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Lava Falls
Hiking Around Las Vegas, Gold Butte National Monument
Lava FallsHiker departing Lava Falls trailhead (view E)


Lava Falls is an interesting part of the geologic history of Gold Butte. In the not too distant geologic past (about 6 million years), the land west of Gold Butte Townsite split open and lava oozed out onto the landscape several times. Like water after summer thunderstorms, the lava ran downhill into Quail Spring Wash, filling the canyon for a short distance. In the years since, summer storms continue to flow down Quail Wash, partially eroding out the channel again.

The process of erosion has left a narrow channel with two water-polished pour-overs. The first is easy to downclimb, but the second blocks all passage down the canyon. This 1/2-mile (RT) hike goes downstream to the top of the second pour-over. While the hike is short, this seems to be the only volcano in Gold Butte National Monument (there are several just to the east in Arizona), so it becomes a must-see spot for this area.

Link to area map or hiking map.

Lava Falls
Route departs main road (view SE)

Watch Out

Other than the standard warnings about hiking in the desert, ... this area is fairly safe, but the hike descends one water-polished pour-over and goes to the top of another, so be extra careful when high enough to fall and get hurt.

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. Law enforcement occasionally patrols the area. 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 don't work here. The roads require, at the least, a 2WD-HC vehicle; 4WD always is better in the remote areas.

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

Lava Falls
Descending old road towards the wash (view SE)

Getting to the Trailhead

Lava Falls is located out in Gold Butte National Monument, south of Mesquite, about 3-1/2 hours northeast of Las Vegas in a wild, remote, and scenic area.

From town, drive out to Gold Butte National Monument. From Whitney Pocket, continue south on the unpaved Gold Butte Road for 20.2 miles to the Gold Butte Townsite area. Here, a sign announces Gold Butte Townsite on the left and Red Bluff Spring Road on the right.

This is the end of Gold Butte Road. The road that continues straight (southwest) is Scanlon Road. Continue on Scanlon Road for 1.4 miles to a fork. Turn right, off the main road, and continue west on Quail Springs Wash Road (2WD-HC should be good enough). The road passes a quail guzzler on the left, crosses a rocky wash (notice the black rocks!), runs down along the edge of Quail Springs Wash, and bends to the right to climb steeply out of the wash. At the top of the hill (2.0 miles out), stop and park; this is the trailhead.

Lava Falls
Approaching Quail Springs Wash (view NE)

The Hike

From the trailhead (Table 1, Waypoint 01), the route returns back down the road about 70 yards to the old road (Wpt. 02) that runs somewhat steeply down the slope towards the wash. About 70 yards down the old road, it becomes convenient to turn left and drop directly into Quail Spring Wash (Wpt. 03).

In the wash, the route turns downstream and quickly arrives at the first, 2-step pour-over. The upper step is easily passed on the west side, and the lower step is passed by sliding down the slot.

From there, it is a short distance to the second, much higher pour-over. Hikers can walk carefully to the edge, but then there is a higher overlook (Wpt. 04) up on the west side with a somewhat better view. Either way, this is a place to marvel at the layers of volcanic rock that rolled down and filled Quail Spring Wash.

When ready, follow your footprints back to the trailhead (Wpt. 01), but be quick lest the volcano erupt again and refill the wash!

Lava Falls
Quail Springs Wash (view N)
Lava Falls
Hiker approaching top of first pour-over (view N)
Lava Falls
Hiker exiting bottom of first pour-over (view N)
Lava Falls
Quail Springs Wash (view N)
Lava Falls
Layers of lava in the canyon wall (view W)
Lava Falls
Lava rock with few air pockets
Lava Falls
Lava rock with lots of air pockets
Lava Falls
Water-polished lava rock at edge of the wash
Lava Falls
Approaching the second pour-over (view NW)
Lava Falls
That's a long way down!
Lava Falls
Overlook with no way to pass the pour-over (view NW)
more to come
More to come ...

Table 1. Hiking Coordinates and Distances 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 Lava Falls Trailhead 746979 4016599 3,061 0.00 0.00
02 Depart Road 747004 4016544 3,053 0.04 0.04
03 Edge of Wash 747029 4016497 3,021 0.05 0.09
04 Top of Lava Falls 747022 4016653 3,001 0.14 0.23
01 Lava Falls Trailhead 746979 4016599 3,061 0.23 0.46

Happy Hiking! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 170602

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