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Falling Man Rock Art Site
Hiking Around Las Vegas, Gold Butte
Falling Man Rock Art Site
Falling Man Rock Art Site
Trailhead Parking (view SW)

Overview

The Falling Man Rock Art Site is a fascinating petroglyph gallery that has seen many visitors over the years. From the trailhead, people now walk a few minutes where drivers once unknowingly drove over and damaged archeological features such as agave roasting pits and a prehistoric campsite.

Walking into the Falling Man panel, people might not notice rock art on crags and boulders along the trail. The trail is only about 0.3 miles, but the last bit of the route to the Falling Man petroglyph requires an easy scramble among the rocky sandstone crags. Off the beaten path, the farther you go and the more you look, the more rock art you find.

There are 10 spots to see here. Be sure to click the links to see more photos of each. For the return, see Returning to the Trailhead.

Link to area map or hiking map.

Falling Man
Hiker departing the trailhead during summer (view S)

Watch Out

Other than the standard warnings about hiking in the desert, ... this is a fairly safe area (despite the iconic petroglyph), but be careful scrambling around in the rocks. There are places where a fall, while unlikely, would be tragic.

This is a wild and remote area without services of any kind (no restrooms, no water, no gas, no food). Bring what you need to survive. Be prepared and be self-reliant. Someone will find you eventually if you stay on a main road, but be prepared to survive alone for a day or two. Cell phones only work along parts of the paved road.

While hiking, please respect the land and the other people out there, and try to Leave No Trace of your passage. Also, even though this hike is short, the area is remote, so be sure to bring what you need of the 10 Essentials. There is no cell coverage.

Falling Man Rock Art Site
Hiker departing the trailhead during winter (view S)

While here, remember that petroglyphs and other rock art are a national treasure that is easily damaged. Don't touch the rock art because oils on our hands degrade the petroglyphs. Please take care of the area and leave it as you found it for generations to come.

If there is water in the tinaja, please leave it for the critters. Splashing in the tinaja inadvertently puts hand-oils and perhaps sunscreen in the water -- what little water the Red-spotted Toads and other creatures have.

Falling Man Rock Art Site
Trail crosses bedrock (view S)

Getting to the Trailhead

The Falling Man Rock Art Site is located out in Gold Butte at the northeast end of Lake Mead, about 2 hours northeast of Las Vegas in a wild and remote, but scenic area.

From town, drive out to Gold Butte. From Whitney Pocket, turn around and drive back north for 1.4 miles to Black Butte Road, a dirt road to the west, which is just past a large sandstone crag with campsites around the base. Turn left and drive west on Black Butte Road.

A number of side roads branch off Black Butte Road, but most are obviously not the main road. However, at 1.2 miles from the pavement, the road forks equally; stay left. At 1.9 miles from the pavement, drivers arrive at the parking area, delineated by a wooden corral. Park here; this is the trailhead.

Falling Man Rock Art Site
Rabbit Ears (view W)

The Hike

From the trailhead (Table 1, Waypoint 01), a well defined trail runs southwest through a gap in the fence. The trail passes the first large pile of red and white sandstone rock and heads towards the second. Just after walking across slickrock, look up and right to see the Rabbit Ears (Wpt. 02) panels near the top of a rocky crag.

The trail, an old road, passes an open area, then passes a low, rounded crag. Just past the crag, a spur trail runs right about 70 yards to Calvin's Rock (Wpt. 03). Named for Calvin Meyers, an environmental activist and former Chairman of the Moapa Band of Paiutes, who had a special connection to this boulder. Walk over to Calvin's Rock to see the artwork, and be sure to examine the entire east half of the boulder. When departing, notice rock art on adjacent rock walls.

Back on the old road, the trail continues south towards more rocky crags. Near the end of the old road, the road forks in what becomes apparent as the old turn-around loop and parking area.

Falling Man
Rabbit Ears (view W; zoom)

Notice the odd number of limestone cobbles in this sandstone area and dark-colored dirt here. Keen observers will recognize this as an old Agave Roasting Pit (Wpt. 04). Looking carefully on the ground, visitors can find colorful stone flakes chipped when native people were making stone tools such as arrowhead and scrapers. Feel free to pick up and examine the stone flakes (and the occasional pot shard), but be sure to leave them for history and for the next person to experience the excitement of finding them. Standing on this site, a very large native American campsite, it is apparent that for years visitors drove onto the site and damaged it almost beyond recognition, and understanding this fact makes it clear as to why land managers blocked off the old road back at the trailhead -- we need to do what we can to preserve what remains of this archaeological site.

