Hiking

Hiker descends into valley with red sandstone

NPS Photo - Andrew Cattoir

 

Introduction

Although most visitors are attracted to Lake Mead National Recreation Area because of lakes Mead and Mohave, more than 87% of the park protects a vast area of the eastern Mojave Desert. Perhaps the best way to explore this diverse ecosystem is on foot, traveling across open expanses of rock formations that contain all the colors of the rainbow.

Here, canyons and washes abound, offering a challenge to even the most experienced hiker. The best season for hiking is November through March when temperatures are cooler. Hiking during the day time in the summer months is not recommended because temperatures can reach 120 degrees F in the shade.

 

Trail

Description of Hike

Roundtrip Distance

Historic Railroad Trail

Wide and flat gravel path with panoramic lake views leads through five construction-era tunnels leading to the Hoover Dam. This path is accessible.

Trailhead Location:
Paarking lot located below Alan Bible Visitor Center on Lakeshore Rd.

7.5 miles
(12 km)

River Mountains Loop

Wide paved multi-use trail connects Lake Mead, Henderson, and Boulder City. 16.7 miles of the trail is within park boundaries.

Trailhead Location:
Two main entry points; 1) Histroic Railroad trailhead, 2) just west of the Lake Mead Parkway entrance station.

34 miles
(54 km)

Redstone

Winding path through red sandstone hills provdes insight into the geology of the area.

Trailhead Location:
Redstone Picnic area, at mile post 27 on Northshore Rd.

1.1 miles
(1.8 km)

Trail

Description of Hike

Roundtrip Distance

Owl Canyon

Narrow trail drops into dramatic winding canyons with sculptural rock walls that provide changing hues and colors throughout the day. Owls occasionally roost in canyon. 

Trailhead Location:
First parking lot on the left at 33 Hole Overlook off Lakeshore Rd.

2.2 miles
(3.5 km)

Bluffs

Well-defined route along bluffs overlooking Las Vegas Bay and Las Vegas Wash.

Trailhead Location:
Las Vegas Bay Campground amphitheater, next to site #72.

3.9 miles
(6.2 km)

Wetlands

Dirt trail follows a dry wash down to the banks of Las Vegas Wash. Good for wildlife and bird viewing.

Trailhead Location:
Gravel parking area just past bridge, after mile post 1 on Northshore Rd.

1.5 miles
(2.4 km)

Callville Summit

Ridge Trail with short climb to summit provides a spectacular view of Boulder Basin.

Trailhead Location:
Callville Bay Campground dump station, across from the picnic area.

2.7 miles
(4.3 km)

Northshore Summit

Short route climbs to reach panoramic views of Bowl of Fire and Muddy Mountains. Requires some rock scrambling and there are steep cliffs.

Trailhead Location:
Parking area past mile post 20 on Northshore Rd.

1 mile
(1.8 km)

St. Thomas

Dirt path begins with initial slope, leading to a flat loop trail through the foundations of a historic town that was once submerged by the waters of Lake Mead.

Trailhead Location:
At end of Old St. Thomas Access Road, just past mile post 46 on Northshore Rd.

3.9 miles
(6.6 km)

 

Trail

Description of Hike

Roundtrip Distance

Fisherman's

Well-defined path follows the southern outline of the harbor to the sandy beach at Ski Cove, with majestic views of surronding mountains and the lake.

Trailhead Location:
Parking at the Katherine Landing Marine boat rental and repair shop.

1.8 miles
(2.8 km)

Trail

Description of Hike

Roundtrip Distance

Lake View

This hike provides opportunities to take in the beautiful, mountainous landscape with views of the harbor, Lake Mohave and Telephone Cove.

Trailhead Location:
The trailhead is located next to the Katherine Landing day use area, on the west end of parking lot B facing away from the main road.

2.2 miles
(3.5 km)

 

Trail

Description of Hike

Roundtrip Distance

Liberty Bell Arch***
(seasonal access)

Follow White Rock Canyon trail for approximately 1 mile, keep right at the fork. Leads to a natural arch and overlook view of the Colorado River.

Trailhead Location:
Shared trailhead. Parking located just off U.S. Highway 93 before mile post 4, south of Hoover Dam.

5.5 miles
(8.9 km

(***Annual Trail Closure May 15 - September 30)

Trail

Description of Hike

Roundtrip Distance

Goldstrike Canyon***
(seasonal access)

Steep, rocky route follows a narrow canyon to hot springs. Requires rock scrambling and Grade III climbing. Climb at your own risk - NPS does not inspect, maintain, or repair bolts or other climbing equipment. 

Trailhead Location:
Parking located just off roundabout at U.S. Highway 93, exit 2. 

4.7 miles
(7.6 km)

White Rock Canyon*** (seasonal access)

Runs down a deep, narrow canyon to the Colorado River. Reaching Arizona Hot Spring on a loop requires ascending a ladder.

