Fortification Hill Hike

Boulder City, NV

One of the hikes recommended to us in the Lake Mead area is to Fortification Hill, on the Arizona side of the lake near Hoover Dam.  The hike is not long (four miles round trip) but has a bit of elevation gain (1200 feet, most of which is in the middle third of the hike).

Fortification Hill looking east from the other side of Lake Mead

To get to the trailhead we drove south on Rte. 93 across the Colorado River on the O’Callaghan-Tillman Memorial Bridge into Arizona.  Two miles from the bridge we took Exit 2 on to the Kingman Wash Road,  a well-maintained dirt road that leads to the lake.

Fortification Hill from the Kingman Wash

About a mile before the lake we took a right turn on to the Fortification Hill Road leading to the trailhead.

Fortification Hill from the Fortification Hill Road

The hike begins in a fairly flat wash for a bit over a half mile.  It then goes up onto a summit ridge and begins to gain in elevation.

On the ridge gaining elevation

The trail joins the summit ridge at a point where there is a group of oddly placed volcanic rocks.  They look as if humans placed them there, but they have to be natural.  The writer of a hiking website we use refers to them as the “funny rocks.”

Pausing at the “Funny Rocks”

At that point the trail really begins to gain elevation winding up a series of switchbacks going up loose gravel.  In the photo below note the dark basalt headwall above us.  We’ll go through that before reaching the summit.

At the top of the switchbacks the views begin to get interesting.

See the Jeep at the trailhead?

A zoom photo helps see it far below us

Remember that basalt headwall in a previous photo?

This could get interesting!

This short section of the hike required a bit of scrambling, but the rock is very solid with many hand and foot holds, so the climb was not too difficult.

Just like climbing a ladder

From the top of the cliffs, the now-gentle trail wanders westward along the south edge of the mesa.

Hiking the mesa

Lichen and cactus along the trail on the mesa

The trail continues westward for another half mile, climbing gradually onto the summit, although the end of the trail is mostly lost in the summit boulders.  Once at the summit the views are fantastic in all directions.

Looking west across Lake Mead. The dam and bridge are barely visible in the center left of the photo

Remember our blog on a visit to the Hoover Dam?  The photo below was taken from the middle of the O’Callaghan-Tillman Memorial Bridge.  The arrow marks the summit on Fortification Hill where we are.

A zoom shows the top of the dam and the bridge from the top of Fortification Hill

Looking west at Las Vegas

A zoom from the summit shows “the Strip”

Lunch with a view

A beautiful view (and a nice view in the background, too!)

After a lengthy stay at the summit it was time to head back down the trail.

Re-crossing the mesa

Back down to the cliff

Love hiking down a steep trail on loose gravel!

Made it! Were we really up there?

While driving back along the dirt roads some of the locals kept their eye on us!

This is a great hike for those seeking a bit of adventure.  While not long, the elevation change provides a great work-out.  And climbing up the cliff is a good test of your hiking skills.  The view from the summit makes the effort well worthwhile!

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32 Responses to Fortification Hill Hike

  1. Lindsay says:

    Jealous … ! Although I’m not so keen on the steep loose gravel trail on the way down … you can keep that bit, ha ha! See the sun is still shining too, hurrah! 🙂

  2. Laurel says:

    You guys!!! I think you should wear Spiderman/Spiderwoman costumes for some of those hikes. If I was climbing up that vertical rock face I’d be fretting about what it was going to be like coming down. Beautiful hike, great views, and I love the bighorn sheep.

    • placestheygo says:

      Laurel, we knew we had a Class 3 climb on this hike. I told John we had to make sure that we could get down before we went up. Thanks goodness it was a very easy climb in that spot.

  3. Sherry says:

    Looks like a great hike with fabulous views. Your pictures are terrific. I always think coming down the loose gravel is much more difficult than going up. Love my hiking pole. I can’t believe you are seeing so many big horn sheep. That little one is darling.

