Take a Hike – Half Wilson Trail

By Norm Kresge

If you’re looking for a four-mile-loop hike that is relatively easy, Half Wilson Trail is just the hike for you. The trail head is along Calico Basin Road. The trail is for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding and I’ve seen all three on the trail.

Starting from the trail head, there are two options—one is to go up the hill almost straight ahead. The easier way is to take the trail that goes off to the right and then up a gradual incline to the top of the ridge. The trail continues, descending to a wash below.

Here you’ll meet a trail coming from the left. Stay to the right and follow the trail along a ridge called Peak 3844. The name of this ridge is simply the elevation. There is a wide variety of desert   flora including cholla, yucca, black brush and creosote bushes.

As you round Peak 3844, there will be an option for a side trip. If you follow the trail that goes to the right across the wash, it will ascend a short section. From the top of that ridge, you’ll have a view of Las Vegas in the distance. Return the same way you came and rejoin the Half Wilson Trail when you get back to the wash.

The trail crosses the power line road that goes into Calico Basin but don’t follow the road. If you watch, you’ll see the trail follow the west side of Peak 3844. The trail rises gently for most of the way, but there are a couple of less gentle hills to ascend before the last one that brings you back to your car.

Besides the desert plants, especially nice in the spring when the yucca are blooming and there are some desert marigolds, you will have good views of the escarpment at Red Rock Canyon, Calico Basin, Gateway Canyon and Kraft Mountain.

The easy nature of this loop makes it a perfect place to hike with the less experienced person or someone who doesn’t want to be challenged too much. As a side note, I didn’t know this trail had an official name. If you look on Google Maps, you can see the trail and plan your route.

Getting to the trailhead:

Follow SR 159, Charleston Boulevard, toward Red Rock Canyon and turn right onto Calico Basin Road. In about 1/3 mile, you’ll come to a wash. Park on the right side. There is ample parking. You’ll know you’re at the trail head when you see a large boulder and a Carsonite sign that says Area Closed to motorized vehicles.

Happy hiking!

Disclaimer Of Liability:

With respect to images, data, and narrative posted at this website, Friends of Red Rock Canyon makes no warranty, express or implied, including the warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose, or assumes any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information, apparatus, product, or process disclosed, or represents that its use would not infringe privately owned rights. Friends of Red Rock Canyon shall not be liable in any way for loss or damage, of any kind, to you, or any other person, for any inaccuracy, error, omission, or delay in any information posted or otherwise transmitted over this website.

While the website tries to accurately describe places and routes, conditions change over time and sometimes mistakes are made. If something posted on this site seems wrong, assume it is wrong and tell us that it needs to be fixed. Wildlands are inherently dangerous — always rely on your own good judgment. You are responsible for your own safety.

Red Rock Canyon’s Scenic Drive

Bureau of Land Management

Red Rock Canyon’s 13-Mile Scenic Drive doubles as a back country byway. It is a 13-mile, paved, one-way scenic drive that passes through arid desert landscapes, red and buff colored rock formations, beautiful sandstone and limestone cliffs that reach elevations of 7,000 feet.

Not only is the scenic drive beautiful for visitors in motorized vehicles it is also very popular for bicyclists, photographers, joggers and walkers. The road allows for safe travel as it is very wide and traffic is required to travel one-way. Many pull outs provide parking so you can explore the desert on one of the many trails Red Rock has to offer. You may also see visitors getting ready to backpack into the back country, go horseback riding, or traversing the many rock formations by rock climbing.  Watching the rock climbers has enthused and entertained many visitors over the years.

The scenic drive opens at 6 a.m. every day of the year unless Mother Nature provides a flash flood from seasonal rainstorms or the occasional snow storm. The scenic drive closes around sunset – 5 p.m. November through February; 7 p.m. March and October and 8 p.m. April through September 30.

Follow posted speed limits so you can be safe as well as protect other visitors and wildlife. If parking lots are full please do not create your own parking spot by parking off the road and onto vegetation. These plants are native to the arid Mojave Desert of Red Rock and can take decades to regrow. We recommend that you continue to a new parking area or enjoy the drive in its entirety and enter later in the day as your amenity fee receipts are good for the entire day.

A Quick Guide the Hiking Trails Along the Scenic Loop

The following is a brief list from the Bureau of Land Management of the more popular hikes in the area of the Scenic Loop. It is best to carry a map of the area.  Maps of the Red Rock Canyon  are available for sale at the bookstore in the visitor center.  

You also now can access Georeferenced PDF maps. Download them in advance, because most of the trails may not have Internet access.  Click here for instructions.

To reserve space for guided hikes by our partner, Southern Nevada Conservancy, click here.

 

  1. MOENKOPI LOOP: Triassic fossils and various desert flora can be seen on this open country trail which starts at the visitor center just west of the weather monitoring station and traverses a prominent limestone ridge. In addition to panoramic views of the Wilson Cliffs, there are connecting trails to the Calico Hills area (2 mileloop, easy).  Click here.

Click here for Georeferenced Trail Map. 

 

  1. CALICO HILLS: This trail runs along the base of the Calico Rocks from Calico Basin to Sandstone Quarry. Distance is variable since the trail can be accessed at either end or from either of the two Calico parking areas. A side trail runs from the fee booth parking lot and connects with this trail (distance variable, easy to moderate).  Click here.

Click here for Georeferenced Trail Map. 

 

  1. CALICO TANKS: From Sandstone Quarry the trail heads north from its junction with the Turtlehead Peak Trail to just past the Agave roasting pit site. Just beyond this site, the trail veers up a side canyon to the right where it follows ascending rock terraces to a large natural water tank (tinaja). Water may be present in the tanks after seasonal rains. (2.5 miles round trip, moderately strenuous, rock scrambling and route finding skills recommended).   Click here

Click here for Georeferenced Trail Map.  

 

  1. TURTLEHEAD PEAK: From Sandstone Quarry the trail heads north over a narrow rise, in and out of a wash, then continues for a short distance along the northwest side of Turtlehead Peak. Scramble up a ravine to the saddle and follow the steep ridge to the top. The trail is intermittent and composed of loose rock. (5 miles round trip, very strenuous). Click here.

Click here for Georeferenced Trail Map. 

 

  1. KEYSTONE THRUST: From upper White Rock Springs parking lot take the trail north across the wash, and up the hill. The Keystone Thrust trail ” T’s” off the La Madre Springs loop to the right approximately 1/4 mile from the parking lot. Take the right fork up the stairs to where it then joins an old jeep road, continuing uphill to the left. The trail traverses a low ridge, heads down into a small canyon, onto the Keystone Thrust Fault where the gray limestone meets the red and tan sandstone. (2.2 miles round trip, moderate hike).             Click here.