Trailhead Location:
Shared trailhead. Parking located just off U.S. Highway 93 before mile post 4, south of Hoover Dam.

6.5 miles
(10.5 km)

Arizona Hot Spring***
(seasonal access)

Steep route requires scrambling to reach hot springs and the Colorado River.

Trailhead Location:
Shared trailhead. Parking located just off U.S. Highway 93 before mile post 4, south of Hoover Dam.

5 miles
(8.1 km)

(***Yearly Trail Closure May 15 - September 30)

 

Tips For a Fun & Safe Day

Although springs, especially hot springs, are safe and fun to relax in, there is a slight danger from a rare and lethal amoeba called Naegleria fowleri.

This is not to say you cannot enjoy the springs at Lake Mead, just take some simple precautions. The amoeba enters the body through the nose only; it will not harm you if swallowed. Keep your head above water to prevent any infection.

Learn more here.

 

Information

Please visit our extensive Summer Hiking - Hike Smart - page for valuable safety information.

Hiking in the desert can be an enjoyable experience. It can also be a hazardous adventure if you travel unprepared. Never hike alone, and tell someone where you are going and when you plan to return. Carry plenty of water, at least one gallon of water per person. Drink often.

Signs of heat exhaustion include cool, moist, pale or red skin, headache, nausea, dizziness and exhaustion. Treatment includes moving the victim to a cool shaded area and giving him water to drink. If heat exhaustion progresses, the body temperature will continue to rise and the victim may suffer from heat stroke, a serious condition.

Know your limits. Hiking in the desert often means traveling over rough, steep terrain with frequent elevation changes.

Try to pick a route that best suits your abilities. Distances are often deceiving. Be sure to check the weather forecast before departure. Sudden storms can cause local flash flooding. Seek high ground if thunderstorms threaten, even in the distance, and be prepared to take cover from lightning.

Essential equipment includes sturdy walking shoes and proper clothing. Long pants are suggested for protection from rocks and cactus. A hat, sunscreen, and sunglasses are recommended. Carry a small daypack to hold such items as water, lunch, first aid kit, map, jacket, and flashlight. Remember, never hike alone and leave your itinerary with someone.

Watch for signs of animals along the way. Because desert regions have such harsh climates, animals often spend the daylight hours sleeping in burrows or resting in shaded areas. Antelope ground squirrels, often confused with chipmunks, are more tolerant of the heat and may be seen scurrying under the bushes.

Desert bighorn sheep may be observed walking along rocky ledges in small groups of two or three.

Poisonous animals such as snakes, spiders and scorpions are not often seen because they are most active after dark. Speckled rattlesnakes are common but not aggressive. Scorpion stings are no more harmful than a bee sting unless you are allergic. Black widow spiders are shy and secretive and are most often found around man-made structures.

Bites and stings may be more harmful to small children. Watch where you place your hands and feet and don't disturb obvious hiding places.

Many desert soils are fragile and take a long time to recover if disturbed. Darker surfaces that crumble easily indicate cryptogamic soils. Here mosses, lichens, and bacteria bind the soil surface, forming a crust that serves to prevent wind and water erosion so that seeds are protected. Take special care to avoid any damage to these areas.

Gypsum soils are often marked by lightcolored barren areas and are an ideal habitat for the endangered Las Vegas bear poppy and the sunray, one of the most impressive members of the sunflower family. Walk gently here!

Canyons and washes accessible from the lakeshores often contain a surprising diversity of plants. Wildflowers are most abundant during the spring.

Desert springs support a unique community of plants and animals. These springs are often the only source of water for many miles. Be careful not to contaminate them with trash and other human waste.

Because the park is a protected area, rockhounding and collecting plants or animals is prohibited.

The national recreation area contains a wealth of cultural resources, including petroglyphs, pictures carved on the rocks many hundreds of years ago by early Native American inhabitants. Although the meaning of these rock carvings are the subject of much debate, they are an irreplaceable key to the past. If you see anyone defacing a petroglyph or damaging an archeological site, please report it to the Lake Mead Communications Center at (702) 293-8998.

Help protect the desert and the plants by cleaning up your trash, treading lightly wherever you explore, and taking only memories of the park when you leave. Leave No Trace.

Weather in the recreation area is unpredictable. Flash floods may occur during summer and fall thunderstorms. Visitors should keep an eye on the weather and seek high ground if thunderstorms threaten. Hikers should avoid deep canyons and dry washes during strong or threatening weather. Sudden high winds can occur. Extreme summer temperatures can reach 120F degrees, making water an important supply to keep on hand while traveling in the desert. Summer hiking is not advised.

Lake Mead National Recreation Area has few established hiking trails. When cooler weather prevails from November through March, National Park Service guided hikes and walks are conducted in various areas throughout the recreation area.

 
Help us protect our parks. Leave no trace.

Last updated: January 5, 2023

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