some of the abandoned equipment near an old magnesium mine.  There is an aerial cable with what appears to be a big, wooden cable car lying on the south-facing hillside.  This car was not moved on the cable, rather it was used as a loading chute for trucks that were driven up the road and parked below the chute that lies below the cable car.  The mine is on the opposite side of the hill and the ore was hoisted up the other side on a cable.  It was then dumped into the chute and slid down into the truck.

Cable on the other side, by the mine entrance

Entrance to the mine

At the mine site , an adit (frequent crossword puzzle word – a horizontal mine shaft) goes back about 60 feet, but there are skylights, so you can go all the way to the back without a flashlight.  Inside the mine, there are some tiny ore-car tracks (probably pushed by hand), old buckets, wooden timbers lying on the ground, and the last of the bore holes that the miners drilled before they gave up.

A number of old buckets and other debris were scattered around the mine.  The rusted tin pictured below looked like an old tin container that tobacco came in.

From the mine entrance we could see the rest of our hike to the west.  In the photo below the arrow on the right is the arch, although you can’t see it too well as it is a side view.  The arrow on the left is the Black Canyon Overlook, a thousand feet over the Colorado River.

As we hiked to the west the arch slowly came into view.

Around the south side of the arch, the reason for its name becomes evident.

We continued for another half mile on a gradual elevation gain to the top of the Black Canyon Overlook and were rewarded for our efforts with a great view of the river.

Looking to the south

In the view to the north we noticed a bridge in the distance.  Can’t see it?

A zoom photo gives a better view.  It is the  Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge.  Opening in 2010 the bridge allows traffic to bypass the Hoover Dam (more on the bridge in a later blog).

Lunch with a view

After enjoying lunch on the overlook we began the return hike, stopping to enjoy great views of the Liberty Bell Arch.

Heading back up the wash to the trailhead

The hike out to the arch and the overlook is around three miles one way.  There is a bit of up and down elevation change (more up than down) on the way out but the trail is good and the beautiful vistas hold your attention.

We’re two for two on great hikes in the Lake Mead area already.  But there are so many neat hikes here we’re not sure which one to do next.  But that’s a good problem, right?

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Arizona Hotsprings Hike Near Boulder City

Bolder City, NV

On Saturday we left Valley of Fire and moved south of Las Vegas to Boulder City.  After moving every two or three days for the past month, we took a site in Canyon Trail RV Park for two weeks.  The park is only a few miles from the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, which is just full of interesting hikes and Jeep roads, so we need some time to explore.  Who knows, a hike through the casino canyon known as The Strip may be in our future!

For our first hiking adventure we drove south across the Colorado River into Arizona to the White Rock Canyon Trailhead, where we intended to hike to the Liberty Bell Arch.  From the parking area the trail immediately drops into a wash and goes under Rte. 93.

The first half mile is in the wash on a flat walk toward the hills to the west.

Soon the wash drops as it enters into a narrow canyon.  After a while it was obvious to us that we had gone too far and missed the turn on to the trail going to the Liberty Arch.  OK, we’ll continue down into White Rock Canyon and hike to the Colorado River, a hike we intended to do in the future anyway.

As we hiked through the canyon we spied some fellow hikers moving along the canyon wall above us.

Seven Desert Big Horn Sheep of various ages made their way along the canyon wall.  We soon lost sight of them and continued down the canyon.  But just down the trail we spotted someone checking us out just a few yards down the trail.

We stopped to watch him when part of the herd jumped onto the trail in front of us to feed on the brush.

All the while one of the elders of the herd kept us in view.

The big guy must have just run a race, as he was still wearing his bib number (77).

Even the young one in the group kept an eye on us.

After the sheep cleared the trail we continued hiking down to the river.  It turns out the sheep were on the same hike, as they were enjoying a drink when we arrived.

As we slowly passed the herd, one big guy strutted his stuff on the neighboring hillside.

After hiking for over three miles through desert conditions it is amazing to come upon a beautiful river.

We knew from the map at the trailhead that the Arizona Hot Springs were located near where we were along the river, but since we had not intended to hike to this point we did not research its exact location.   We spoke with a young couple eating lunch along the river and found out they were from nearby Henderson and knew the trails well.  They gave us directions to the hot springs in a nearby canyon and suggested that we return to the trailhead by continuing up that canyon to make a loop.  We liked that idea but had reservations, as going up that canyon required a bit of wading through water above the knees, a climb up a ladder, and some rock scrambling.  In fact, the map at the trailhead labeled the hike up this canyon as very difficult.  But let’s give it a try!

