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Fortification Hill
Hiking Around Las Vegas, Lake Mead National Recreation Area
Fortification Hill
Fortification Hill
Fortification Hill Trailhead (view N)

Overview

This is a moderately difficult, 4-mile round-trip hike that follows a use-trail to the summit. The route starts in a wash southeast of Fortification Hill and follows washes and ridges to a basalt headwall, which is passed with a few feet of 3rd-class climbing and a steep, rocky gully. From the top of the gully, the relatively flat trail runs west along the southern edge of the mesa for about 0.6 miles to the summit. The route climbs about 1,400 feet, but most of the elevation gain is in the middle-third of the hike. The views from the top of the mesa are spectacular and include much of Lake Mead, Hoover Dam, and all of the surrounding mountains.

This route is entirely within the Upper Sonoran (Mojave Desert Scrub) life zone with lots of low-growing Creosote Bush, White Bursage, Broom Snakeweed, and Burrobrush.

Link to map or elevation profile.

Fortification Hill
Start of the trail (view N)

Watch Out

Other than the standard warnings about hiking in the desert, ...there is about 10 feet of 3rd-class climbing at the base of the basalt headwall. The climbing is airy, but not hard, and if someone can get to that point, the climbing shouldn't dissuade them from reaching the summit. However, some hikers might want a safety rope just to be safe on the way down. One hiker died here a few years ago, so be extra careful.

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 fairly long hike in a remote area, so be sure to bring the 10 Essentials.

Fortification Hill
Trailhead sign (view N)

Getting to the Trailhead

This hike is located in Lake Mead National Recreation Area on the Arizona side of Hoover Dam, about 1 hour southeast of Las Vegas.

From town, drive out towards Hoover Dam, then continue south on Highway 93 over the bridge into Arizona. Take Exit #2 off the highway, turn left, and drive out into the desert using dirt roads (Kingman Wash Road and Fortification Hill Road) to the Fortification Hill Trailhead.

Fortification Hill
Hiker on wash route (view N)

The Hike

From the trailhead (Table 1, Waypoint 01), the east edge of Fortification Hill is visible to the north; this is the immediate goal. Also visible is a use-trail running steeply up a ridge in the right direction. This is an alternative route that is slightly more tiring than is starting the hike by walking up the wash just left (west) of the use-trail. The use-trail on the ridge make a good alternative for the descent.

Starting in the wash, the routes split in about 100 feet (Wpt. 02). The Ridges Route angles to the right across the wash and onto the toe of the ridge (Wpt. 02A).

Fortification Hill

The Washes Route stays in the wash (Wpt. 03) following along the base of the ridge.

The route runs up the wash for about 0.7 miles, always staying to the right against the base of the ridge with the use-trail (Wpt. 04). There are many cairns along the way, but given a choice, always stay to the right. At about 0.70 miles out (Wpt. 05), a use-trail cuts steeply up and out of the wash, climbing to a low point on the ridge (Wpt. 06) (vertical change of only about 40 feet). At this point, the use-trail from the wash joins the use-trail on the ridge, and together they run up the ridgeline to the north.

The ridge joins the summit ridge (Wpt. 07) at a point where there is a group of oddly placed volcanic rocks. They look as if humans placed them there, but they probably are natural, and I refer to them as the "funny rocks."

Fortification Hill

From the funny rocks, the use-trail turns west and climbs the summit ridge to the base of the basalt headwall. Traversing under the headwall to the north for a few minutes brings hikers to a short section (Wpt. 08) requiring 3rd-class scrambling. Climb this section carefully, and pay particular attention to the loose gravel at the top.

Atop the 3rd-class section (Wpt. 09), the use-trail continues north on ledges that lead to the base of a steep gully (Wpt. 10). The gully leads quickly to the top of the mesa (Wpt. 11). It takes about 5-8 minutes to ascend the entire headwall.

Fortification Hill

From the top of the cliffs, the now-gentle use-trail wanders westward along the south edge of the mesa. A short detour leads to a nice overlook (Wpt. 12) with grand views to the south, including almost all of the route.

The use-trail continues westward, eventually veering away from the cliff edge and climbing gradually onto the summit (Wpt. 13), although the trail is mostly lost in the summit boulders.

There are great views in all direction, and the views of Lake Mead and Las Vegas from the summit are spectacular.

Return to the trailhead by retracing your footsteps, taking extra care descending the cliffs.

