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Hidden Forest Cabin and Wiregrass Spring
Hiking Around Las Vegas, Desert National Wildlife Range
Hidden Forest Cabin

Thanks to Kenny Amundsen and others, the old cabin has been restored!
See photos of the roof and exterior reconstruction and the floor and interior reconstruction.
Additional photos of the Cabin Exterior, Cabin Interior, Cabin Grounds, Wiregrass Spring

Hidden Forest Cabin
Piped water at cabin [more photos]

Overview

Note: I have received several reports recently stating that the pipe at Hidden Forest Cabin is barely dripping water and can not be relied upon for drinking water. Some days the pipe is running slowly, but on others the water is barely dripping.

DNWR Rangers report (August 22, 2014) that after the summer rains, the water flow is back to about normal (1 gallon in about 5 minutes). People should still be aware there's a possibility there might not be water.

Mathew reports (July 1, 2014): We were able to get about 1 gallon per 30 minutes.

Hikers: Please send updates about flow rates.

Hidden Forest
Trailhead parking (view NE towards trail)

This moderately strenuous hike follows an old road up a canyon into the mountains to a hidden ponderosa pine forest. The Hidden Forest starts at the first ponderosa pines (3.7 miles out), and continues to the crest of the mountains. The road ends at an old game warden cabin (5.6 miles out). This is a good place to camp, sit beneath the pines, enjoy to coolness, and listen to the wind and the birds. Water is available at the cabin, so this is a good backpacking destination, but it is a popular place and can can be crowded on weekends.

For general information on camping, regulations, other issues, and the natural history of the Wildlife Refuge, see the Desert National Wildlife Range -- Area Overview page.

Link to map or elevation profile.

Hidden Forest
Trailhead sign

Watch Out

Other than the standard warnings about hiking in the desert... this is a safe hike. Hiking in loose gravel is tiring, more tiring than might be expected, so don't overestimate the speed at which you will be able to hike up the canyon. Depending on recent weather conditions, a 2WD-HC vehicle should make it to the trailhead, but call the refuge manager if you have questions.

Large numbers of birds use the water at the cabin, so while camping, stay far enough away from the water to let the birds drink.

Hidden Forest
Gate blocking old road at trailhead (view N)

While hiking, please respect the land and the other people out there, and try to Leave No Trace of your passage. Also, this hike is long, so be sure to bring the 10 Essentials.

This is a wildlife refuge, so pay extra attention to respecting the land. Please, don't bother the bighorn sheep. They have a hard enough time making a living in these desert lands; they don't need extra stress from people camping or sitting around the spring.

Historically, the cabin area has a bit trashed, so be sure to pack out everything you packed in, plus carry some extra trash out. Be sure to dispose of human waste properly. There is a toilet due south of the cabin behind a big ponderosa pine.

Hidden Forest
Deadman Canyon Gate, actual distance is 5.7 miles

Getting to the Trailhead

This hike is located on the Desert National Wildlife Range, about 2 hours north of town. From town, drive out to Corn Creek Field Station and continue east 50 yards to a T-intersection. Turn left onto Alamo Road and drive north for 14.5 miles to Hidden Forest Road. Turn right onto Hidden Forest Road and drive east for 3.8 miles to a parking area at the end of the road. There are no turns, and the road ends against the first set of hills. Under normal conditions, these are good, well-graded roads. Park here; this is the trailhead.

Hidden Forest
Looking back down the first 1.5 miles of trail. The trailhead is around the corner to the left (view W)

The Hike

The trailhead is on a narrow bench between a steep rocky hillside and a deep, broad wash. The vegetation at the trailhead is typical of the dry desert region along the access road, which as stunted creosote bush, white bursage, some small Joshua trees, and a few other scattered shrubs. Not only is this a dry desert area, but it is in the rain shadow of the Spring Mountains, so it gets even less rain than other areas in southern Nevada. Some of the most stunted plants in southern Nevada grow along the western flank of the Sheep Range.

hidden forest
Deadman Canyon, about 2 miles out (view E)

From the trailhead (Table 1, Waypoint 01), the old road continues past a gate and drops steeply into Deadman Wash. A sign at the trailhead says that Wiregrass Spring is 4 miles out, but the cabin is 5.7 miles out, and the spring is about 0.13 miles past the cabin.

Shortly, the wash narrows abruptly, and the old road passes another gate at the narrowest point. In the wash, where underground water from the mountains is channeled into a narrow area, the vegetation is relatively lush compared to the trailhead, and there are lots of large, closely spaced shrubs including desert almond, apache plume, saltbush, Mormon tea, rabbitbrush, lots of little shrubs, and some spring flowers, but there is little shade. Through here, watch for Rock Wrens and Black-throated Sparrows, species typical of the lower-elevation desert mountains.

hidden forest trail
In July 2008, a flashflood in a side canyon left a 30-ft-deep pile of debris across the trail

Above the second gate, the wash opens up to several hundred yards wide, and the old road runs essentially straight up the canyon. Along this part, the grade seems fairly steep and the old road is covered with loose gravel, making the hike seem hot (little shade), long, and steep. About 1.3 miles out, the trail enters Deadman Canyon (Wpt. 02) and the nature of the environment changes to a pinyon-juniper forest. At this point, the hike seems to get easier and more pleasant (the trail is just as steep, but it seems easier).

