By Tom Pfaendler
One of the roads less traveled at Red Rock is the La Madre Springs trail. To get there, park your car at the Willow Springs picnic area near the old Rocky Gap road. Lace up your boots nice-n-tight and grab lots of water.
This would be a good time to do some slow stretches to loosen up those leg muscles, too. If you have an off-road vehicle it is possible to drive another half-mile or so up to the trailhead. It’s slow going over some pretty rocky terrain, but this is the only place in Red Rock that you’re allowed to use that SUV, so go ahead. Whether you drive or walk up Rocky Gap, be sure to stop and read about the huge Agave Roasting Pit located on the south side of the road.
From the trailhead you’ll hike up a long 10% grade as you wind around the backside of White Rock Mountain. Some relief comes about halfway up to the springs when the trail levels out and you find yourself in a park-like setting with a nice, soft, tree-lined path.
At this junction of the White Rock Loop & La Madre Springs trails there are two flat-topped “sittin” rocks. Pull up a boulder and rest here for a while. This is actually the prettiest point on the hike and some of the best scenery that you’ll find anywhere at Red Rock, and you’ll likely have it all to yourself! From here you are totally surrounded by mountains.
The limestone La Madre range (“The Mother” in Spanish) is right behind you; North Peak and Bridge Mountain are to the West and directly in front is the big dog himself, White Rock: a magnificent three-headed mountain with its impressive alluvial fan spread out at your feet. Believe me, driving by on the scenic loop you just have no clue that White Rock Mountain is this majestic.
Continuing up the trail toward the La Madre Spring you’ll come across two old concrete pads. These are the remnants of the Las Vegas Archery Club that closed in 1975 when the BLM acquired this land for an expansion of Red Rock Canyon NCA. From here it’s a short walk up the road to the springs. A little dam was built here in 1968 creating a nice pond and one of the biggest riparian areas at Red Rock. There are plants and birds and bugs of every description here, and of course this is a popular year-round watering hole for the bighorn sheep, mule deer and other mountain critters.
The pond marks the official end of the trail. The path, however, continues through the wetland and up the ravine into the La Madre Mountains. If you choose to explore beyond this point, be sure to wear long pants for protection from the overgrown plants, bugs and assorted no-see-ums. Your efforts will be rewarded with several small waterfalls and pools as you follow the spring. There’s even an old rock miner’s shelter up here that makes a good spot for a backpack lunch.
Overall, this old jeep trail is a good aerobic workout with a lot of interesting cultural resources to see along the way. The “backside” view of White Rock Mountain is awesome and earns the La Madre Springs trail six out of ten boots!
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