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Arizona Hot Spring -- Hot Spring Canyon Route
(including the Washes Route and Mountains Route)
Hiking Around Las Vegas , Lake Mead National Recreation Area
Arizona Hot Spring -- Hot Spring Canyon Route

Arizona Hot Spring
Trailhead and Highway 93 bridge (view SW)

Overview

Two routes lead down Hot Spring Canyon to Arizona Hot Springs (plus a third using White Rock Canyon). The first, the Washes Route, is longer (2.8 miles) and easier, but requires downclimbing several pour-overs, including one that is 30-ft high and 4th-class. The second, the Mountains Route, is shorter (2.2 miles) and steeper, but avoids the climbing. Either way, this volcanic area is geologically interesting, and both routes lead to thigh-deep hot pools in the bottom of a deep, narrow slot canyon near the Colorado River. Using a tall ladder beyond the hot springs, hikers can make it the Colorado River, and restrooms too!

Arizona Hot Springs is a place to sit, relax in the warm water, and meet interesting people.

Link to map or elevation profile.

Arizona Hot Spring
Trailhead signs (view SW)

Hiking down the steep mountains trail and hiking up the wash makes a nice loop, or return to the trailhead via White Rock Canyon (the regular route). There are nice places to camp in the canyon just above the hot springs and down by the river.

Arizona Hot Spring is sometimes called Ringbolt Hot Springs, a reference to Ringbolt Rapids that lie in the Colorado River, just upstream from the mouth of Hot Spring Canyon. Note however, that there is no longer any evidence of a rapid.

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 Spring
Start of the old White Rock Trail (view W)

Watch Out

Other than the standard warnings about hiking in the desert, ...the washes route is a fairly easy hike punctuated by three exciting pour-overs to downclimb. Most people probably would prefer a rope for the first, 30-ft downclimb. At the hot springs, be careful walking on rocks after you've picked up wet sand on the bottom of your shoes.

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 moderately long hike in a remote area, so be sure to bring the 10 Essentials. Be sure that you are physically fit and that you choose routes of the appropriate difficulty for your skills and endurance.

Arizona Hot Spring
Highpoint along the route (view S)

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, over the bridge into Arizona, and down to the White Rock Canyon Trailhead. Park here; this is the trailhead.

Arizona Hot Spring
Washes Route; trail beyond highpoint (view N)

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 under the Highway 93 bridge heading southwest. Just past the southbound bridge, the old trailhead signs (Wpt. 01a) introduce the route.

From the signs, the White Rock Canyon Route runs straight down White Rock Wash to the Colorado River. The sparsely vegetated country provides grand views down White Rock Wash and out across the mountains into Nevada and the Black Canyon Wilderness Area.

Arizona Hot Spring
Washes Route; 4th-class climb. The actual pour-over is around the corner to the right (view E)

From the signs, the Hot Spring Canyon Routes turn out of the wash, regain the high ground on the south side of the wash (Wpt. 02), and follow old roads and trails down into Hot Spring Canyon. The two routes run parallel for some ways, so hikers can walk down the wash until the south bank is lower and easier to climb.

On the high ground, the route stays to the left at the first (Wpt. 02) and second (Wpt 21) forks in the trail. The right forks rejoin the White Rock Canyon Trail, while the left forks run southwest across the landscape. The route runs up and down across several gullies and eventually links up with an old road. The trail leaves the road and runs onto a ridge (Wpt. 20), which is the highpoint along the Washes Route.

At this point (Wpt. 20), the Mountains Route turns right and heads to the west into the mountains, while the Washes Route turns south and runs down into the next drainage system.

Arizona Hot Spring
Washes Route; middle pour-over (3rd-class)

Mountains Route

From the highpoint (Table 3, Wpt. 20), the mountains route runs west on slickrock atop the ridge. Because it is slickrock, the start of this trail is very faint, but looking farther to the west, the well defined and distinct use-trail can be seen leading up a shallow canyon. When the slickrock runs out, the use-trail becomes obvious and continues on dirt heading up the shallow canyon to a saddle (Table 3, Wpt. 22).

From the saddle, the trail descends steeply across rocky hillsides and down rocky canyons until eventually reaching Hot Spring Canyon (Table 3, Wpt. 23). In the main wash, the route continues downhill to the hot spring (Table 3, Wpt. 12).

Arizona Hot Spring
Washes Route; broad wash (view W)

Parts of this route are quite steep, and there are a few sections requiring a bit of Class-2 scrambling, but the mountain route traverses a volcanic area with interesting rock formations, caves, and jumbled up geology. The upper and middle parts also harbor extensive stands of Brittlebush that provide a big splash of yellow in the spring.

Arizona Hot Spring
Washes Route; bottom of narrows (view E)

Washes Route

From the highpoint (Table 2, Wpt. 20), the washes route turns left and heads to the south. The trail runs across slickrock hillsides for 0.27 miles, eventually dropping into a sandy wash (Table 2, Wpt. 19). The route follows this wash downhill all the way to the hot spring.