A shallow creek at the start

The first of three hot pools, easy to get around

After passing the first pool we rounded a bend and came to the ladder.  If climbing a ladder up about fifteen feet wasn’t interesting enough, water pouring over the top above you on to the ladder just adds to the adventure.

After climbing the ladder we immediately came to another pool, this time one that we couldn’t go around.  So off came the boots, pockets were emptied, and shorts were rolled up for a walk through the hot water.

Not far from that pool was another that required a bit of wading.  The pools in this canyon are deepened by sand bags placed in narrow spots to dam up the water.

After this last deep pool we spied the source of much of the heated water.  Along the side of the canyon was a small opening.  A strong stream of very hot water about two inches in diameter shot out of the rock and into the stream.

After re-booting, we continued up the canyon where things quickly changed.  In just a short distance we left the moisture of the hot pools and returned to the arid conditions of the desert.

As we hiked up the canyon we came to a number of spots that required some scrambling.  Most presented a challenge, but we were able to keep going.

At one point we came upon some petroglyphs, or as John calls them, ancient graffiti.  He always imagines a group of indigenous people moving through the canyon.  A mother yells at junior to quite marking up the rocks and keep moving with the group.

We continued hiking over a number of pour overs, but again nothing we couldn’t handle.

Looking back after climbing up this pour over

Eventually we came to a spot where it was just too high for us to scale.  We thought we would have to go back down the canyon a mile or so and take a side trail up over the hills.  But we noticed a spot along the side of the canyon where someone had placed a few rocks along the wall like a stair step.  So, up we went and climbed over the rocks and around the obstacle.

Up, over, and around the obstacle

Finally, we came up and out of the canyon.  We agree with the label at the trailhead marking this trail as “very difficult.”

Tomorrow we’re going back to this trailhead to see if we can find the route to the Liberty Bell Arch.

More on that later . . .


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Valley of Fire – Pt. 2

Valley of Fire, NV

When we arrived at Valley of Fire State Park, we stopped at the visitor center to ask about hiking trails.  A park ranger told us about a little used trail that split off from the park’s most popular trail through an area known as White Domes.  The Prospect Trail winds for five miles through a number of canyons.  It is not maintained by the park so it is a bit rough in some places.  The ranger told us there are a number of different colored rocks along the trail, which hooked the nimble hiker immediately.  So on our second day in the park we decided to explore a portion of this trail.

WARNING: If you are already tired of looking at rocks, now is a good time to go to ESPN.com!

The first part of the White Domes Trail

Looking down the trail into a wash

Slot canyon on the White Domes Trail

Turning left on to the Prospect Trail

At one point on the Prospect Trail we came upon a couple parts of a skeleton.  John put the two together to get a better look at this guy.

Lunch with a view

Valley of Fire isn’t a very large park.  You can visit most of the scenic areas and do most of the popular hikes in a day or two.  But its beauty is beyond description.  Only an hour’s drive from Las Vegas, it should be on everyone’s must see list!

Next up:  Bolder City, NV.  More on that later . . .

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Valley of Fire – Pt. 1

Valley of Fire, NV

We left Sand Hollow State Park, outside Hurricane UT, Thursday morning and headed south on I-15.  Our original plan called for a drive to Bolder City, south of Las Vegas.  But when we thought about our visit to Valley of Fire State Park last year, we decided it would be irresponsible to pass so close to the park without a return visit.

Virgin River Canyon on I-15 in Arizona

So we took Nevada Exit 93 and headed south on NV-169 through Overton, NV to the east entrance to Valley of Fire State Park.  The views out the windshield as we drove into the park reminded us of why we wanted a return visit to this beautiful area.

There are two campgrounds in the park with a combined total of 72 sites.  One of the campgrounds is set up for large RVs with wide sites, water, and 50 amp power.  All sites are first come/first served, so we made sure to arrive before noon to increase the chances of getting a site.  We were please to find that many sites were available when we arrived, including site 32, where we stayed on our previous visit.  Site 32 is a pull-in site with great views to our front and sides.

After setting up on our site, we hopped into the Jeep and headed further into the park for some hiking (surprise!).

The views along the park road are beautiful

While there are some maintained hiking trails in the park, one of the great things about Valley of Fire is that you can just pull over to the side of the road and hike into one of the many dry washes, then climb up slickrock to check out the views.   We stopped at what is marked Wash #3 and hiked to the east.

Parked at Wash #3

Heading up the sand on the dry wash

See the Jeep?

We’re spending two nights in Valley of Fire and have a hike planned for tomorrow.  So stay tuned for more rock pictures!

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The Road Through Zion – Observation Point

Hurricane, UT

John was up one recent morning and noticed the beautiful sunrise in the east (the normal direction of sunrises in Utah) so he snapped a photo of it.  He shared the photo with Pam later as she hasn’t seen a sunrise since retirement!

