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Goldstrike Canyon
(Goldstrike Hot Springs and Nevada Hot Springs)
Hiking Around Las Vegas, Lake Mead National Recreation Area

Upper Goldstrike Hot Springs
 
Goldstrike Hot Springs
Trailhead parking (view east; Jan. 2006)

NOTE: Emergency Closure. The Park Service is closing this area during the month of August because of extreme temperatures. Too many hikers require rescue, and the extreme temperatures put the lives of rescue personnel at risk.

Overview

This great hike runs down a narrow, rocky canyon to a series of hot springs and several hot pools that beg for a good soak during cooler weather. Most of the route is a fairly easy, descending some 600 feet in about 2 miles to Goldstrike Hot Springs, but there is some 3rd-class scrambling (fixed ropes usually present) over and around boulders. From Goldstrike Hot Springs, it is 45 minutes and a fair bit of tough scrambling (more fixed ropes) down to Nevada Hot Springs and the Colorado River. During hot weather, look forward to a quick drip in the icy Colorado. Details of the obstacles are presented on a separate page because it might be too much information for adventuresome hikers. Water levels at the river can fluctuate rapidly as more or less water is released from the dam, so be careful about getting stranded if you try to venture from the canyon mouth (e.g., try to visit Sauna Cave).

Link to road access map or route map.

Goldstrike Hot Springs
A recent addition to the wilderness experience

Because of changing water flow, it is now useful to refer to upper Goldstrike Hot Springs (the original main area from the swimming pool upstream) and lower Goldstrike Hot Springs (below the swimming pool and Cave of Wonders). Nevada Hot Springs is farther down canyon near the Colorado River.

Earthquakes in about 2004 reduced water flows at upper Goldstrike Hot Springs (historic photos), and flash floods during 2005 filled the upper-most hot tubs with sand and gravel. Water flow has continued to decline, and the main hot springs at upper Goldstrike are now cool or dry. For a good soak in hot water, it is now necessary continue to the Cave of Wonders at lower Goldstrike. The water flow is now so low that it is easy to downclimb the waterfall and bypass the big rock face.

goldstrike hot springs
An historic addition to the wilderness experience

The best hot water is now down at Nevada Hot Springs, which is farther down the canyon near the Colorado River. Hiking to Nevada Hot Springs requires climbing fixed ropes and good scrambling skills. I've seen people fall in the rocks in the lower canyon. Water temperatures in the pools range from about 85-105°F, and water emerging from the rocks is as high as 122°F, so it is worth the effort.

Goldstrike Hot Springs
The upper canyon is open (view east)

Watch Out

Other than the standard warnings about hiking in the desert, ...it is a fairly safe hike to Goldstrike Hot Springs, but there are some things to watch out for. The canyon is narrow and subject to flash floods, so skip this hike if you even think it might rain. There are several places where the canyon is choked with house-sized boulders that you have to climb around. People have cut footsteps and left fixed ropes in some places, but it still qualifies as 3rd-class scrambling. If a route over the boulders looks too dangerous, look for a route along the side of the canyon that you might have missed, but judge the safety of your route for yourself.

Goldstrike Hotsprings
Deep, narrow canyon (view west)

Hiking to Nevada Hot Springs is a more serious adventure and some people might want a belay. A teenager drowned in the Colorado during 2010, so be careful in the river.

Getting to the hot springs is easy -- just walk downhill until you find hot water. However, about 1.5 miles out, three canyons converge in a broad open area. When you get to this point, pay attention to where you came from so you will remember how to get out. Even with footprints in the gravel, the wash you came down isn't the obvious choice on the way out.

Goldstrike Hot Springs
Pass pour-over to the left (view east)

People at the hot springs, signs at some Lake Mead hot springs (but not in Goldstrike Canyon), and notices on the Internet warn about Naegleria fowleri and the dangers of getting a deadly Naegleria fowleri infection while swimming in hot springs. It seems to me that the chance of contacting Naegleria fowleri is extremely low, but judge for yourself. Many people soak here and none have died as far as I know, so I just enjoy the hot water, keep my nose out of the water, and don't worry about it.

Water levels at the river can fluctuate rapidly as more or less water is released from the dam, so be careful about getting stranded if you try to venture from the canyon mouth (e.g., try to visit Sauna Cave).