In the canyon, the trail switches between following the old road and following the wash. Sometimes it is hard to tell which is the best route, but the canyon is narrow and there is nowhere to get lost, so it doesn't really matter.

hidden forest In this part of the canyon, the single-leaf pinyon pines and Utah juniper offer lots of shade and there are lots of robust desert almond, apache plume, cliffrose, sagebrush, and other shrubs. At about 2.2 miles out, a large flashflood in a side canyon covered the bottom of the canyon with rocks and debris in July, 2008. At 3.0 miles out, there is a nice, but dry, camping area (Wpt. 03) where you can drop your pack and rest. Watch for Spotted Towhee, Juniper Titmice, and a variety of flycatchers, species typical of these middle-elevation mountains.

At 3.7 miles out, hikers round a corner and see the first ponderosa pines (Wpt. 04). Shortly the pinyon pines and junipers fade away, and the entire forest is composed of ponderosa pine with a few white fir scattered about. This is where it starts really feeling like a pine forest; the trail seems even easier, and the air feels cooler.

hidden forest
The first ponderosa pines (view E)

For the remaining two miles, the trail wanders up the canyon, which alternates from narrow to wide and back again. Rocky, tree-covered hillsides rise high above the canyon, and in a few place, tall limestone cliffs cap the canyon rim. The understory thins out higher up, giving the typical open, park-like feeling of mature ponderosa forests. In this forest, listen for Hermit Thrush, Western Tanager, and Ruby-crowned Kinglet songs, and the chatter of chipmunks and rock squirrels. Except for the rock squirrel, all of these are species of the higher-elevation desert mountains.

After wandering through the piney woods for a few miles, the canyon and the old road bend to the northeast (left), pass an old corral on the west (left) side of the canyon, and arrive at the old game warden cabin (Wpt. 05).

hidden forest
Cabin exterior (view NE) [more photos]

Getting to the cabin is easy because the old road runs right up to it, but if you want to hike to Hayford or Sheep peaks, it is a bit confusing at first. The cabin is located in the mouth of a side canyon that comes in from the north; it is not in Deadman Canyon, proper. The cabin is on the east (right) side of the side canyon, right at the confluence with Deadman Canyon, which continues on to the east (farther right). Standing on the porch of the cabin and look out, Deadman Canyon is to to left (south) and an unnamed canyon runs up to the right (north). This distinction is only important for hiking farther up the canyon.

hidden forest
Cabin interior (view N) [more photos]

Wiregrass Spring is about 0.13 miles beyond the cabin. From the porch of the cabin, look north and up the side canyon (standing on the porch, facing out, look right) and you will see a use-trail running across an open area and steeply up a hill into the trees. Follow the trail for 5-8 minutes to the spring, which is a hole in the ground covered by boards. In some years, a trickle of water runs out and across a flat area with some wiregrass (genus Juncus). The water runs over an edge below the spring, providing a place where birds come in to drink and bathe. There is also a sheep drinker below the spring where larger animals can get water; be sure to keep the springbox covered to keep large animals out.

hidden forest
Trail to Wiregrass Spring (view N from cabin)

The old cabin area is a nice place to camp, sit in the shade, rest, relax, listen to the birds, and contemplate life during a simpler time when people lived in the log cabin and roamed these mountains guarding against poachers. While you are here, however, take a few minutes to clean up the area. The cabin and its contents are in pretty good shape, but over-use sometimes produces a lot of trash.

A latrine is located across Deadman Wash, to the south, from the cabin. It is behind a big tree, so walk over and look around for it. It is a wooden box with a seat and a hole; there are no walls. Don't poop near the cabin!

To return to the trailhead, follow the canyon back down, as there are no other easy routes available.

Hidden Forest Cabin Hidden Forest Cabin
Hidden Forest Cabin Hidden Forest Cabin
First view of the cabin upon arrival
Hidden Forest Cabin
Toilet behind tree south of the cabin
Hidden Forest Cabin
Toilet
Hidden Forest Cabin
Fire ring and table in front of cabin (view N) [more photos]
Hidden Forest Cabin
Fire ring and table in front of cabin (view S) [more photos]
Wiregrass Spring
Wiregrass Spring in 2003 (view NW) [more photos]
Wiregrass Spring
Wiregrass Spring -- dry (March 2014)
Trail to Wiregrass Spring (view north from the cabin).
Cabin (view S from trail to Wiregrass Spring)
Hidden Forest Cabin
Cabin (view S when returning from Wiregrass Spring)

Table 1. Hiking Coordinates Based on GPS Data (NAD27, UTM Zone 11S). Download Hiking GPS Waypoints (*.gpx) file.

Wpt. Location Easting Northing Elevation (ft) Point-to-Point Distance (mi) Cumulative Distance (mi) Verified
01 Hidden Forest trailhead 653158 4054877 5,833 0.00 0.00 GPS
02 Trail enters Deadman Canyon 654867 4054106 6,250 1.27 1.27 GPS
03 Camping area 657179 4054433 6,926 1.76 3.03 GPS
04 First ponderosa pines 657820 4054399 7,253 0.64 3.67 GPS
05 Hidden Forest cabin 660324 4055281 7,943 1.89 5.56 GPS
06 Wiregrass Spring 660246 4055433 7,980 0.13 5.69 GPS
01 Hidden Forest trailhead 653158 4054877 5,833 5.69 11.37 GPS

Note: All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
Thanks for coming to visit!
© 2014 Jim Boone; Last updated 140825

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