Continuing south and more closely approaching the sandstone crags, a use-trail departs the old road to the right and heads up towards a tunnel through the cliff.

Falling ManTrail crosses bedrock (view S)

When approaching, the tunnel can be seen from below. Hiking towards the tunnel, notice the smooth rock face on the left pock-marked with bullet holes. Notice too the small bighorn petroglyph on the rock face. It is hard to understand why someone needed to shoot the rock, but it is nice that they missed the bighorn.

The sandy trail runs up and ends at the edge of the sandstone crag, and from there the route scampers up the cliffs into the Tunnel (Wpt. 05). While it is fun to scramble through the tunnel, be sure to notice the rock art around the entrance, inside, and at the exit from the Tunnel. At the entrance, the "corn plant" glyph is one of the few such corn glyphs in Gold Butte and might represent the introduction of this crop plant into the area.

Falling Man Rock Art Site
Trail continues beyond bedrock (view S)

After crawling through the Tunnel, the route clambers down a few feet onto a broad ledge on the other side of the crag. The ledge runs south, then bends west. At the corner, notice a large stick-nest on a ledge above. This is a Common Raven nest, and notice that the nest is inaccessible, on the shaded side of the crag, and beneath an overhang that protects the nest from wind, rain, and sun -- not a bad place to raise your kids!

Passing beneath the nest and heading out towards the west corner, keep an eye out for the Falling Man petroglyph (Wpt. 06), just above eye level on the wall. While there, consider what may have led some ancient person to create this particular piece of art. Was it a memorial to a friend or family member who suffered a tragic accident, or perhaps just a warning about being careful on the ledges -- don't back up too far when taking photos of the petroglyph!

Falling Man Rock Art Site

Continuing along the Falling Man ledge, the route turns the corner left to head south. Look for a pictograph in the alcove along this wall, then hop up and exit left into the open Amphitheater site (Wpt. 07). In addition to grand views west, the walls of the Amphitheater are adorned with scattered rock art, and there is a curious dimple carved in the stone at the center of the amphitheater.

Walking east through the Amphitheater and out the other side, the route drops into a broad, sandy area with some Utah Yuccas. A sand-loving species, this kind of yucca is unusual in Nevada.

The route turns right and heads down the wash. Shortly, the sand ends and the route continues down across slickrock where water has carved several water pockets, or Tinajas (Wpt. 09). There are a few spots of rock art at the tinajas, so keep an eye out while moving through this area.

Falling Man
Trail drops through small wash (view S)

The last tinaja often holds water long into the summer and provides breeding habitat for dragonflies, Red-spotted Toads, and other aquatic creatures. Please don't mess in the water because this is the only place in the area for these toads and other aquatic species to breed.

Dropping onto the sandy area below the last tinaja, the route turns right and heads downstream. About 100 yards down, the route arrives at Newspaper Rock (Wpt. 10), on the right. Every archaeological district seems to have a newspaper rock, and Gold Butte's Newspaper Rock stands among the best.

From Newspaper Rock, the route turns back a few yards, but quickly (about 80 feet out) crosses the wash and starts up a right-sloping ramp on the adjacent rocky crag. Along this north-facing cliff, notice an overhang with some large boulders in the shade. Inspect the boulders, as this is the Bigfoot (Wpt. 11) or Hang-Ten Site. There are some very nice glyphs here, including the big feet, one of which was too big to fit atop the rock so the toes wrap over the edge (as if "hanging ten" on a surf board).

Falling Man
Hiker detouring to Calvin's Rock (view SW)

From the Bigfoot site, the route continues up to a broad ledge (Wpt. 12) on the northwest corner of the crag. Here, a broad, flat ledge provides grand views to the north and west, including views of habitation sites in the not-to-far distance where overhanging rocks provided shade and shelter from the wind to people who lived here. This is also a good place for lunch, but don't sit on the flat-topped boulders while enjoying the view as you may damage the rock art.

Continuing south from the broad ledge, a narrow ledge runs down and eventually pinches out, but not before arriving at a spectacular petroglyph panel, the Upper Wall Panel (Wpt. 13). While examining the rock art above the ledge, notice the rock art below the ledge -- this is the Lower Wall Panel (Wpt. 15) -- but you can't get there from here.