Goldstrike Hot Springs
Open area after narrows -- look back to recognize the correct canyon for the hike out

Other thoughts. This is not a good trail for dogs. If you take a dog, be ready to do the rock climbing while carrying your dog. Some people with a black lab didn't seem to be having very much fun, although the people with the rat-sized thing just stuffed it in a backpack and did fine going over the rocks. There are no facilities in the canyon, and there are few private places at the hot springs, so consider doing your business before you get there. This is another good reason to leave the pets at home. Don't take any glass containers -- too much rock and too many bare feet. Don't get hurt down there; it would be a difficult place for a rescue.

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, so be sure to bring the 10 Essentials.

Goldstrike Hotsprings
Footsteps cut in the rock help in getting around this boulder. From above, it looks far worse (view west).

Getting to the Trailhead

This hike is located along Highway 93 in Lake Mead National Recreation Area, about 1 hour southeast of downtown Las Vegas.

From town, drive out to Lake Mead. From the intersection of Highway 93 and Lakeshore Road (Table 1, Site 803), drive south on Highway 93 towards Hoover Dam. About 0.3 miles past the Hacienda Casino (which old-timers know as the Goldstrike Casino), exit right at the first off-ramp on the new highway (Hwy Exit #2 to Hoover Dam). At the end of the off-ramp, jog right, then left and down into the bottom of the canyon. Drive down the graded dirt road for another half-mile to the end of the road (Site 819). Park here; this is the trailhead.

Goldstrike Hot Springs
Main area in 2010; hot pools are low or dry

The Hike

From the trailhead (Table 2, Waypoint 1), the route runs past boulder barricades and down the canyon, which feels deep, but fairly open at first. At the next bend in the canyon, the route runs under one of the new highway spans. Keep an eye out for cars and trucks that crashed off the old road and into the canyon. They say that some of the debris is local color left over from when they built the dam.

Soon the canyon walls get steeper and the wash narrows. Watch for desert bighorn sheep browsing on the steep hillsides above the wash. There is plenty for them to eat along the canyon. This area is in the Upper Sonoran (Mojave Desert Scrub) life zone, and the vegetation along the wash is fairly lush for this area. The most common plant species along the wash are Catclaw Acacia, Brittlebush, Creosote Bush, Bursage, and Burrobrush (Cheeseweed). In wet places, keep an eye out for Maidenhair Ferns and Narrow-leaved Cattail, species that you wouldn't expect in the desert.

Eventually, the canyon walls become vertical. Be sure to notice the geology along the route. The rock is volcanic, and there are some fascinating rock structures in the canyon. You can, for example, find places where hot springs once flowed and places where boulders and gravel seem to be glued to the side of the cliffs above your head. While clambering around, be sure to stay out of the Desert Stingbush (aka Rock Nettle) growing on the rocky walls.

At about 1.5 miles, the canyon is narrow and an enormous boulder blocks the wash. Standing atop the boulder, it looks about 25 feet down to the wash below. Bypass the boulder by carefully stepping down the stairs cut in the rock wall on the right (south) side. Unfortunately, the first two steps are the smallest; the rest are larger and more reassuring.

Goldstrike Hot Springs
2010; last remaining pool in the upper area
Below the boulder, the deep and narrow canyon suddenly opens into a broad, open area (Wpt. 2) vegetated with lots of creosote bush. Pay attention at this spot because it is easy to get confused here on the way out. Turn around and look back at the slot canyon you just came through so you will recognize the place when hiking out. An alternate route back to the highway (not the trailhead) follows use-trails up the canyon the north, but this route is steep, gets full sun, and the parking is now blocked because of highway construction. The route that appears most obvious is the canyon to the south, but this is not the best way back to the trailhead. Check your route on the way in so you can find your way out.
Goldstrike Hot Springs
Cave of Wonders pool

Continue down the wash through the open area. Soon the canyon narrows again, the walls get steeper, and there are several pour-overs to negotiate and boulders to scramble around, under, and over. Nearing upper Goldstrike Hot Springs, the route bypasses a huge boulder with a fixed rope to assist on the lower parts.

This area once was a Saltcedar jungle, but it was cleared by fire and repeated efforts of saltcedar removal crews. Saltcedar is an invasive plant that the National Park Service is trying to remove because it crowds out native species and provides little that benefits wildlife.

Goldstrike Hot Springs
Lower Goldstrike Hot Springs, aka Cave of Wonders - small and hot; 2010

About 0.5 miles below the open area, you climb over a boulder, and suddenly you see the built-up hot tubs that are upper Goldstrike Hot Springs (Wpt. 3).