On our last day in southwest Utah we decided to drive through Zion NP and hike to Observation Point, high over Zion Canyon.  There are two ways to get to the point.  One involves a four mile hike on a trail that zigzags up the southern wall of Zion Canyon.  It’s a strenuous hike as it is almost all “up” until near the very end.  The other way is to drive to the east side of the park, take a dirt road north for about eight miles, and hike in three and a half miles on the East Mesa Trail.  This hike is shorter and doesn’t involve much change in elevation.  We hiked the canyon wall trail during our visit last year.  But the road to the East Mesa Trail was still icy (it was in March) and we found it very slippery, so we couldn’t get to the trailhead.  But there isn’t much ice in October, so off we went.

As we drove through the park on the Zion – Camel Highway (Rte. 9) we were reminded of the beauty found all along this road.  In our opinion, it may just be the most beautiful drives we’ve ever done.  Let’s look at some of the views along the way.

The shuttle into Zion Canyon was still operating and the park was crowded

We found the East Mesa trailhead and set off over fairly flat terrain.  Two and a half miles in the trail began a slow descend to Observation Point.  Wow, this trail sure was easier than the hike up from down in Zion Canyon!

Approaching Observation Point on the East Mesa Trail

At Observation Point you get a great view of Zion Canyon to the south.  In the photo below Angel’s Landing, a famous hiking destination, is just right of center.  We thought maybe it was closed to hikers as we couldn’t detect any movement on it.

But a closer look revealed many hikers at its summit and along the trail.

We looked across a small canyon to our left and could see the trail to Hidden Canyon.  This is a great hike that we did last year.  The trail has a bit of elevation change, but the real exciting part is when it goes around a rocky edge line with chains to hang on to.  Check out the white arrow in the picture below.

A zoom photo reveals a group of hikers moving down the trail.  It’s exciting but not as dangerous as it looks.

Below are a couple of views along the Zion – Carmel Highway as we returned back through the park.

One of the great things about traveling without a firmly fixed agenda is the ability to be spontaneous.  A visit to southeast Utah was not on our agenda until the last minute.  We’re very glad the opportunity presented itself, as we had a great time.  There is just so much to see in this area it may deserve a third visit soon!

Note:  Thanks for all the feedback on our snake picture in an earlier blog.  The picture may have been a bit deceiving regarding the size of the snake.  It was a little guy, only about 15 inches long.  From comments we are pretty sure it was a baby Western Diamondback Rattlesnake with a button rattle.

Now it’s off to Valley of Fire, 50 miles north of Las Vegas, for a couple of days with no cell service.  More on that later . . .

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Visiting Cedar Breaks, UT

Hurricane, UT

Last year we were in southwestern Utah and drove up in the mountains to visit Cedar Breaks National Monument but it was still snowed in, even in mid-May.  So yesterday we drove about 40 miles north to Cedar City where we picked up Rte. 14 heading east into the mountains of Cedar Breaks.  By the way, a National Monument is a protected area that is similar to a National Park except that the President can declare an area to be a National Monument without the approval of Congress (but you already knew that, didn’t you).

Heading up to Cedar Breaks

Cedar Breaks is a natural amphitheater of eroded rock, stretching across 3 miles, with a depth of over 2,000 feet.  The elevation of the rim of the amphitheater is over 10,000 feet  in elevation.  The rock of the amphitheater is more eroded than, but otherwise similar to formations at Bryce Canyon National Park.

We decided to get a better look at the monument by hiking the Spectra/Ramparts Overlook Trail.  This hike is four miles round trip leading to two viewpoints that look back into the canyon.

Spectra Viewpoint on the left – Ramparts Viewpoint on the right

Heading out to the viewpoints

The views along the trail were spectacular!

As we approached the first viewpoint we found a stand of Bristlecone Pines.  The oldest known tree in the monument is over 1,600 years old.

Beauty and the Beast

Checking out the bristlecones


We wondered how old this trunk could be

The hike wasn’t that long, but the return uphill presented some challenge due to the altitude (10,100′).

Spectra Point

Lunch with a view

Enjoying the view!

You have to grow where you’re planted!

We’re glad we took the time to return to Cedar Breaks in good weather.  The views are great from the moment you leave Cedar City and begin climbing Rte. 14.   And the hike out to the viewing areas was not long, but a good distance for hiking at this high altitude.   The views reminded us of the rim overviews in Bryce Canyon, but without the crowds.  But if you’re going to visit Cedar Breaks, be sure to check the weather.  At this altitude the snow comes early and stays late!

OK, one more adventure in Zion NP before we move on.  More on that later . . .



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