Shortly after dropping into the wash, the wash merges with another wash coming down from the east, and both run into a V-shaped gully between two low ridges (Table 2, Wpt. 18). The canyon suddenly narrows and drops into a slot that isn't obvious from above.

Arizona Hot Spring
Washes Route; narrows (view E)

The canyon narrows and deepens, and in about 10 minutes you round a corner and find yourself atop a 25-ft pour-over with no apparent way down (Table 2, Wpt. 17). The route passes this obstacle along the north wall (right on the way down; look for small red and white arrows painted on the rocks). Climb up about 10 feet to a ledge, then follow the ledge west around the corner past the pour-over. The route then descends the steep, 30-ft-high, 4th-class rock face back into the wash. The climbing is easy and the handholds are big enough, but if you fall you die -- so be careful.

Below the big pour-over, there are two more pour-overs before getting out of the narrows. The first is about 5 minutes below the big pour-over (Table 2, Wpt. 16). This one requires about 20-25 ft of 3rd-class scrambling down a smooth slot adjacent to the pour-over. Fortunately, to top is easy. The second is a few minutes farther down. This one requires about 15-20 ft of 3rd-class face climbing on big holds adjacent to the pour-over. From the big pour-over, it takes less than 15 minutes to pass the narrows.

Arizona Hot Spring
Last bend in the canyon

Below the narrows (Table 2, Wpt. 15), the route continues down the canyon for about 15 minutes to a confluence with another major wash (Table 2, Wpt. 14). Stop for a minute and look around the area so you will remember the way out. Small red and white arrows painted on the rocks will help. A trail sign was missing on February 26, 2010.

From the confluence, the route continues down the wash. Watch for the bottom end of the mountains route (Table 3, Wpt. 23) in case you want to go back that way.

Arizona Hot Spring
Short slide into Upper hot pool

About 40 minutes below the confluence, the route enters another set of narrows (Table 2, Wpt. 13), the top of which is marked by a cottonwood tree and a mesquite thicket. The wash drops into a slot (10-ft easy scramble down) where the bottom of the slot has a small pool of hot water. The hot main springs and pools are just around the corner (Table 2, Wpt 12).

From the hot springs, either return to the trailhead by hiking out the mountains or washes routes, or consider making a big loop and hiking out using the White Rock Canyon route, which requires no climbing and is not steep.

Arizona Hot Spring
Upper hot pool
Arizona Hot Spring
Hot Spring; upper hot pool (view E)
Arizona Hot Spring
Hiker descending below the upper hot pool
Arizona Hot Spring
Hiker atop the ladder
hot spring canyon
The ladder is wet, and it is a long way to the bottom!
Arizona Hot Spring
Hiker made it down the ladder
Arizona Hot Spring
Hikers descending Hot Spring Canyon
Arizona Hot Spring
Hikers descending Hot Spring Canyon

Photos of the Mountains Route

Arizona Hot Spring
Mountains Route; start of route (view west from Washes Route)
Mountains Route
Mountains Route; end of the slickrock (view west)
Mountains Route
Mountains Route; approaching the saddle (view southwest)
Mountains Route
Mountains Route; saddle (view southwest)
Mountains Route
Mountains Route; start of steep descent (view southwest)
Arizona Hot Spring
Mountains Route; steep use-trail (view southwest)
Mountains Route
Mountains Route; steep use-trail (view southwest)
Mountains Route
Mountains Route; approaching canyon bottom (view southwest)
Arizona Hot Spring closure
Sign on access road: Area Closed during August
Arizona Hot Spring closure
Sign at trailhead: Area Closed during August

Table 2. Hiking Coordinates for Washes Route (NAD27; UTM Zone 11S). Download Hiking 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 Trail forks 707407 3983570 1,479 0.51 0.51
21 Trail forks 707281 3983522 1,413 0.09 0.60
20 Crossing ridge 706875 3983095 1,420 0.43 1.03
19 Entering wash 706987 3982748 1,318 0.27 1.30
18 Washes merge 707032 3982574 1,308 0.12 1.42
17 Above pour-over 707023 3982526 1,290 0.06 1.48
16 3rd-class pour-over 706990 3982517 1,251 0.02 1.50
15 Exiting narrows 706758 3982472 1,189 0.18 1.68
14 Canyons merge 706478 3982366 1,126 0.23 1.91
13 Above hot springs 705230 3981814 770 1.13 3.04
12 Hot springs 705156 3981760 757 0.09 3.13

Table 3. Hiking Coordinates for Mountains Route (NAD27; UTM Zone 11S). Waypoints file (see above).

Wpt. Location Easting Northing Elevation (ft) Point-to-Point Distance (mi) Cumulative Distance (mi) Verified
01 Trailhead 707677 3983997 1,536 0.00 0.00 GPS
20 Crossing ridge 706875 3983096 1,421 0.86 0.86 GPS
22 Saddle 706631 3982933 1,497 0.22 1.08 GPS
23 Bottom of Wash 706204 3982315 1,077 0.52 1.60 GPS
12 Hot Springs 705156 3981760 757 0.83 2.43 GPS

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

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