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Arizona Hot Spring -- White Rock Canyon Route
Hiking Around Las Vegas, Lake Mead National Recreation Area
Arizona Hot Springs
Arizona Hot Spring Route
Trailhead (view SW)

Overview

This is a great, 3.25-mile hike to hot springs near the Colorado River. The route runs down a deep, narrow, geologically interesting canyon for 2.75 miles to the Colorado River, turns to run downstream for 0.5 miles to the next major canyon, and ascends that canyon for about 5 minutes to a 20-ft waterfall and a ladder. Climbing the ladder brings hikers to the hot springs. Visitors use sandbags to dam the canyon, creating hot-pools in the deep, narrow canyon. This is a place to sit, relax, and meet interesting people. This hot spring sometimes is called Ringbolt Hot Springs, a reference to Ringbolt Rapids that lie just upstream from Hot Spring Canyon.

Link to map or elevation profile.

Arizona Hot Spring Route
Old trailhead signs in wash below bridge (view W)

This hike makes for a nice overnight outing, as there are nice places to camp at the river and in the canyon just above the hot springs.

Return to the trailhead by retracing your footprints in the dust or by continuing up Hot Spring Canyon on a mostly easy route with three scramble-ups, one of which requires 30-40 feet of 4th-class climbing to bypass a pour-over. The pour-overs can by entirely bypassed on the steeper Mountains Route, which branches out of Hot Spring Canyon before the pour-overs.

Because of extreme summer temperatures, too many hikers have required rescue here in recent years, and the extreme temperatures put the lives of rescue personnel at risk. Therefore, the Park Service closes this area from about August 1 until mid-September. Link to 2014 Closure Notice and Closure Area Map.

Arizona Hot Springs
Starting into narrows (view W)

Watch Out

Other than the standard warnings about hiking in the desert, ...this is a fairly safe hike. There are places to trip and hurt yourself in White Rock Canyon, and the trail along the river is sometimes narrow, but there is nothing out of the ordinary. Be extra careful on the metal ladder, and be careful walking on slick rocks after you've picked up wet sand on the bottom of your shoes. Be sure to keep your nose dry in the hot pools. Air temperatures can be high at these low elevations, so carry enough water to make it back to the trailhead.

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, rescues from narrow canyons can be difficult, so be sure to just bring what you need of the 10 Essentials.

Arizona Hot Spring Route
Enormous boulder (view W)

Getting to the Trailhead

This hike is located along Highway 93, south of the Hoover Dam in Lake Mead National Recreation Area, about 45 minutes southeast of Las Vegas.

From town, drive out to Lake Mead NRA, then over the bridge on Highway 93 into Arizona and down to the White Rock Canyon Trailhead. Park here; this is the trailhead.

Arizona Hot Springs
White rocks in White Rock Canyon (view W)

The Hike

From the trailhead at the far end of the parking area by the information kiosk (Table 2, Wpt. 01), a trail runs down the hillside into White Rock Wash and down under the twin Highway 93 bridges. Just past the southbound bridge, the old trailhead signs (Wpt. 01a) introduce the route.

The route then follows the wash all the way down to the Colorado River. In this area, the sparsely vegetated country provides grand views down White Rock Wash towards the start of the narrows and out over the mountains into Nevada and the Black Canyon Wilderness Area.

Coming out, this area can be quite hot under the afternoon sun, so carry plenty of water on the return tip.

Arizona Hot Springs
Wide area in the canyon (view W)

The dominant vegetation in the wash is catclaw acacia, brittlebush, Mormon tea, and broom snakeweed. The dry hillsides are sparsely vegetated with creosote bush, white bursage, a few beavertail pricklypear cactus, and little else. The ecological differences between the relatively well-watered wash and the dry ridges are clear. Following the main wash for about 0.51 miles (Wpt. 03), an alternate, more direct route to the hot springs cuts south to an old trail.

Continuing down the main wash, the route runs through a straight, narrow canyon for some 150 yards. The canyon then opens and bends to the south where alluvial materials have accumulated on the north side of the bend (Wpt. 04). The route to Liberty Bell Arch leaves the main wash here and runs up a side canyon to the north, but the White Rock Canyon route continues downhill into deep narrows.

Arizona Hot Springs
Second narrows (view W)

Continuing down the main wash, the wash cuts into pyroclastic flow materials (volcanic rock) where many rocks and boulders were caught up in a matrix of reddish brown rock (Wpt. 05). About 10 minutes into this layer, the route passes an enormous boulder (Wpt. 06) that fell from high on the cliffs above; it’s enough to make you stop and think for a minute.

Through this part of the deep, reddish-brown canyon, the name "White Rock Canyon" becomes obvious. The mountains above the canyon (the high peaks, Wilson Ridge, east of Highway 93) are granitic, and over the eons, granite boulders washed down the canyon and became lodged in the narrows. The granite boulders aren't exactly white, but the contrast between the dark canyon walls and the light-colored boulders makes them look white.

Arizona Hot Spring Route
White Rock Canyon at Colorado River (view N)

After winding through narrows for about 45 minutes, the canyon opens up into a broad wash (Wpt. 07) that gives a nice change from the claustrophobic narrows, but it only last for about 10 minutes.