The hot springs area is located in a deep, narrow section of canyon that is choked with boulders. People built retaining walls under a few of the boulders to create hot tubs, and at the bottom of this section, a 6-foot-high dam formerly held back a backyard-sized swimming pool full of hot water. Very inviting.

As of January 2010, the water in the two remaining pools was low and not particularly hot, and the old swimming pool was completely dry. While some of this reduction might be due to the drought, it appears that the hot water flows in this area are continuing to decline. Therefore, to get to good hot pools with real hot water, continue past the old swimming pool.

Goldstrike Hot Springs
Nevada Hot Springs; one of several hot pools -- and this one has a hot shower

With the water flows so low, continuing down the canyon a few hundred yards is easy and leads to nice pools. Blue-green algae grows in the very hottest water, so if you see algae, be careful before you get in the water.

Just below the old swimming pool dam, the canyon jogs to the south, runs straight for about 100 yards, then jogs to the east again. Just after turning the corner, an enormous, water-polished smooth boulder blocks the canyon. A fixed rope helps here, but the last step is a doosey (especially on the way back up). Be sure you can get back up before jumping off the end. If the rope is missing, consider not sliding down the boulder. With the low water flows, it is possible to downclimb the waterfall next to the boulder without getting wet.

Goldstrike Hot Springs
Nevada Hot Springs

For most people, this area (lower Goldstrike Hot Springs, aka Cave of Wonders) is the place to stop. The pools are small but warm and inviting, the company can be good, and the canyon is spectacular. For others, the hike to Nevada Hot Springs and the Colorado River takes another 30-45 minutes.

Lower down, parts of the route run along the side of the canyon where people trimmed back the Catclaw Acacia and Saltcedar bushes. Other places, the route just climbs down boulders and around waterfalls, including some 3rd-class scrambling, and there are 3 more places with fixed ropes (total of 4 fixed ropes below upper Goldstrike Hot Springs).

Goldstrike Hot Springs
Goldstrike Beach on the Colorado River
Near the bottom of the canyon, a few hundred yards from the river, the stream flows into Nevada Hot Springs with some very nice hot tubs and even a hot waterfall coming off the side of the canyon that provides a nice hot shower.
Goldstrike Hot Springs
Goldstrike Canyon (view west from Colorado River).

Continuing downstream, the route pops out of the narrow canyon onto a small gravel beach at the edge of the Colorado River. There is a nice rock outcrop at the mouth of the canyon where one can sit, relax, eat lunch, and contemplate the passing of old-man river.

Water levels in the river change by several feet depending on how much electricity is needed (more water to make more electricity), so sometimes you can walk out onto the rock outcrop, and other times you need to wade out. Similarly, trying to visit Sauna Cave can leave you stranded if the water comes up quickly.

After relaxing in the cold water at the river or the hot water in the springs and eating lunch, retrace your steps to the trailhead.

Goldstrike Hot Springs
2010; my favorite pool is almost dry
Goldstrike Hot Springs
2010; last remaining pool in the upper area
Goldstrike Hot Springs
2010; big pool in upper hot springs area is dry
Goldstrike Hot Springs
With just a trickle, it is now easy to downclimb the waterfall
Goldstrike Hot Springs
Scrambling through boulders above Goldstrike Hot Springs
Goldstrike Hot Springs
Scrambling through boulders above Goldstrike Hot Springs

 
Table 1. Highway Coordinates (NAD27; UTM Zone 11S). Download Highway GPS Waypoints (*.gpx) file.

Site Location Latitude (°N) Longitude (°W) UTM Easting UTM Northing Elevation (ft) Verified
0803 Hwy 93 at Lakeshore Road 36.0091 114.7989 698377 3987000 1,700 Yes
0818 Hwy 93 at Goldstrike Access Rd (Road 75A) 36.01143 114.77535 700494 3987305 1,720 Yes
0819 Road 75A at Goldstrike Trailhead 36.0099 114.7680 701160 3987154 1,580 Yes

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

Wpt. Location Easting Northing Elevation (ft) Verified
01 Trailhead 701160 3987154 1,580 GPS
02 Broad, open area 702443 3986229 1,120 GPS
03 Goldstrike Hot Springs 702926 3986427 960 GPS
04 Nevada Hot Springs 703424 3986101 775 GPS
05 Goldstrike Cyn at Colorado River 703567 3986110 701 GPS

 
Note: All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
Thanks for coming to visit!
© 2014 Jim Boone; Last updated 140729

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