Click here for Georeferenced Trail Map.  

 

  1. WHITE ROCK TO WILLOW SPRINGS: From the upper parking lot at White Rock Springs, take the trail on the west side to where it splits. The trail to the right descends to a guzzler (man madewater hole). The trail to the left heads downhill and through a wash, then climbs over a ridge and drops you into the Lost Creek area (2 miles). From there it is only a short distance to Willow Springs. Starting from Willow Springs, just reverse the previous instructions. (4.4 miles round trip, easy to moderate hike).  Click here

Click here for Georeferenced Trail Map. 

 

  1. WHITE ROCK/LA MADRE SPRINGS LOOP: This trail can be started at White Rock Springs or Willow Springs, and can be done in either direction. By starting at Willow Springs, hikers can deal with the steep climb to White Rock near the beginning of the hike, rather than at the end. When you come to a fork with a sign reading “White Rock Springs 2.2 miles”, take the uphill trail to the left. Follow it to White Rock upper parking lot, continuing east from the lot. When the trail forks, go left and follow the trail until it intersects an old dirt road. Follow that road downhill to where it forks to the left, returning you to Willow Springs, or right to La Madre Spring. (6 miles round trip, moderate).  Click here

Click here for Georeferenced Trail Map. 

 

  1. LOST CREEK CHILDREN’S DISCOVERY TRAIL: From the Lost Creek parking area, take the trail to the right. The Willow Springs Loop intersects this trail and shares it until it splits off at Site #3. Continue on this loop until just beyond Site #4, where another path heads uphill to a seasonal waterfall. Return by the same route. This popular trail may be crowded at times as it is used by many school groups. (.7 mileround trip, easy).  Click here

Click here for Georeferenced Trail Map.

 

  1. WILLOW SPRINGS LOOP: From the parking lot, follow the trail by the pit toilets south. This takes you past a pictograph site and Agave roasting pits, to the Lost Creek Parking lot. There the trail heads to the right to where the two trails fork, at Site #3. Bear to the right and continue to the Willow Springs Parking lot. Part of this trail is paved and is readily accessible from the parking lot. (1. 5 miles round trip, easy). Click here.

Click here for Georeferenced Trail Map.

 

  1. LA MADRE SPRINGS: From the Willow Springs Parking lot, walk the dirt road west up the canyon, cross a wash and go to the right when the road splits. Continue uphill to the dam, then follow the foot trail to the springs. Return to Willow Springs the same way. (3 miles round trip, moderate). Click here.

Click here for Georeferenced Trail Map.

 

  1. SMYC TRAIL: This trail can be accessed from either Lost Creek or Ice Box Trail. It follows the terrain at the base of the escarpment and connects the two trails mentioned above. (2. 2 miles round trip, moderate).  Click here.

Click here for Georeferenced Trail Map 

 

  1. 12. ICE BOX CANYON: From the parking lot, the trail heads down across the wash and up the other side toward the canyon. The trail is well defined as it leads you up the side of the canyon for approximately 1/4 of a mile. It then drops into the bottom of the canyon. From this point the trail becomes a route over or around boulders as it continues upstream. The official trail ends at the large ponderosa pine tree in the bottom of the canyon (2. 5 miles round trip). To reach the upper pool filled by a seasonal waterfall, be prepared for some tricky wall scrambling, and a 3-mile round trip. Return to the parking lot the same way. (moderately strenuous).  Click here.

Click here for Georeferenced Trail Map. 

 

  1. DALE’S TRAIL: This trail can be accessed from either Ice Box Trail or Pine Creek Trail. It follows the terrain at the base of the escarpment and connects the two above mentioned trails. (4.4 mileround trip, moderate).  Click here

Click here for Georeferenced Trail Map.  

 

  1. PINE CREEK CANYON: Take the trail downhill from the parking lot, following it toward the canyon. The trail is intersected twice by the Fire Ecology Trail and by Dale’s Trail, then forks near the old Wilson homestead foundation. This part of the trail is a loop and is easier to follow to the left where it goes downhill, across a stream, then uphill to the intersection of theArnight Trail. Continue up the canyon crossing the wash, and eventually return to the main trail on the opposite side of the homestead. Follow it back to the parking lot. (2. 9 mile round trip, moderate).  Click here

Click here for Georeferenced Trail Map.

 

  1.  FIRE ECOLOGY TRAIL: This double-loop trail, accessed via the Pine Creek Trail, exits and enters the Pine Creek Trail from the south. Take the trail to the left heading toward the escarpment, across a bridge and over a rise to enter the second loop. Return across the same bridge and follow the trail back to the Pine Creek Trail. (.75 miles round trip, easy).            Click here.

Click here for Georeferenced Trail Map. 

 

  1. OAK CREEK CANYON TRAIL: Take the Oak Creek turnoff from the scenic loop drive to a small parking lot. The trail heads across the open desert to the mouth of Oak Creek Canyon. (2 miles round trip, easy).  Click here.

Click here for Georeferenced Trail Map.

 

  1. ARNIGHT TRAIL: The Arnight Trail connects the Oak Creek parking lot with the end loop on Pine Creek Trail. Starting at the parking lot, across from the Oak Creek Trail head, it heads toward the escarpment gaining elevation until it joins the Pine Creek Trail just above the loop junction. Approximately 1/2 mile before the trail connects with Pine Creek, another trail called the Knoll Trail intersects it on the left. (2. 4 miles round trip, moderate).  Click here

Click here for Georeferenced Trail Map.

 

  1. KNOLL TRAIL: This trail links the upper sections of theArnight Trail and the Oak Creek Trail, following the base of the escarpment and will eventually connect with First Creek Trail. (1.9 mile one-way, easy to moderate). You can combine this trail with the Oak Creek and Arnight Trails for a 3. 5 mile round trip, moderate hike.  Click here

Click here for Georeferenced Trail Map.

 

  1. FIRST CREEK CANYON TRAIL: Take Charleston Blvd. (State Route 159), south of the scenic loop terminus, for 2.6 miles to the First Creek Trailhead. The trail leads to the mouth of the canyon, following the left side of the wash for a distance; some rock scrambling is required thereafter. Seasonal waterfalls can be found in the canyon. (2 .5 miles round trip, moderately strenuous). Click here.

Click here for Georeferenced Trail Map.

 

  1. GRAND CIRCLE ADVENTURE: This trail starts at the fee booth parking area, heads toward the Calico Hills Trail and onto Sandstone Quarry, then continues on to the White Rock Springs upper parking lot. From there, it heads down the hill toward Willow Springs, but veers to the left at a junction on top of the ridge. It then crosses the scenic loop drive and continues downhill to the visitor center. (11 miles round trip, strenuous).  Click here.