The wash starts into another section of narrows and passes some nice, large specimens of catclaw acacia, and also a few desert fir and rock nettle, two species not seen before here. After about 10 minutes in these narrows, the canyon opens up (Wpt. 08) onto the Colorado River.

Arizona Hot Spring Route
Narrow trail around the brushy cove (view N)

The route turns south to run downstream for about 15 minutes on use-trails that wind around little coves and along cliffs overlooking the river. The use-trails are good, but in places the trail is narrow with drop-offs into the river.

The route along the river is obvious except in one place where the better route jogs uphill away from the river (Wpt. 09).

Following a narrow trail around a brushy cove (see photos), the route climbs onto the next little ridge, then takes a hard left on slickrock where the poorly marked route is hard to see. The route climbs only few vertical feet, then turns more downstream and climbs up through a cleft in the cliffs. Past the cleft, the dirt trail again becomes more visible as it runs up a ridge to a saddle (Wpt. 10).

Arizona Hot Spring Route
Route turns up rocky area towards cleft (view SE)

For hikers who miss the turn, staying on the fairly obvious trail along the river, the trail runs up to a cliff, turns left, and climbs a steep, rocky gully. Atop the gully, this alternate use-trail crests out on a ridge (Wpt. 10) and joins what is obviously the main trail. Note that there is "don't go this way" sign at the top of the steep gully.

From the saddle atop the ridge (Wpt. 10), the trail descends steeply into Hot Spring Canyon, dropping into the canyon by two large desert willow trees (Wpt 11). At least in wet years, the creek flows to about here. The route runs up the deep, narrow canyon for a couple of minutes to a 20-ft waterfall that can be climbed using a metal ladder. The ladder is secure, but wet and high, so climb carefully.

For boaters arriving over the water, the hot springs are in the left-most canyon, as seen from the river.

Arizona Hot Springs
Hot Spring Canyon beach

From atop the ladder, the route runs around a few corners and arrives at the hot springs (Wpt. 12), which are pools of hot water in the bottom of a water-polished, 8-ft-wide canyon. The pools have natural sills, but they are reinforced with sandbags that add several inches to the depth. The bottom is sandy, so water shoes are absolutely required. The canyon is deep and narrow, so it can be chilly with no direct sunlight.

Relax in the hot water, then either return to the trailhead by retracing your route back through White Rock Canyon, or consider making a loop by hiking up Hot Spring Canyon to the trailhead. There are two options for hiking up Hot Spring Canyon. The easier route follows the wash but has several pour-overs to climb (one of which requires about 30 vertical feet of 4th-class scrambling), and the other follows a steep trail that avoids the pour-overs.

Arizona Hot Springs
While true, Naegleria fowleri is an extremely low risk issue
Arizona Hot Springs
Water low in Hot Spring Canyon
Arizona Hot Spring Route
Lower Hot Springs Canyon (view E)
Arizona Hot Spring Route
Metal ladder (view NE)
Arizona Hot Springs
Hikers at the ladder
Arizona Hot Springs
Hikers at the ladder
Arizona Hot Springs
Bird-and-Hike guy climbing the ladder
Arizona Hot Springs
Bird-and-Hike guy made it!
Arizona Hot Springs
Sand bags dam up a pool
Arizona Hot Springs
Low water
Arizona Hot Springs
Sand-bag dam
Arizona Hot Springs
Upper hot pool (view upstream)
Arizona Hot Springs
Stepping into the lower hot pool (view NE)
Arizona Hot Springs
Upper hot pool (view E)
Arizona Hot Springs
Hikers in a hot pool
Arizona Hot Springs
Friends of Nevada Wilderness in the upper hot pool
Arizona Hot Springs
Friends of Nevada Wilderness in the upper hot pool
Arizona Hot Springs
Hiker at upper hot pool
Arizona Hot Springs
White Rock Canyon Beach
Arizona Hot Springs
White Rock Canyon Beach
Arizona Hot Springs
Toilets on rocks just downstream from the beach
Arizona Hot Springs
Pair of outhouses
Arizona Hot Spring closure
Sign on access road: Area closed during summer heat
Arizona Hot Spring closure
Sign at trailhead: Area closed during summer heat

Table 2. Hiking Coordinates (NAD27; UTM Zone 11S). Download GPS Waypoints (*.gpx) file.

Wpt Location Easting Northing Elevation (ft) Point-to-Point Distance Cumulative Distance
01 Trailhead 707677 3983997 1,536 0.00 0.00
01a Old Trailhead Signs 707597 3983597 1,492 . .
03 Alternate Route 707139 3983515 1,393 0.51 0.51
04 Enter Narrows 706559 3983340 1,290 0.39 0.90
05 Getting into volcanics 706459 3983352 1,272 0.09 0.99
06 Enormous boulder 706150 3983220 1,171 0.26 1.25
07 Below narrows 705572 3982929 956 0.63 1.88
08 Mouth of the canyon 704865 3982063 661 0.81 2.69
09 Turn Away from River 704925 3981848 697 0.20 2.89
10 Crossing ridge 705009 3981817 768 0.12 3.01
11 Hot Spring Canyon 705061 3981744 653 0.08 3.09
12 Hot Springs 705156 3981760 757 0.15 3.24

Happy Hiking! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
© 2014 Jim Boone; Last updated 140923

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