To really see the Lower Wall Panel, return back up the ramp to the broad ledge (Wpt. 12), descend past the Bigfoot panel (Wpt. 11), hike up the wash to near the Tinajas, and circle around the crag to the right (to near Wpt. 14). Continue west across sandstone slickrock to an edge, then scamper down the broken cliff and around north to below the southwest corner and the Lower Wall Panel (Wpt. 15).

Falling Man
Hiker at Calvin's Rock (view W towards the east face)

Don't stop there. Wander around among the rock piles and look for more rock art. Consider walking down to the 21 Goats panel and on to Black Butte Dam. When finished in the area, wander back to the trailhead. For the return, see Returning to the Trailhead, but don't miss the Alcove Site along your way. Regardless of where you are in the rock piles, if you walk north, you will hit Black Butte Road; then turn right and walk back east to the trailhead.

Rewards for exploring: hidden rock art. The area around Falling Man is loaded with rock art. Hikers are free to wander around and experience the history, but be careful not to trample the vegetation and don't touch the rock art.

More rewards for exploring: grand scenery and interesting vegetation. This part of Gold Butte is in the Upper Sonoran (Mojave Desert Scrub) vegetation zone where creosote bush and white bursage dominate the landscape, but many other species of shrubs also are common. Around the rock piles, look for Joshua trees, and keep an eye out for our common Mojave yucca. In sandy places, look for uncommon Utah yucca and unusual birdcage evening primrose (Oenothera deltoides) with its arms all rolled up like a wire birdcage.

Falling Man
Scattered limestone cobbles from destroyed agave roasting pits
Falling Man
Scattered limestone cobbles from destroyed agave roasting pit
Falling Man
Approaching the Tunnel (view SW)
Falling Man Rock Art Site
Trail junction; right to Falling Man (view SW)
Falling Man Rock Art Site
The Tunnel (view SW from trail junction)
Falling Man Rock Art Site
Bullet holes missed the petroglyph
Falling Man Rock Art Site
Hikers below the Tunnel (view SW)
Falling Man Rock Art Site
Hikers below the Tunnel (view SW)
Falling Man
Hiker in the Tunnel (view W)
falling man
Hiker emerging from the tunnel (view E)
Falling Man Rock Art Site
Hikers back through the Tunnel (view W)
Falling Man
Hikers coming out the other side of the tunnel (view NE)
falling man
West side of the Tunnel (view SW towards Falling Man)
Falling Man Rock Art Site
West side of the Tunnel (view SW towards Falling Man)
Falling Man Rock Art Site
Hikers looking at the Falling Man panel (view SW)
Falling Man
Hikers looking at the Falling Man panel (view SW)
Falling Man
Falling Man (view W)
Falling Man Rock Art Site
Continuing past Falling Man
Falling Man Rock Art Site
Hikers exiting Falling Man: down and left onto bench (view SW)
Falling Man Rock Art Site
Route continues around the corner (view W)
falling man falling man
Falling Man Rock Art Site
Route continues across ledges (view SW)
Falling Man Rock Art Site
Alcove along the ledge (view S)
Falling Man Rock Art Site
Hiker at alcove along the ledge (view SE)
Falling Man Rock Art Site
Pictograph inside alcove (view E)
Falling Man Rock Art Site
Route climbs onto bench (view SW) ...
Falling Man
... then curves around to the left (view E)
Falling Man Rock Art Site
Atop bench, route turns left towards amphitheater area (view SE)
Falling Man
Hikers entering the Amphitheater area (view E)
Falling Man Rock Art Site
Amphitheater area (view SE)
Falling Man Rock Art Site
Amphitheater area (view SE)
Falling Man Rock Art Site
Amphitheater area (view SE)
Falling Man Rock Art Site
Route continues across slickrock to depart amphitheater (view SE)
Falling Man Rock Art Site
Route drops into broad, sandy area (view S)
Falling Man
Departing the Amphitheater; down and right (view SE)
Hikers looking at the Falling Man panel (view SW)
Kit fox and beetle tracks in the sandy area
Hikers looking at the Falling Man panel (view SW)
Hikers look at cliffs above the sandy area (view NW)
falling man
Upper tinaja area (view W)
Falling Man
Lower tinaja area (view W)
Amphitheater
Red-spotted Toads in the water!
Falling Man
Route turns right past tinajas and runs down wash (view NW)
Falling Man
Hikers below tinajas (view N)
Falling Man
Route runs down wash (view N)
Falling Man Rock Art Site
Route runs down wash towards Newspaper Rock (view N)
Falling Man
Rock art along the wash; east side ahead (view NW)
Falling Man
Rock art along the wash; east side behind (view SW)
Falling Man
Hikers arriving at Newspaper Rock (view N)
Falling Man Falling Man
Falling Man
Route splits (view left towards Bigfoot Site)
Falling Man
Route splits (view right towards Newspaper Rock)
Falling Man
Hiker at Newspaper Rock (view N)
Falling Man Rock Art Site
Newspaper Rock (view N)
Falling Man
Bigfoot Site (view SW from Newspaper Rock)
Falling Man Rock Art Site
Bigfoot Site (view SW from Newspaper Rock)
Falling Man
Bigfoot site (view S)
Falling Man
Spiral and the Big Foot (view S)
Falling Man Rock Art Site
Route continues up ramp past bigfoot site (view W)
Falling Man Rock Art Site
Route continues up ramp past bigfoot site (view W)
Falling Man Rock Art Site
Route climbs onto flat ledge and Table Site (view W)
Falling Man Rock Art Site
Hikers on the Ledge (view S)
Falling Man Rock Art Site
Rock art on "table tops" at the Ledge (view SE)
Falling Man
Habitation site (vandalized)
Falling Man Rock Art Site
Route continues south towards Upper Wall Panel
Falling Man Rock Art Site
Upper Wall Site (view S)
Falling Man
Hikers on route to the Upper Wall Site (view SE)
Falling Man Rock Art Site
Upper Wall Site and Lower Wall Site (view SE)
Falling Man Rock Art Site
Upper Wall Site (view SE)
Falling Man
Upper Wall Site (view SE)
Falling Man
Departing Upper Wall Site (view N to broad, flat ledge)
Falling Man Rock Art Site
Hiker arriving at at the broad ledge (view N from Upper Wall)
Lower Wall Site. The Lower Wall Site is not accessible from the Upper Wall Site
Falling Man
Lower Wall Site (view E)
Falling Man
Lower Wall Site (view E)