Click here for Georeferenced Trail Map. 

 

  1. ESCARPMENT BASE TRAIL: A combination of the SMYC, Dale’s andArnight trails, this is a good one-way hike or a more adventurous round-trip. The one-way version requires parking a vehicle in Lost Creek and car pooling down to the Oak Creek parking area. (5. 2 miles one way; moderate). The round trip version can be done from either end. (10. 4 miles round trip, strenuous).  

 

  1. OVERLOOK TRAIL: This paved path leads to the top of a small hill behind the helicopter pad, and is easily accessible from the parking lot, providing a marvelous view of Red Rock Canyon and the escarpment. (.25 mileround trip, easy to moderate, wheelchair accessible). 

 

  1. BRIDGE MOUNTAIN TRAIL: This difficult trail is accessed from the summit of Rocky Gap Road.  4X4 vehicle is required.  Click here.

Click here for Georeferenced Trail Map

Be Safe Hiking the Trails of Red Rock Canyon

Bureau of Land Management 

This primer from BLM is a great introduction to the major trails, especially along the Scenic Loop.

But before hiking, please consider these key safety recommendations:

Please stay on established trails in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. Cutting across switchbacks damages soils and plants, and severely damages the trail. Thin black crusts of moss and lichen cover open areas and protect desert soils from wind and rain erosion; any foot traffic quickly destroys the crusts which heal very slowly.  If is it necessary to hike off trail, hikers should spread out in small groups, and hike on rock areas as much as possible. 

Each year people are lost, injured, and sometimes killed while visiting Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. For your safety, please follow these simple rules: 

  • When hiking, stay on established trails and watch your footing at all times.  Steep slopes and cliff edges are dangerous. 
  • Do not roll or throw rocks and other items from high places; other visitors may be below you. 
  • Watch for snakes on the rocks. 
  • Temperatures can exceed 110 °F (41 °C) in Red Rock Canyon.  Drink four liters of water per day in the summer, but do not drink untreated water as it may be contaminated. Carry water on your hike, at least a gallon per person per day in the summer. 
  • Avoid drainages after thunderstorms or severe weather because of flash floods. Stay away from high points during thunderstorms; lightning can kill. 
  • Wildlife may appear to be tame, but may attack if threatened.  Stay a safe distance away while observing animals. 
  • Watch children closely; they often do not recognize potential dangers. 
  • The burros at Red Rock Canyon are not domesticated animals and can be dangerous.  Do not feed or pet the burros.  Feeding burros encourages these animals to congregate on roadways where many have been killed and injured by vehicles.  To observe these animals safely: pick a safe place to stop; pull completely off the roadway, observe the burros from a distance.  Staying in your car is the safest way to photograph and observe the burros. 
  • To protect resources, please do not collect plants, rock specimens, fossils, or disturb the wildlife. 
  • Let someone know where you will be hiking. There is a voluntary hiker’s registration at the visitor center. 
  • Dress appropriately; wear footwear suitable for hiking and consider wearing a hat. 
  • Be aware of the weather.  Mountain thunderstorms can cause flash flooding in the canyons and nearby washes. 
  • Please, if you pack it in, pack it out and dispose of properly. 
  • Be aware of the closure hours for the scenic drive. 

The following is a brief list of the more popular hikes in the area. It is best to carry a map of the area.  Maps of the Red Rock Canyon  are available for sale at the bookstore in the visitor center.  

You also now can access a Georeferenced PDF maps. Download them in advance, because most of the trails may not have Internet access.  Click here for instructions.

To reserve space for guided hikes by our partner, Southern Nevada Conservancy, click here.

 

HIKING TRAILS IN THE SCENIC DRIVE VICINITY  

 

  1. MOENKOPI LOOP: Triassic fossils and various desert flora can be seen on this open country trail which starts at the visitor center just west of the weather monitoring station and traverses a prominent limestone ridge. In addition to panoramic views of the Wilson Cliffs, there are connecting trails to the Calico Hills area (2 mileloop, easy). 

 

  1. CALICO HILLS: This trail runs along the base of the Calico Rocks from Calico Basin to Sandstone Quarry. Distance is variable since the trail can be accessed at either end or from either of the two Calico parking areas. A side trail runs from the fee booth parking lot and connects with this trail (distance variable, easy to moderate).

 

  1. CALICO TANKS: From Sandstone Quarry the trail heads north from its junction with the Turtlehead Peak Trail to just past the Agave roasting pit site. Just beyond this site, the trail veers up a side canyon to the right where it follows ascending rock terraces to a large natural water tank (tinaja). Water may be present in the tanks after seasonal rains. (2.5 miles round trip, moderately strenuous, rock scrambling androute finding skills recommended). 

 

  1. TURTLEHEAD PEAK: From Sandstone Quarry the trail heads north over a narrow rise, in and out of a wash, then continues for a short distance along the northwest side of Turtlehead Peak. Scramble up a ravine to the saddle and follow the steep ridge to the top. The trail is intermittent and composed of loose rock. (5 miles round trip, very strenuous).

 

  1. KEYSTONE THRUST: From upper White Rock Springs parking lot take the trail north across the wash, and up the hill. The Keystone Thrust trail ” T’s” off the La Madre Springs loop to the right approximately 1/4 mile from the parking lot. Take the right fork up the stairs to where it then joins an old jeep road, continuing uphill to the left. The trail traverses a low ridge, heads down into a small canyon, onto the Keystone Thrust Fault where the gray limestone meets the red and tan sandstone. (2.2 miles round trip, moderate hike).

 

  1. WHITE ROCK TO WILLOW SPRINGS: From the upper parking lot at White Rock Springs, take the trail on the west side to where it splits. The trail to the right descends to a guzzler (man madewater hole). The trail to the left heads downhill and through a wash, then climbs over a ridge and drops you into the Lost Creek area (2 miles). From there it is only a short distance to Willow Springs. Starting from Willow Springs, just reverse the previous instructions. (4.4 miles round trip, easy to moderate hike). 

 

  1. 7. WHITE ROCK/LA MADRE SPRINGS LOOP: This trail can be started at White Rock Springs or WillowSprings, andcan be done in either direction. By starting at Willow Springs, hikers can deal with the steep climb to White Rock near the beginning of the hike, rather than at the end. When you come to a fork with a sign reading “White Rock Springs 2.2 miles”, take the uphill trail to the left. Follow it to White Rock upper parking lot, continuing east from the lot. When the trail forks, go left and follow the trail until it intersects an old dirt road. Follow that road downhill to where it forks to the left, returning you to Willow Springs, or right to La Madre Spring. (6 miles round trip, moderate). 

