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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 now 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.

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 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 (0.16 miles out), a spur trail runs right about 70 yards to Calvin's Rock. 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 main trail, the trail continues south following the old road towards rocky crags. Approaching the crags, about 0.25 miles out, a use-trail departs the old road to the right and heads up towards a tunnel through the cliff.

Falling Man
Rabbit Ears (view W; zoom)

When approaching, the tunnel can be seen from below. The trail ends at the edge of the sandstone, and from there the route scampers up the cliffs into the Tunnel. While it is fun to scramble through the tunnel, be sure to notice the rock art around the entrance, inside, and exit from the Tunnel.

After crawling through the Tunnel, the route clambers down a few feet onto a broad ledge on the other side of the crags. 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. 02; 0.33 miles out), 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 ManTrail crosses bedrock (view S)

Continuing along the Falling Man ledge, the route turns the corner to head south. Look for pictographs along this wall, then exit left into the open Amphitheater site. In addition to grand views west, the walls of the Amphitheater are adorned with scattered rock art.

Walking through the Amphitheater and out the east side, the route drops into a sandy wash. The route turns right to head down the wash. Shortly, the sand ends and the route continues down across slickrock where water has carved several water pockets, or Tinajas. I don't think there is any rock art around the tinajas, but the last tinaja often holds water long into the summer and provides breeding habitat for dragonflies and Red-spotted Toads.

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

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

From Newspaper Rock, the route turns back, 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 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).

From the Bigfoot site, the route continues up to a broad ledge 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, but don't sit on the boulders while enjoying the view as you may damage the rock art.

Falling Man Rock Art Site

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. While examining the rock art above the ledge, notice the rock art below the ledge -- this is the Lower Wall Panel.

To really see the Lower Wall Panel, return back up the ramp to the broad ledge, descend past the Bigfoot panel, and circle around the crag to below the northwest corner and the Lower Wall Panel.

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. 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.

Falling Man
Trail drops through small wash (view S)

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 with its arms all rolled up like a wire birdcage.

Falling Man
Hiker detouring to Calvin's Rock (view SW)
Falling Man
Hiker at Calvin's Rock (view W towards the east face)
Falling Man Rock Art Site
Trail junction; right to Falling Man (view SW)
Falling Man
Approaching the Tunnel (view SW)
Falling Man Rock Art Site
The Tunnel (view SW from trail junction)
Falling Man Rock Art Site
Hikers below the Tunnel (view SW)
Falling Man
Hiker in the Tunnel (view W)
Falling Man Rock Art Site
Hikers beyond the Tunnel (view W)
Falling Man
Hikers coming out the other side of the tunnel (view NE)
Falling Man Rock Art Site
Hikers coming out of the tunnel (view E)
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 Falling Man Rock Art Site
Falling Man Rock Art Site
Hikers looking at the Falling Man panel (view SW)
Falling Man
Falling Man (view W)
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 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 Rock Art Site
Atop bench, route turns left towards 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
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)
falling man
Upper tinaja area (view W)
Falling Man
Lower tinaja area (view W)
Amphitheater
Red-spotted Toads in the water!
Falling Man Rock Art Site
Route turns right past tinajas and runs down wash (view NW)
Falling Man Rock Art Site
Hiker below tinajas (view N)
Falling Man Rock Art Site
Route runs down wash towards Newspaper Rock (view N)
Falling Man Rock Art Site
Rock art along the wash; east side
Falling Man Rock Art Site
Rock art along the wash; west side (view W from wash)
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 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 arriving at Table Site (view S)
Falling Man Rock Art Site
Rock art on the "table tops" (view SE)
Falling Man Rock Art Site
Route continues S towards Wall Panel sites
Falling Man Rock Art Site
Upper Wall Site (view S)
Falling Man Rock Art Site
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 Rock Art Site
Departing Upper Wall Site (view N to broad, flat ledge)
Falling Man
Lower Wall Site (view E)
Falling Man
Lower Wall Site (view E)

Returning to the Trailhead

Falling Man
Returning to the trailhead (view NE)
Falling Man
Hiker returning past the lowest tinaja (view E)
Falling Man
Petroglyph panel to find during return to trailhead
Falling Man
Very old petroglyph panel to find during return to trailhead
Falling Man
Returning over slickrock to the trail (view N)
Falling Man
Hiker approaching the trailhead (view N)

Table 2. 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 Trailhead 752138 4044187 2,393 0.00 0.00 GPS
02 Falling Man Panel 751967 4043745 2,432 0.33 0.33 GPS

Happy Hiking! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
© 2016 Jim Boone; Last updated 160112

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