Table 2. Hiking Coordinates Based on GPS Data (NAD27, UTM Zone 11S). Download Hiking GPS Waypoints (*.gpx) file.

Wpt. Location UTM Easting UTM Northing Elevation (ft) Point-to-Point Distance (mi) Cumulative Distance (mi)
01 Falling Man Trailhead 752138 4044187 2,393 0.00 0.00
02 Rabbit Ears Viewpoint 752121 4044052 2,421 0.09 0.09
03 Calvin's Rock 752010 4043972 2,382 0.11 0.20
04 Agave Roasting Pit 752051 4043845 2,286 0.14 0.34
05 Tunnel 751983 4043774 2,443 0.08 0.42
06 Falling Man Glyph 751967 4043756 2,427 0.02 0.44
07 Amphitheater 751979 4043722 2,443 0.04 0.48
08 Sandy Area 752026 4043710 2,273 0.04 0.52
09 Tinajas 752000 4043649 2,405 0.05 0.57
10 Newspaper Rock 751928 4043715 2,397 0.07 0.64
11 Bigfoot 751924 4043692 2,408 0.02 0.66
12 Ledge 751899 4043680 2,431 0.02 0.68
13 Wall Upper 751920 4043661 2,426 0.02 0.70
11 Bigfoot 751924 4043692 2,408 0.05 0.75
14 Saddle 751970 4043618 2,426 0.06 0.81
15 Wall Lower 751919 4043654 2,390 0.07 0.88
14 Saddle 751970 4043618 2,426 0.07 0.95
09 Tinajas 752000 4043649 2,405 0.06 1.01
08 Sandy Area 752026 4043710 2,273 0.05 1.06
16 Pictographs 752027 4043732 2,276 0.02 1.08
17 Alcove 752046 4043797 2,265 0.07 1.15
04 Agave Roasting Pit 752051 4043845 2,286 0.04 1.19
02 Rabbit Ears Viewpoint 752121 4044052 2,421 0.14 1.33
01 Falling Man Trailhead 752138 4044187 2,393 0.09 1.42

Happy Hiking! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
© 2016 Jim Boone; Last updated 160909

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