 

  1. LOST CREEK CHILDREN’S DISCOVERY TRAIL: From the Lost Creek parking area, take the trail to the right. The Willow Springs Loop intersects this trail and shares it until it splits off at Site #3. Continue on this loop until just beyond Site #4, where another path heads uphill to a seasonal waterfall. Return by the same route. This popular trail may be crowded at times as it is used by many school groups. (.7 mileround trip, easy). 

 

  1. WILLOW SPRINGS LOOP: From the parking lot, follow the trail by the pit toilets south. This takes you past a pictograph site and Agave roasting pits, to the Lost Creek Parking lot. There the trail heads to the right to where the two trails fork, at Site #3. Bear to the right and continue to the Willow Springs Parking lot. Part of this trail is paved and is readily accessible from the parking lot. (1. 5 miles round trip, easy).

 

  1. LA MADRE SPRINGS: From the Willow Springs Parking lot, walk the dirt road west up the canyon, cross a wash and go to the right when the road splits. Continue uphill to the dam, then follow the foot trail to the springs. Return to Willow Springs the same way. (3 miles round trip, moderate).

 

  1. SMYC TRAIL: This trail can be accessed from either Lost Creek or Ice Box Trail. It follows the terrain at the base of the escarpment and connects the two trails mentioned above. (2. 2 miles round trip, moderate).

 

  1. 12. ICE BOX CANYON: From the parking lot, the trail heads down across the wash and up the other side toward the canyon. The trail is well defined as it leads you up the side of the canyon for approximately 1/4 of a mile. It then drops into the bottom of the canyon. From this point the trail becomes a route over or around boulders as it continues upstream. The official trail ends at the large ponderosa pine tree in the bottom of the canyon (2. 5 miles round trip). To reach the upper pool filled by a seasonal waterfall, be prepared for some tricky wall scrambling, and a3 mileround trip. Return to the parking lot the same way. (moderately strenuous). 

 

  1. 13. DALE’S TRAIL: This trail can be accessed from either Ice Box Trail or Pine Creek Trail. It follows the terrain at the base of the escarpment and connects the two above mentioned trails. (4.4 mileround trip, moderate). 

 

  1. PINE CREEK CANYON: Take the trail downhill from the parking lot, following it toward the canyon. The trail is intersected twice by the Fire Ecology Trail and by Dale’s Trail, then forks near the old Wilson homestead foundation. This part of the trail is a loop and is easier to follow to the left where it goes downhill, across a stream, then uphill to the intersection of theArnight Trail. Continue up the canyon crossing the wash, and eventually return to the main trail on the opposite side of the homestead. Follow it back to the parking lot. (2. 9 mile round trip, moderate). 

 

  1. 15. FIRE ECOLOGY TRAIL: This double-loop trail, accessed via the Pine Creek Trail, exits and enters the Pine Creek Trail from the south. Take the trail to the left heading toward the escarpment, across a bridge and over a rise to enter the second loop. Return across the same bridge and follow the trail back to the Pine Creek Trail. (.75 miles round trip, easy).

 

  1. OAK CREEK CANYON TRAIL: Take the Oak Creek turnoff from the scenic loop drive to a small parking lot. The trail heads across the open desert to the mouth of Oak Creek Canyon. (2 miles round trip, easy).

 

  1. ARNIGHT TRAIL: TheArnight Trail connects the Oak Creek parking lot with the end loop on Pine Creek Trail. Starting at the parking lot, across from the Oak Creek Trail head, it heads toward the escarpment gaining elevation until it joins the Pine Creek Trail just above the loop junction. Approximately 1/2 mile before the trail connects with Pine Creek, another trail called the Knoll Trail intersects it on the left. (2. 4 miles round trip, moderate). 

 

  1. KNOLL TRAIL: This trail links the upper sections of theArnight Trail and the Oak Creek Trail, following the base of the escarpment and will eventually connect with First Creek Trail. (1.9 mile one-way, easy to moderate). You can combine this trail with the Oak Creek and Arnight Trails for a 3. 5 mile round trip, moderate hike. 

 

  1. FIRST CREEK CANYON TRAIL: Take Charleston Blvd. (State Route 159), south of the scenic loop terminus, for 2.6 miles to the First Creek Trailhead. The trail leads to the mouth of the canyon, following the left side of the wash for a distance; some rock scrambling is required thereafter. Seasonal waterfalls can be found in the canyon. (2 .5 miles round trip, moderately strenuous).

 

  1. GRAND CIRCLE ADVENTURE: This trail starts at the fee booth parking area, heads toward the Calico Hills Trail and onto Sandstone Quarry, then continues on to the White Rock Springs upper parking lot. From there, it heads down the hill toward Willow Springs, but veers to the left at a junction on top of the ridge. It then crosses the scenic loop drive and continues downhill to the visitor center. (11 miles round trip, strenuous).

 

  1. ESCARPMENT BASE TRAIL: A combination of the SMYC, Dale’s andArnight trails, this is a good one-way hike or a more adventurous round-trip. The one-way version requires parking a vehicle in Lost Creek and car pooling down to the Oak Creek parking area. (5. 2 miles one way; moderate). The round trip version can be done from either end. (10. 4 miles round trip, strenuous). 

 

  1. OVERLOOK TRAIL: This paved path leads to the top of a small hill behind the helicopter pad, and is easily accessible from the parking lot, providing a marvelous view of Red Rock Canyon and the escarpment. (.25 mileround trip, easy to moderate, wheelchair accessible). 

 

  1. BRIDGE MOUNTAIN TRAIL: This difficult trail is accessed from the summit of Rocky Gap Road.  4X4 vehicle is required.

Protecting Red Rock Canyon’s Desert Tortoises

Bureau of Land Management

The desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii) is a gentle reptile which spends much of its life in underground burrows. The burrows are excavated by the animals to escape the harsh summer and winter weather conditions of the desert.

The animal historically occupied a range that included the desert in southeastern California, southern Nevada, western and southern Arizona, southwestern Utah, and Sonora and northern Sinaloa, Mexico. Today, the creature’s populations are largely fragmented, although it can be found in declining numbers in most parts of its former range.

Tortoise emerge from their burrows in late winter or early spring and in the autumn to feed and mate.

The reptile can be active during the summer if temperatures are moderate. The desert tortoise is the largest reptile in the southwest. Unlike other reptiles which are often feared by man, the desert tortoise is an appealing creature which has become a popular pet, perhaps to its detriment. One reason for its appeal is that the animal is not a threat, but rather a vegetarian, eating a wide variety of herbaceous vegetation. One of its treats is the flower of annual plants.

Tortoise emerge from their burrows in late winter or early spring and in the autumn to feed and mate.

