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

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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Wildcat Canyon Trail – Zion NP

Hurricane, UT

After a day of rest provided by the nimble hiker, we headed east of Hurricane along Rte. 9 toward Zion NP.  In the little village of Virgin we turned north on Kolob Terrace Road.  We did a couple of hikes up this way during our stay in March of 2013, but Pam read a blog about hiking down into some slickrock (Life’s Little Adventures) that sounded adventurous, so off we went.

Kolob Terrace Road just outside Virgin

From the Wildcat Trailhead the hike begins benignly over a flat trail through the trees.  The trail seemed familiar at this point and we realized that we had hiked this part during our previous visit while hiking to the Northpeaks.

After just short of a mile the trail divides into two options.  The main trail heads into Wildcat Canyon.  We turned right at this point and headed toward the Northgate Peaks.  After a short distance, we had another choice.  Instead of continuing on to the Northpeaks, we turn left and followed the cairns across the vast expanse of white slickrock that goes down into Russell’s Gulch.  This trail eventually leads into a slot canyon called “the Subway” and requires a hiking permit from the Parks Service, but we were not going that far.

Beginning the descent

Much of this part of the trail is over steep slickrock.  Of course, the term “slickrock” is a misnomer, as it is not “slick” at all.  In fact, it allows you to play spiderman and climb right up or down the rock (carefully).

At some points we hiked down the rock . . .

. . . then up . . .

. . . and up . . .

. . . to the top

After going down over two miles into the gulch, we decided it was time to turn around and head back up the trail.  But were was the trail?

Looking back up the trail . . .

. . . and down the other side . . .

. . . then up again

At one point we came across the little guy pictured below sunning himself (herself?) along the rocks.

We think it was a Western Diamondback Rattlesnake, but any snake experts out there may want to help us on the ID.

The “rattle?”

Beautiful view back at the top of the gulch

Once back at the Jeep we continued to drive north up Kolob Terrace Road.  During our previous visit the upper elevations were still covered with deep snow, so we couldn’t get up the road above the trailhead.

We stopped at the Lava Point Overlook for a great view of Horse Pasture Plateau below us and the main peaks of Zion NP in the distance.

A few miles further up the road we came to the Kolob Reservior where the road turns to dirt.  It was getting late in the day so it was time to turn around.

Kolob Reservoir

Full color at 8,100 feet

Like so many places in Zion, this hike presented a good variety of terrain and scenic views.  It is also in an area of the park that is not highly visited.  In fact, we didn’t see any other people during our hike.

We have a couple of hikes left on our agenda here before moving south that we’ll share with you.  More on that later . . .

 

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Visiting Dixie – in Utah

Hurricane, UT

On Thursday morning we pulled out of Baker, NV and headed to the southeast back into southwestern Utah.   The southwest corner of the state is known as Utah’s Dixie because the Mormon pioneers who settled the St. George area came to the area to raise cotton.

We had a reservation for a week at Sand Hollow State Park in Hurricane, just north of St. George.  This is a nice park with full hook-ups and 50 amp electric for a reasonable price.  The park is next to a reservoir open to boating and fishing and an off road vehicle area on nearby Sand Mountain.

Sand Hill Reservoir

Red Rocks along Sand Hill Reservoir

The nearby city of Hurricane (pronounced ‘Hur-ah-kun” by local residents) was first settled in 1896.  It received its name after a whirlwind blew the top off of a buggy and the driver exclaimed, “Well, that was a hurricane. We’ll name this ‘Hurricane Hill’.”  The community was settled as part of Mormon Church President Brigham Young’s ‘Cotton Mission’, intended to establish the southern end of Utah for agricultural purposes.  The town once operated a large peach and apricot orchard for the Mormon Church, and is historically known for growing, peaches, pecans, pistachio nuts as well as small farms.  The Virgin River flows near the town but in a deep ravine, making it difficult for settlers to get the water up to the town’s fields.  The answer to that problem is the Hurricane Canal.  The canal no longer carries water and a hiking trail now runs along its banks.

When the nimble hiker learned about the canal trail, we were off in the Jeep through some dusty dirt roads to the trail head.  The trail began over flat terrain with no sign of the river or canal.

But soon the canyon came into view with the river 500 feet below us.

Yes, there is a river down below

We could see the trail winding down the canyon wall below us

We hiked along the rim of the canyon a short distance to a spot where another trail headed down into the canyon.

Beginning the descent

At one point a little help was needed along the narrow path

Red rocks above us as we descended into the canyon

After winding down the side of the canyon, we came to the edge of the Virgin River and soon came upon the remains of the old canal.

This seven mile canal is an example of the determination and perseverance of the Mormon pioneers who settled this area.  It is eight feet wide and four feet deep and was dug completely by hand.  Construction began in 1891 and was completed in 1904.  The completed canal brought water to 2000 acres of parched land and created the now successful village of Hurricane.  It served the community for more than 80 years until 1985 when a piping system was installed that bypassed the canal.

Canal wall along the cliff

Remains of one of the 12 tunnels blasted through the rock

John thought this would make a good in-school suspension room!

A few miles down the trail we hiked down to the river and enjoyed a snack before the return trip.

Canal on the left, river just visible on the right

Hiking back along the canal wall

Our goal, the canyon rim

We enjoyed this hike as it was fairly short (we hiked less than four miles) but had some elevation challenge to it.  Since we’ll be here for a week and Zion NP is only a few miles away, you can be sure the nimble hiker is busy planning more adventures.

More on that later . . .

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