Gold Butte, administered by the BLM and the U.S. National Park Service, is located about 2 hours east of Las Vegas between
the Overton Arm of Lake Mead and the Grand Wash (which is located just over the border into Arizona). Gold Butte is wild and remote with high peaks,
low valleys, grand views, lots of history, mixed up geology, fossil dinosaur tracks, and huge solitude.
Activities in Gold Butte include hiking, horseback riding, ATVs on legal roads, camping, sightseeing, and fishing
along Lake Mead and the Colorado River. The geology of this sandstone-limestone-granitic-metamorphic faulted-twisted-contorted-eroded land,
while nearly impossible to comprehend in total, is stunningly stark and beautiful. Three major ecosystems (Mojave Desert, Great Basin Desert,
and the Colorado Plateau) meet here, providing for a varied and diverse flora and fauna.
Dinosaur track in Gold Butte sandstone
Much of Gold Butte is relatively low desert (the elevation of the lake surface is about 1,200 feet), and temperatures often
are about 10 degrees higher at the lake than they are in Las Vegas. In these areas, dry-land activities generally are restricted to the
cooler months (e.g., October through May). There are, however, higher mountains (to 8,075 ft) that provide a respite from the heat.
Gold Butte includes two designated wilderness areas: the Lime Canyon Wilderness Area (23,233 acres) and the Jumbo Springs Wilderness Area (4,631 acres) that were designated in 2002 under the
Clark County Conservation of Public Land and Natural Resources Act of 2002 (Public Law 107-282). Several other parts of Gold Butte were considered for inclusion in wilderness areas, but opposition by Republican house members in congress has blocked conservation efforts. Over the years, even the local community has come to understand the value of wilderness in preserving their own way of life, and a local, grassroots
organization (The Friends of Gold Butte) was established to work towards protecting the entire area from indiscriminate and damaging use
by the establishment of a National Conservation Area (like Red Rock Canyon NCA).
GETTING TO GOLD BUTTE
Link to map.
Gold Butte is located at the northeast end of Lake Mead and includes a large block of land outside the Lake Mead National
Recreation Area. This wild and remote country offers outstanding wilderness experiences, but make no mistake, this is wild and remote
country where you are on your own. Be prepared to take care of yourself out there.
To get to Gold Butte from Las Vegas, drive east on Interstate-15 for about 70 miles to Highway 170
(Exit 112 towards Bunkerville) (Table 1, Site 010), which is about 5 miles before the town of Mesquite. Turn right onto Highway 170 and drive south for
about 3 miles to the Virgin River Bridge.
Cross the bridge and immediately take a hard right turn onto the paved Gold Butte Road (Site 020). Watch for a sign to Meadowland Farm. The slope
of the road makes the turn look like a pullout rather than an intersection. Follow the paved Gold Butte Road southwest along the
river until it abruptly turns southeast and leaves the river (Site 030) just past the Meadowland Farm. Stay on the rough paved road for another
14 miles and follow it until the pavement ends (Site 059) just before Whitney Pocket (WP) (Site 060). At Whitney Pocket, the dirt road forks; continue straight
on the graded-dirt unpaved Gold Butte Road or turn left onto Arizona Road. It takes about 2-1/2 hours to get to this point from Las Vegas, counting time to top-off the gas tank at Glendale.
From Whitney Pocket, continue south on the unpaved Gold Butte Road for 7.0 miles to the Devils Throat turnoff (Site 070). Take the time to go
see Devils Throat; it's only 0.25 miles out.
Continuing south on the unpaved Gold Butte Road, stay to the right (west) at St. Thomas Gap Road (8.7 miles south of WP) (Site 080) and Devil's Cove Road (16.2 miles south of WP) (Site 090), and at 19.7 miles south of WP, you will arrive at the Gold Butte Townsite and the intersection of
Gold Butte Road and Red Bluff Spring Backcountry Byway Road (Site 100) (on the left) and Gold Butte Townsite (on the right). The 20 miles of dirt road take most of another hour.
Gold Butte is always open.
There are no concessions (e.g., no food, no marinas, no boat tours, no gasoline, no designated campgrounds, no nothing) in Gold Butte.
Car camping out in Gold Butte is unregulated. There is, however, a popular camping area at Whitney Pockets. When camping,
be sure to choose an existing or low-impact site and practice your Leave-No-Trace skills.
Backpacking is unregulated, so backcountry permits are not required. When backpacking, be sure to choose
a low-impact campsite and practice your Leave-No-Trace skills.
Other than the standard cautions about hiking in the desert, ...this area generally is safe,
but there are many old mines and this is wild and remote county, so even under the best of circumstances, help would be long in coming. Given that, exercise
extra caution when hiking and give yourself a little wider margin of safety. Don't push it.
In case of emergency, cell phones work in some places, but don't count on them. Let someone know where you are going and when you expect
to be back. Satellite phones or personal locator beacons are a good idea.
RULES AND REGULATIONS
This is BLM land, so there are few regulations. However, vehicles are restricted to designated road and trails; Pack it in, pack it out;
and don't mess with the rock art or other historical artifacts in the area.
For details on these issues and other information, visit the Lake Mead website.
Maps are available online.
Table 1. Highway Coordinates based on GPS Data (NAD27; UTM Zone 11S). Download Highway GPS Waypoints (*.gpx) file.
||Hwy I-15 at Hwy 170 (Exit 112)
||Hwy 170 at (Meadowland Farm) Gold Butte Rd
||Gold Butte Rd leaves the Virgin River
||Gold Butte Rd at End of Pavement
||Gold Butte Rd at Whitney Pockets
||Gold Butte Rd at Devils Throat
||Gold Butte Rd at St. Thomas Gap Rd
||Gold Butte Rd at Hell's Kitchen Rd
||Gold Butte Rd at Red Bluff Spring Backcountry Byway (Gold Butte town site)