The reptile can be active during the summer if temperatures are moderate.  The desert tortoise is the largest reptile in the southwest. Unlike other reptiles which are often feared by man, the desert tortoise is an appealing creature which has become a popular pet, perhaps to its detriment. One reason for its appeal is that the animal is not a threat, but rather a vegetarian, eating a wide variety of herbaceous vegetation.  One of its treats is the flower of annual plants.

Unfortunately, the slow moving reptile is vulnerable to a number of threats which could led to the demise of the species.  These concerns lead to a petition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1984 to consider listing the desert tortoise under the Federal Endangered Species Act.  After further evaluation and public hearings, the tortoise was permanently listed as threatened on April 2, 1990.

Major problems which appear to affect the tortoise in all or part of its range include:

  • Loss or degradation of habitat because of off-road vehicles, military desert training maneuvers, various kinds of mineral extraction activities, grazing by cattle and sheep, and agricultural-residential development.
  • Taking of individuals for pets and other forms of collection.  Also, some animals have been killed outright or their shells mutilated in acts of vandalism.
  • Excessive predation of juveniles by other species such as coyotes, foxes and ravens.
  • Fragmentation of populations because of urbanization, highways and various rights-of-way associated with electric transmission lines, pipelines, etc.
  • A respiratory disease has been found in some tortoise populations, and it is suspected the disease may have been introduced by infected tortoise pets whose owners have returned them to the wild.

What protection comes with a listing?

Under the provisions of the Endangered Species Act, the desert tortoise population is protected from “taking,” which includes harming, killing or harassing desert tortoise or removing them from the wild.  Violations are punishable by a fine and jail term.  The law requires Federal agencies to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service if a proposed project they plan to authorize, fund or carry out may affect the species.  The Section 7 consultation process evaluates the impacts of the proposed action and determines whether the proposed action might jeopardize the continued existence of the species.

The Endangered Species Act — Section 10(a)(1)(A) — permits taking of tortoises for research. It is under this provision that the tortoises in The Desert Tortoise Conservation Center have been obtained. The tortoises in this center have been brought to this location under a joint research permit held by the Bureau of Land Management, the Nevada Department of Wildlife and The Nature Conservancy.

REI’s Back Pack Check List

REI, a major sponsor of Friends of Red Rock Canyon, provides this handy check list for campers, hikers and climbers who enjoy the Red Rocks

Friends thank REI for all their support.

REI’s check list is your tried-and-true guide to packing smart. The list is intentionally comprehensive so don’t forget anything important.

To locate a nearby REI, click here.

THE 10 ESSENTIALS

Navigation

  • Map (with protective cover)
  • Compass
  • GPS (optional)
  • Altimeter (optional

Sun Protection

  • Sunscreen
  • Lip Balm
  • Sunglasses

Insulation

  • Jacket
  • Vest
  • Pants
  • Gloves
  • Hat (see clothing)

Illumination

  • Headlamp or flashlight
  • Extra batteries

First-Aid Supplies

  • First-aid Kit

Fire

  • Matches or lighter
  • Waterproof container
  • Fire starter (for emergency survival fire)

 

 

Repair Kit and Tools

  • Knife or multi-tool
  • Repair kits for stove, mattress
  • Duct tape strips

Nutrition

  • Extra day’s supply of food

Hydration

  • Water bottles or hydration reservoirs
  • Water filter or other treatment system

Emergency Shelter

  • Tent
  • Tarp
  • Bivy
  • Reflective blanket

 

Beyond the 10 ESSENTIALS

  • Backpack
  • Daypack or summit pack
  • Pack cover
  • Tent, tarp or bivy sack with stakes and guylines
  • Tent-pol repair sleeve
  • Footprint
  • Sleeping bag
  • Stuff sack or compression sack
  • Sleeping pad
  • Pillow or stuffable pillow case
  • Whistle
  • Multifunctional watch with altimeter
  • Ice axe
  • Meals
  • Energy food (bars, gels, chews, trail mix)
  • Energy beverages or drink mixes
  • Stove
  • Fuel
  • Cook set with pot grabber
  • Dishes or bowls
  • Utensils
  • Cups
  • Bear canister
  • Nylon cord (50 feet)
  • Backup water treatment
  • Collapsible sink or container
  • Packable lantern

 

Clothing for Warm Weather

  • Wicking T-shirt
  • Wicking underwear
  • Quick-drying pants or short
  • Long-sleeve shirt
  • Sun-shielding hat
  • Bandana or Buff

 

Clothing for Cold Weather

  • Wicking long-sleeve T-shirt
  • Wicking long underwear
  • Hat, cap, skullcap, balaclava or headband
  • Rainwear
  • Fleece jacket or vest, and pants

 

Footwear and Personal Items

  • Hiking boots or hiking shoes suited to terrain
  • Socks
  • Gaiters
  • Sandals for fording and in camp
  • Camera or helmet cam
  • Extra memory cards
  • Binoculars
  • Permits
  • Route description or guidebook
  • Field guide; star identifier
  • Outdoor journal and pen or pencil
  • Credit card
  • Small amount of cash
  • Earplugs
  • Eye Shade
  • Toilet paper
  • Sanitation trowel
  • Hand sensitizer
  • Insect repellant
  • Bear Spray
  • Biodegradable soap and shower bag
  • Quick-dry towel
  • Cell phone/satellite communicator/2-way radio
  • Personal locator beacon
  • Post-hike snacks, water, towel, clothing change
  • Trip itinerary left with friend and under car seat

Mammals of Red Rock Canyon

Bureau of Land Management

 

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area may seem rugged and desolate at first glance, but a closer look reveals an area teeming with wildlife.  The desert often brings to mind snakes and lizards, but mammals too, inhabit these lands. In fact, more than 45 species of mammals occur in the Red Rock Canyon.  The presence of cool temperatures, perennial water and a variety of plant species in the sandstone canyons provide escape from desert heat and aridity, making the conservation area a suitable habitat for wildlife.

Desert mammals can be divided into broad categories:  carnivores (meat eaters), small and large herbivores (plant eaters), and insectivores (insect eaters).  All must conform to specific behavioral traits to survive in such arid lands.  Most desert mammals are nocturnal, which means active during the night.  Besides being nocturnal, many adopt other water-saving habits as well.

Carnivores

Carnivores are predators and chiefly eat meat, although some will consume plants.  They will drink water when it is available, but are not dependent on it since the moisture-rich flesh of their prey satisfies their water needs.  This group includes such well known members as the coyote, kit fox, gray fox, bobcat and mountain lion.