  4. Another really awesome hike! You’re giving us tons of stuff to do next time we’re in the area. Those views are fantastic and I loved the shot of the barrel cacti with the lichens!

  5. You two are amazing. I can only hope Sharon and I will be up to it WHEN we perform our Great Escape sometime in the next 12-18 months…maybe sooner.

  6. I think I see our house in your photo at the summit! You guys really are amazing!

  7. Gay says:

    Another great hike you two…beautiful photos too! I never did see your jeep in the picture at the trailhead. And how do you always manage to find the longhorn sheep?

    • placestheygo says:

      Thanks, Gay! The Jeep isn’t visible from the first photo because it is so far away. John was just kidding:) We seem to be Big Horn magnets. I do believe we have seen sheep on almost every hike. The other day there was one with big horns standing right by the road as we drove to the trailhead. I didn’t even bother with a photo since we have so many.

  8. pmbweaver says:

    Now that is some scrambling. From the photos it doesn’t look well marked but it is probably a different story when your climbing.

    Love and loose gravel in the same sentence? Is that an oxymoron?

    You definitely had lunch with a view. Outstanding!

  9. Ann Hill says:

    Love your blog. Pam – what brand of hiking boots do you wear?
    Thanks,
    Ann

    • placestheygo says:

      Thanks, Ann:) I just recently purchased new boots because my old ones were causing blisters. I now have Keen boots. I mainly only wear Keen shoes so the boots made sense. I love them!!! I wanted a boot with a square toe, also. I haven’t had any problems since I got my new boots a few weeks ago.

  10. Janna Clark says:

    What a great, great hike!! And beautiful photos! We are getting itchy feet, ready to start out on adventures for the winter. We won’t be leaving until after Thanksgiving, we want to spend at least one of the holidays with Lonn and the girls.

  11. Jodee Gravel says:

    Seeing those ‘funny rocks’ on the trail might give me pause to stay on it 🙂 Great perspective from the dam photo – and of course the view in front of the view steals the show!! Not sure just how you started back down that ‘ladder’ climb, but apparently it was easier than it looks. Can’t believe the number of times I’ve driven past that area and never thought “great hikes” – now I know better 🙂

    • placestheygo says:

      Yes, Jodee, it wasn’t too bad coming back down since there were several places to get a hold with your foot.

      I was also surprised to find just how much hiking there is out there in that huge desert. Lake Mead is surrounded on all sides by great canyon hiking and beautiful rocks!!

  12. Ingrid says:

    Wow, now that’s one heck of a view. Thank goodness for good trail shoes or you would’ve been skating down that trail 🙂

    • placestheygo says:

      Ingrid, we both got new boots with better support and much harder soles after our Wheeler Peak hike in Great Basin. That was our first order of business when we arrived here and found the REI! Boots make all the difference:)

  13. frankeeg says:

    Hmmm! Most of the hikes we do are in tropical or sub tropical rainforests or at least forested parks. For that reason we do not have the grand vista’s which you show in your hikes. Maybe in the new year we can start hiking more remote parks which are sparsely forested. Love your hikes.

  14. Erin says:

    Those views do require a lengthy stay at the summit … oh, and so does the effort it took to get up there.

  15. LuAnn says:

    I had no idea there was so much hiking to do in this area. That stretch of trail with the loose rock would not be my idea of fun but the views look very inviting. You two are amazing! 🙂

    • placestheygo says:

      LuAnn, we were surprised by how much hiking there is right here around Lake Mead not to mention all the other surrounding areas. You can hike here for months.

      We don’t enjoy all the loose rock these peak hikes seem to have either, which is why we now have hiking poles. Boy do they make a difference especially coming down. I never thought I would ever own poles. But we are believers now:)

      • LuAnn says:

        We have used poles for several years and love them. They are great for coming down those loose slopes and have saved my knees a number of times.

  16. Now I know why you are hanging out there longer than planned. Lots of hiking. Those colored cacti looked like sea anemone to me.

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