Fortification Hill Fortification Hill
Hiker passing boulders (view N)
Fortification Hill
Hiker on hillside above wash en route to ridge (view N)
Fortification Hill
Steep use-trail with dirt steps on hillside (view NE)
Fortification Hill
Hiker on ridgeline (view N)
Fortification Hill
Hiker on ridgeline (view N)
Fortification Hill Fortification Hill
Fortification Hill
Ridge leading towards headwall (view NW)
Fortification Hill
Hiker at "funny rocks" on ridgeline (view NW)
Fortification Hill
"Funny rocks" on ridgeline (view NW)
Fortification Hill
Hikers at the 'Funny Rocks" (view E)
Fortification Hill
Hiker climbing towards headwall (view W)
Fortification Hill
Close-up: route through the headwall (view NW)
Fortification Hill
Hiker on the summit ridge (view NW)
Fortification Hill
Hiker approaching headwall (view W)
Fortification Hill
Hikers resting below headwall (view N)
Fortification Hill
Hiker traversing below headwall (view N)
Fortification Hill
Hiker approaching Class-3 pitch (view N)
Fortification Hill
Hiker beginning Class-3 pitch (view NW)
Fortification Hill
Hiker on Class-3 pitch (view NW)
Fortification Hill
Hiker above Class-3 pitch (view NW)
Fortification Hill
Hiker traversing below cliffs (view NW)
Fortification Hill
Hiker beginning up rocky gully (view N)
Fortification Hill
Hiker in rocky gully (view W)
Fortification Hill
Hiker near top of rocky gully (view W)
Fortification Hill
Hiker on summit plateau (view W)
Fortification Hill
Overlook (view SE towards route)
Fortification Hill
Overlook (view S towards route)
Fortification Hill
Overlook (view S towards trailhead)
Fortification Hill Fortification Hill
Fortification Hill Fortification Hill
Fortification Hill Fortification Hill
Fortification Hill
Hiker arriving at the summit (view N)
Fortification Hill
Hiker at summit cairn (view S)
Fortification Hill
Summit cairn (view NW)
Hiker traversing below headwall (view N)
Hikers on the summit (view N)
Fortification Hill
Hiker at summit cairn (view NW)
Fortification Hill
Summit register
Fortification Hill
Summit view (W towards Hoover Dam and Boulder City)
Fortification Hill
Summit view (NW towards Las Vegas and Mt. Charleston)
Fortification Hill
Summit view (N towards Muddy Mountains
Fortification Hill
Summit view (NE towards mountains in Utah)
Fortification Hill
Summit view (SE towards Mt. Wilson)
Fortification Hill
Summit view (SE to Mt. Wilson)
Fortification Hill
Summit view (SW to Dam and Boulder City)
Fortification Hill
Summit view (SW to Bridge and Dam)
Fortification Hill
Summit view (SW to Paint Pockets (end of Kingman Wash Rd)
Fortification Hill
Summit view (W to Mt. Potosi)
Fortification Hill
Summit view (W to Hemenway Harbor and Boulder Beach)
Fortification Hill
Summit view (W to Las Vegas and Mt. Charleston)
Fortification Hill
Summit view (N to Callville Bay Marina)
Fortification Hill
Summit view (NE to Mormon Mountains)
Fortification Hill
Benchmark on summit (set in 1935)
Fortification Hill
Benchmark pointer No. 1 on summit (set in 1935)

The Descent

Fortification Hill
Approaching the top of the rocky gully (view NE)
Fortification Hill
Hiker descending into the rocky gully (view NE)
Fortification Hill
Hiker in the rocky gully
Fortification Hill
Hiker at the base of the rocky gully
Fortification Hill
Approaching the top of the 3rd-class scramble
Fortification Hill
Hiker at the top of the 3rd-class scramble
Fortification Hill
Hiker starting down the 3rd-class scramble
Fortification Hill
Hiker on the 3rd-class scramble
Fortification Hill
Hiker on the 3rd-class scramble
Fortification Hill
Hiker below the 3rd-class scramble
Fortification Hill
Hiker below the headwall (view S)
Fortification Hill
Hiker starting down summit ridge
Fortification Hill
Hiker beyond the funny rocks
Fortification Hill
Hiker descending the ridge (view S)
Fortification Hill
Hiker at trail junction on the ridge (view S)
Fortification Hill
Hiker descending the ridge (view S)
Fortification Hill
Looking down the ridge (view S)
Fortification Hill
Looking back up the ridge (view N)
Fortification Hill
Looking down the ridge (view S)
Fortification Hill
View W towards Boulder City
Fortification Hill
Looking down the ridge (view S)
Fortification Hill
Looking back up the ridge (view N)
Fortification Hill
Hiker descending the ridge (view S)
Fortification Hill
Hiker descending the ridge (view S)
Fortification Hill
Hiker approaching the trailhead (view S)
more to come ...

Table 1. 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) Verified
01 Trailhead 710080 3989913 2,313 0.00 0.00 Yes
02 Route Forks 710069 3989939 2,317 0.02 0.02 Yes
02A Ridge Route 710067 3989968 2,356 . . GPS
03 Wash Route 710024 3989981 2,395 0.04 0.06 GPS
04 Wash 709954 3990553 2,659 0.40 0.46 GPS
05 Wash Below Ridge 709978 3990842 2,757 0.24 0.70 GPS
06 Ridge Above Wash 710004 3990841 2,796 0.02 0.72 GPS
07 Funny Rocks 709883 3991293 3,211 0.33 1.05 GPS
08 Base of 3rd-Class Cliffs 709709 3991472 3,438 0.22 1.27 Yes
09 Top of 3rd-Class Cliffs 709704 3991482 3,496 0.01 1.28 GPS
10 Base of Rocky Gully 709697 3991522 3,514 0.03 1.31 GPS
11 Top of Rocky Gully 709663 3991472 3,617 0.06 1.37 GPS
12 Overlook 709670 3991352 3,598 0.08 1.45 GPS
13 Summit 708972 3991151 3,717 0.55 2.00 GPS
01 Trailhead (via Ridge Route) 710080 3989913 2,297 1.93 3.93 Yes

Happy Hiking! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
© 2014 Jim Boone; Last updated 140212

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