Coyote

A member of the dog family, the coyote resembles its domestic cousins except that its nose is more pointed and its tail is bushier.  The coyote is a very vocal mammal, communicating through barks and howls.  Its scientific name, Canis latrans, literally means ‘barking dog.” In addition to being a predator, the coyote is an omnivore (plant and animal eater) and a scavenger.  This varied diet allows the coyote to exist under the desert’s harsh conditions and is one reason why the coyote is now the most widespread mammal in the United States.  It can be seen occasionally from the 13-Mile Scenic Drive.

 

 

Gray Fox

The gray fox also has a varied diet, but not to the extent of the coyote.  It hunts widely at night, subsisting on rodents, ground squirrels, birds, wild fruit, insects, amphibians and small reptiles.  It is an adept climber and will often search for food or escape danger by climbing trees.

 

 

Kit Fox

Weighing only five pounds, the kit fox is the smallest dog in the United States.  It survives by being nocturnal and sleeping in the shade of a tree or in its den during the hot part of the day. Its large ears and sharp sense of smell help it to catch prey.  Usually the kit fox seeks kangaroo rats, but lizards, insects, birds and rabbits will also be eaten.  Watch for this elusive creature alongside the road as you drive through the desert at night.

 

 

 

Bobcat

The bobcat, the most abundant cat in the southwestern United States, also resides in the area.  It spends most of the day under bushes, usually in rock fractures or canyons.  The bobcat has little endurance and stalks prey rather than chasing it.  It primarily eats rodents, but will take rabbits, ground-nesting birds, and occasionally, a young deer.  Because of its nocturnal nature, it is not often seen unless disturbed from its daytime resting place.

Small Herbivores

This group includes the rodents, rabbits and hares.  As herbivores, they primarily eat plants, although some will supplement their diet with insects and dead or decaying flesh.  They rely on their diet to satisfy both their food and water needs.  Some small herbivores found in Red Rock Canyon are the antelope ground squirrel, kangaroo rat, pack rat, blacktail jack rabbit and desert cottontail.

Although most mammals in this group are nocturnal, the antelope ground squirrel is undaunted by the desert sun.  This rodent is often seen from the 13-Mile Scenic Drive during the hottest parts of the day, with its white tail held close over its back as it runs about. To cool off, it may go below ground but usually flattens its body against the soil in a shaded area and loses heat through conduction.  Although it can drop its body temperature by as much as seven degrees in this manner, it can lose 13 percent of its body moisture per day.  To make up for this water loss, it feeds on green leaves and drinks early morning dew.
 

Kangaroo Rat

The kangaroo rat, named for its habit of hopping rather than running, does not drink, use dew or eat succulent foods.  Its only source of moisture comes from metabolic water, water produced through the digestion of food.  However, digestion creates very little water, so the kangaroo rat must conserve every drop.  Its nasal passages are much cooler than its internal body temperature.  Air which passes through these nasal passages cools and water condenses on the mucous membranes, where it is absorbed.  The kidneys of the kangaroo rat are also very efficient, producing a urine four to five times as concentrated as human’s. Additionally, the kangaroo rat has adapted behavior to survive in the desert.  It spends the hot days underground where the temperature is 30 °F (17 °C) cooler and the humidity is much higher.  Seeds are stored in the burrow where they absorb additional moisture before being eaten.

Unlike rodents, rabbits and hares have two pair of upper incisors, one right behind the other. Thus, they are not classified as rodents, but as Lagamorpha, literally “animals of rabbit-like form.”  Rabbits differ from hare in that their young are born naked and blind, while young hares are born furred and sighted.  The blacktail jack rabbit, contrary to its name, is a hare.  To escape the heat it sits in “forms” during the day.  Forms are shallow depressions near the base of plants where soil and air temperatures are cooler.  Its enormous ears also provide a surface over which heat loss can occur.

 

Desert Cottontail

The desert cottontail, a true rabbit, prefers brushier areas than the jack rabbit, such as rocky canyons, floors of dry washes and river beds; mesquite and catclaw thickets are preferred. Unlike jack rabbits, it retreats into burrows to escape heat and danger.  Both cottontails and jack rabbits are very prolific.  However, their numbers are kept low by predation and disease. Watch for these two mammals throughout the 13-Mile Scenic Drive.

 

Large Herbivores

Mule deer and desert bighorn sheep can also be found within Red Rock Canyon.  Large herbivores derive some moisture from their plant food but unlike the small herbivores, also need drinking water periodically.  The mule deer prefers foothills with low scrub growth or thick growth along washes.  By late evening, it leaves its daytime hiding place to find water in seeps and springs.

 

Desert Bighorn Sheep

The desert bighorn sheep prefers steep, rocky terrain which provides escape from enemies and shelter from the weather. There are more than 13,000 acres of such habitat inRed Rock Canyon. The bighorn survives in the desert by traveling to water.  It will not live more than two miles from a permanent water source.  It may expand its range after rains fill more potholes, or tinajas, but such expansions are only temporary.  The horns of the bighorn are formed by a bony structure at the base of the skull and are made of material called keratin.  It takes about ten years for a ram horn to reach full size and they are often worn by butting and rubbing.  Watch for these magnificent mammals on rocky cliffs throughout the area.

 

Insectivores

This group includes bats and shrews and primarily consumes insects.  Bats are separated from all other mammals by possessing the power of true flight.  To escape the heat and avoid competition with birds, they are active only at night.  Seldom using their vision, they rely on echo location to find prey and avoid obstacles.  To echo locate, the bat emits a series of chirps and clicks from its throat.  These sounds reflect off nearby objects, informing the bat of moving insects or stationary obstacles.

The odd facial structures of many species aid in the reception of the reflected sound.  Although the majority of bats eat insects, a few feed on the nectar of flowers.  These bats have long tongues with hair or bristles on the tip to allow them to reach in to gather nectar.  Thus, bats serve not only to control disease-carrying insects, but act as pollinators as well.

Shrews are very small mammals which spend most of their lives underground.  They have reduced eyes and rely on their sense of smell and touch to locate insects.  A voracious eater, the shrew is also a ferocious hunter, for to be without food for more than six or seven hours means certain death.  Being an underground dweller, they are rarely seen.

Many more mammals live in Red Rock Canyon.  Each has it own interesting adaptations for desert survival.  Take the time to observe and learn about the mammals and other life forms in the area.  Only through close observation can the desert and its associated plant and animal life be truly appreciated.

 

 

 

Wild Horses and Burros of Red Rock Canyon

Bureau of Land Management

BLM protects and manages wild horses and burros under the authority of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 to ensure that healthy herds thrive on healthy rangelands.

The 220,000-acre Red Rock Herd Management Area is located in southern Nevada, approximately 20 miles west of Las Vegas. The Herd Management Area contains both wild horses and burros that represent living symbols of the Western spirit.

It’s often easier for visitors to see the burros in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area because they often congregate near Bonnie Springs, Spring Mountain Ranch and the town of Blue Diamond along State Route 159.

Burros are well adapted to the Mojave Desert and survive high temperatures and long periods of time without green forage by using shade under rocky cliffs and shrubs and by being most active in the early morning and late afternoon. They survive the apparent lack of water by seeking out the natural springs and hidden waterholes found throughout Red Rock Canyon. They eat grasses and shrubs. Burros are generally less than half the size of a horse. Males are called jacks and females are called jennies.

Each year people are injured by burros as they try to feed or pet these animals. Feeding burros also causes them to lose their natural fear of roads and cars. Every year both burros and humans die from burro and automobile collisions due to this adaptation.

Wild horses may be seen at the extreme northern end of Red Rock neat Cold Creek.  They also may be spotted at the extreme southern end of Red Rock on the dirt road leading from State Route 160 to Goodsprings.

To observe these beautiful animals safely:

  • Pick a safe place to stop and pull completely off the roadway.
  • Observe the burros from a distance. The safest place is from your car.
  • Do not stand close to them, or get on their backs.
  • Refrain from the temptation to feed or water these hardy desert creatures. If you have food in an open container, seal it if a burro approaches you.
  • Drive carefully and be cautious when you see animals on or near the road. Burros may step out in front of your car unexpectedly.

For more information about BLM’s wild horse and burro program, please click here.

Night Skies of Red Rock Canyon

Bureau of Land Management

 

Located only miles from Las Vegas, yet set among dark mountains and starry skies, Red Rock Canyon is an excellent place to view the night sky and related astronomical objects.

To find night-time guided trail hikes with our partner, the Southern Nevada Conservancy, click here. 

 

Night Skies

The darkest spots in the Conservation Area are located off of State Route 160 south of the Visitor Center.  Trailheads at Cottonwood Valley and Late Night are located in dark, flat, expansive areas of Red Rock Canyon, and thus provide wide open views of the night sky.  Before going, be sure to consult a sky chart, or your favorite website to determine what stars and planets are visible.

 

Meteor Showers

Meteor shower photoThese dark areas also make for excellent meteor shower viewing.  A wide variety of objects besides planets orbit the sun.  These objects, usually comets or asteroids, may have orbits of thousands of years.  When they finally approach the sun, they heat up and partially disintegrate, leaving a trail of dust and debris.  As the earth also orbits the sun, it occasionally passes through these left behind debris trails.  As we do, the space debris burns up as it enters the Earth’s atmosphere, causing a meteor shower.

Although there are numerous meteor showers taking place yearlong, major events are more easily visible.  Major yearly events include the  Quadrantids on the night of January 3rd-4th, the Lyrids on the night of April 21st-22nd, the Perseids on the night of August 12th-13th, the Orionids on the night of October 21st-22nd, the Leonids on the night of November 17th-18th, and the Geminids on the night of December 13th-14th.

The best time see meteor showers are early in the morning, a few hours before sunrise.  In the early morning the earth is turning towards the sun, and thus toward a warmer section of space.  This warm area contains more meteors than in the evening when we are turning towards cold space.

 

Sunrises and Sunsets

Sunrises and Sunsets in the desert are interesting; visitors can see much farther in the dry desert air, towering mountains present complex light and shadows, but the lack of clouds can limit sky color.  To see the best sunsets and sunrises, look for partly cloudy days and a location where you can remain far away from the appropriate horizon.

 

The Red Rock Overlook and the Highpoint Overlook are the best places to view sunrises and sunsets, as both points offer wide views to the east and west.  The Red Spring Boardwalk also offers excellent views to the east. These areas are open at 6:00 a.m., please check closing times as they change during the year.

 

Best Places to view the Full Moon

Hiking under a desert full moon is a special experience.  Generally, flat, open areas are best to view the moon.  The First Creek and Oak Creek areas off of State Route (SR) 159 are excellent trails.  Because mountains separate Red Rock Canyon from the Las Vegas Valley to the east, it is difficult to find a spot to see the moon initially rise over the eastern horizon.

However, there are spots near SR 159 and the Moenkopi road near the Red Rock Campground that patient visitors can observe the moonrise.  Remember, the full moon always rises at sunset, making for a once a month opportunity to photograph both the full moon and the colors of sunset.

 

Guided Public Star Parties and Hikes

Star Party Red Rock Canyon works in partnership with the Las Vegas Astronomical Society to bring “Astronomy in the Park” to the public. Astronomy in the park occurs various times of year with a multi-media presentation on specific subjects such as “Jupiter”, “Meter Showers”, “The Rings of Saturn” etc. After these presentations the Las Vegas Astronomical Society provide various types of telescopes to view night objects. The members are amateur astronomers much like ourselves and are very happy to answer any questions from equipment to celestial objects.

Red Rock Canyon also offers “Astronomy Hikes” by a naturalist with the Red Rock Canyon Interpretive Association; the hikes are on an easy trail with little elevation gain. These hikes offer an opportunity to discover astronomy in a small group setting.

For dates, please check the websites at  www.redrockcanyonlv.org or  www.lvastronomy.com.

Photo: Las Vegas Astronomy Society

Plants of Red Rock Canyon

Bureau of Land Management

Red Rock Canyon has more than 600 different species of plants. Of those, 15 can only be found in Red Rock Canyon; they are found nowhere else in the world. 

A few of our more common wildflowers and plants are listed below and can be found around the visitor center. Please keep in mind that you should take only photos of plants in Red Rock Canyon, leave the flowers and plants for others to enjoy. 

Banana Yucca (Yucca baccata) 

  • Native Americans used all parts of the plant for food, drink and everyday items. 
  • The baked fruit of this plant tastes somewhat like sweet potato. 
  • The root was pounded and soaked in water and used as shampoo.  Navajos used the seeds to dye yarn. 
  • The Pronuba (Yucca) Moth is the only pollinator of the Yucca.   

 

Beavertail Cactus (Opuntia basilaris)

  • Grows six to 12 inches high and up to six feet wide. 
  • The cactus pads resemble a beaver’s tail. 
  • Fruits and pads of the cactus were eaten by Native Americans. 
  • The pads are also cooked and eaten as a vegetable.  
  • Sold in stores under the name “Nopalito”.   

 

 

Creosote Bush (Larrea tridentata) 

  • Can grow up to 12 feet tall. 
  • The plant goes dormant in summer and the leaves turn brown. 
  • Yellow pedals bloom from February to August. 
  • The leaves are coated with a waxy resin to prevent water loss. 
  • Has a unique odor after a desert rain.   

 

 

Desert Marigold (Baileya multiradiata) 

  • This plant ranges in elevation from 100 to 6,500 feet. 
  • It is a drought tolerant plant. 
  • They begin to flower in March and can continue to bloom until November. 
  • Often seen growing along roadsides. 
  • This plant is poisonous to goats and sheep. 

 

 

Globemallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua) 

  • Main food staple for the Desert Tortoise. 
  • Leaf hairs are an eye irritant to some people. 
  • Used by Native Americans for medicinal purposes. 
  • Attracts hummingbirds and butterflies.  
  • Is grazed upon by bighorn sheep.    

 

 

 

Joshua Tree (Yucca brevifolia) 

  • Named by Mormon settlers for the biblical Joshua reaching his hands up to the sky to pray. 
  • May start blooming in mid-March. 
  • The tree was used for fuel in steam engines. 
  • Has been known to live up to 1,000 years. 
  • At maturity can reach a height of 30 feet.   

 

 

Mojave Yucca (Yucca schidigera) 

  • Known as Spanish Dagger. 
  • Grows to a height of 16 feet. 
  • Plant depends on the Pronuba (Yucca) Moth for pollination. 
  • Fibers of the leaves were used by Native Americans for rope and sandals. 
  • Roots were used to make soap. 

  

 

 

Sacred Datura (Datura wrightii) 

  • Also called Jimson weed. 
  • It is a member of the Nightshade family (Solanaceae). 
  • All parts of this plant are toxic. 
  • The large white flower of the plant opens up in the evening. 
  • This allows it to attract the night-flying sphinx moth. 

 

Yerba Mansa (Anemopsis californica) 

  • Native to southwestern North America. 
  • A perennial flowering plant. 
  • Yerba Mansa means “calming herb” in Spanish. 
  • Used by herbalists as a poultice to reduce inflammation. 
  • Also used as a diuretic to assist with joint problems 

 

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area supports a wide variety of plant species due to soil types and depth, elevation, exposure, temperature, precipitation, and existing and past use. 

Located in the Mojave Desert, Red Rock Canyon supports nine major vegetation types: 

Pinyon-Juniper
This vegetation type lies between 5,000 and 7,000 feet and receives between 10 to 18 inches of precipitation a year. It forms a belt between the desert below and the true forest above. The lower edge of the belt is occupied by juniper; but at higher elevations pinyon pine and juniper intermix. At the upper edge of the belt, pinyon pine becomes prevalent. Curl-leaf mountain mahogany, big sagebrush and blackbrush are also found in this vegetation type in varying amounts. Three awn, Nevada bluegrass and cheatgrass make up the majority of the grass species present. 

Joshua Tree
This vegetation type is found between 3,600 and 4,200 feet and receives between 8 and 10 inches of precipitation annually. Joshua tree is the dominant species in this type and makes up three to 10 percent of the total species composition. Blackbrush, creosote bush, Mormon Tea and burrobrush also make up portions of this type. Grasses are usually sparse and species are mostly annuals. 

Rabbitbrush
This vegetation type can range between 3,400 and 9,000 feet elevation, but in this area it is found between 3,400 and 4,200 feet. Annual precipitation usually is low, ranging from six to eight inches. Rabbitbrush is generally found on eroded or disturbed soils along roadsides and in wash bottoms. It characterizes a soil with a relatively low alkali content. 

Oak Brush
This vegetation type generally occurs from 4,000 to 6,000 feet in Red Rock Canyon.  Precipitation is usually between eight and 10 inches. Sagebrush, manzanita, snowberry and rabbitbrush are some of the scrub species that also occur in this type in varying amounts.  Nevada bluegrass, Indian rice grass and big galleta, as well as several annual grasses and forbs also occur in this type.  

Blackbrush
This vegetation type is usually found from 4,000 to 6,000 feet elevation. This type is usually found in association with creosote, hopsage, sagebrush and wolfberry. Precipitation is fairly low - five to eight inches per year. 

Mantanita
This vegetation type is found in the area surrounding the escarpment in the rocky canyons and on the walls. Vegetation is found only on areas where soil has accumulated. The most limiting factor in this area is availability of soil. Precipitation usually ranges from eight to 10 inches annually. Other species in this vegetation type present in varying amounts are turbinella oak, cliffrose, desert barberry, desert ceanothus, snowberry, apache plume, juniper and pinyon pine. Various annual grasses and forbs also occur. 

Desert Shrub
This vegetation type is found generally to the east of the sandstone escarpment. Precipitation ranges from five to eight inches annually. Species found in this community consist of Spanish bayonet, blackbrush, Mormon tea, Cheesebush, Spiny Menodora, Desert Almond, Sagebrush, Bursage, cholla cactus, dalea, turpentine bush and catclaw. Grasses commonly found include needle grass, sand dropseed and big galleta grass. The wide variety of small flowering plants include buckwheats, marigolds, mallows and desert poppy. Several species of grasses also occur in moist years. 

Barren
This vegetation type is found on the eastern edge of the area and is mostly bare rock.  Vegetative cover is found only in areas where soils accumulate and where water periodically stands, allowing seed germination. The main species are pinyon pine, juniper, manzanita, sagebrush, snakeweed and creosote. Sparse perennial grasses occur along with some annual grasses and forbs. 

Unique Vegetation
This type is limited mainly to the deep, cool, well-watered canyons of the escarpment. These canyons, especially Pine Creek, Oak Creek and First Creek, provide a microclimate which supports small communities of ponderosa pine and several other species not commonly found at this low elevation. Some of these other species are willow, serviceberry, snowberry, manzanita, sagebrush, black cottonwood and Gambel’s oak. Nevada bluegrass, Indian ricegrass, blue grama and big galleta make up some of the grass species found there. 

The average age of ponderosa pines in these areas is 180 years. Reproduction is marginal. The trees are mostly concentrated in and along the creek bottoms. They may represent a relic population that was once part of a large pine forest, with these trees surviving in small pockets long after the rest of the forest disappeared. 

In the past 40 years, many unique plants in the area have been subjected to heavy collection pressure. The sword fern, probably the most collected plant, has been reduced from large beds and glades to only occasional plants by trampling and collection. 

Other unique plants in the area include Agave (Agave utahensis nevadensis), a conspicuous part of the cliff community in the Spring Mountains and Charleston mountain pricklypear cactus (Opuntia charlastonensis) which occurs only in the higher elevation, wooded areas of the Spring Mountains. 

Riparian vegetation is associated with springs, creeks and dry washes. Plants more typical of the riparian type include mesquite, catclaw acacia, salt cedar and desert willow. In moister areas or along stream banks, cattails, rushes, willows and other semi-aquatic plants can be found.