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El Dorado Jeep Trail Road
Backroads Around Las Vegas, Lake Mead National Recreation Area
El Dorado Jeep Trail Road
El Dorado Jeep Trail Road
Sign at Lake Mead boundary (Photo 0824)

Text and photos by Mark Petterson, Henderson


The El Dorado Jeep Trail Road is a 13-mile backcountry route in Arizona that follows unnamed washes west from U.S. 93 into Lake Mead National Recreation Area and the Colorado River. The road leads through the Black Mountains, a breathtaking landscape of volcanic origin adorned by Mojave Desert Scrub vegetation, and ends at the shore of Lake Mohave. Except for the small mining area within the first 2 miles, there are no structures of any kind along this road. There are no services. Note that on road signs, the name El Dorado is incorrectly spelled as Eldorado.

Link to map.

El Dorado Jeep Trail Road
Wonderland of jagged mountains (Photo 0828)

Watch Out

Other than the standard warnings about hiking in the desert, ... this is a fairly easy drive. The name of the road gives the impression that it is very rough, a true "Jeep" road, but it is actually quite smooth and flat, with few rocky areas. Although 2WD vehicles may be able to handle most of this road in ideal conditions, a 4WD would be safer. Also, at about 25 miles south of Hoover Dam and up to 13 miles from the pavement, this is wild and remote country. Make sure you have plenty of fuel and water, a good spare tire, and notify someone of your travel plans. Your cell phone probably won’t work.

Most of the road surface is soft, loose gravel where it is possible to get stuck. If you feel yourself driving in deep, loose sand or gravel, keep moving and don’t stop. Find a firmer area to stop to get out for a photo or to explore this wonderful area.

El Dorado Jeep Trail Road
Wonderland of jagged mountains (Photo 0873)

While out, please respect the land and the other people out there (but don’t expect to see anyone), and try to Leave No Trace of your passage. Also, even though this road is only 13 miles, be sure to bring the 10 Essentials. Be aware of the weather and stay out of this area if rain is expected; you don’t want to get caught in a flash flood.

At the Lake Mead NRA boundary, watch for a brown backcountry road sign giving the name of the road and a numbered yellow arrow. Approved roads are signed with yellow arrows. The black number in the center of the arrow designates the road number. Driving on roads or trails not marked with the yellow arrow is prohibited. Driving off roads, in washes, or cross country damages the fragile desert soil and is prohibited by National Park Service regulations. Please check with local rangers on the road conditions before driving into the backcountry. Maps of approved backcountry roads are available online and at the Alan Bible Visitor Center.

El Dorado Jeep Trail Road
Menagerie of rocks (Photo 0837)

Getting to the Roadhead

This road is located This road is located in Lake Mead National Recreation Area along U.S. Highway 93 in Arizona, about 1-1/2 hours southeast of Las Vegas. From town, drive south on Hwy. 93 through Boulder City and over Hoover Dam into Arizona. Continue south on Hwy. 93 past the roads to Willow Beach and Temple Bar. Drive past mile marker 24, then begin looking for a right turn lane and a right turn (west) onto an unmarked dirt road surfaced with red dirt.

El Dorado Jeep Trail Road
Menagerie of rocks (Photo 0875)

The Road

From the pavement (Table 1, Site 1248), turn right onto the dirt road. The red colored road runs west and generally uphill for about 3.1 miles to a road intersection (Site 1249) in the Pope Mine area. At this point, the road is running south with most of the Pope Mine facilities off to the east (left).

Passing the Pope Mine area, at about 3.5 miles out, the road forks (Site 1250), and the El Dorado Jeep Trail angles to the right and runs southwest and up a side canyon. At the turn, a brown National Park Service sign that reads, "Road 54, El Dorado Jeep Trail, Lake Mohave 9 miles." This is your gateway to an exciting and beautiful drive.

El Dorado Jeep Trail Road
Layer cake mountain (Photo 0852)

After the angled right turn from the red dirt road onto the gray-gravel El Dorado Jeep Trail at the brown sign, there are various options on where to drive in the wash. You will follow the safest route if you simply follow the existing tire tracks in the gravel.

At about 4.9 miles out, the road passes off of BLM land and enters Lake Mead National Recreation Area (Site 1251). To this point, the first couple of miles have been somewhat uninspiring, but as you enter the National Recreation Area at another brown sign (Photo 0824), you can sense the great scenery to come. As you look westward, you can see the Black Mountains sloping towards the Lower Black Canyon of the Colorado River, with the El Dorado Mountains of Nevada towering in the distance (Banner Photo).

Eldorado Jeep Trail Road
S-curves (Photo 0849)

Your anticipation is soon rewarded when the road enters a wonderland of tortured, jagged mountains and beautiful side canyons (Photos 0828 and 0873). The Black Mountains are primarily volcanic in origin, as old as 70 million years, but other types of rocks are mixed in to create a remarkable geologic jumble. This is most evident at about the halfway point, where the road passes alongside a small range of colorful mountains composed of a menagerie of rocks (Photos 0837 and 0875).

El Dorado Jeep Trail Road
Narrow gap in a rocky ridge (Photo 0868)
A mile or so further west, a lava flow has transformed a sloping mountaintop into a layer cake with “frosting” dripping slightly over the side (Photo 0852). If you’re lucky, you may see desert bighorn sheep or wild burros. After the road passes a scenic S-curve (photo 0849) and two narrow gaps in rocky ridges (Photo 0868), you are rewarded with your first view of the azure waters of upper Lake Mohave (Photo 0855).
El Dorado Jeep Trail Road
Lake Mohave (Photo 0855)
When you reach the end of the road (Site 1252), you can walk down through the brush to reach the shoreline, and the view of the lake with the Chalk Cliffs shimmering in the distance (Photos 0856, 0858) makes it worth the effort. Be careful of the damp, spongy soil; there are even some areas that are virtually quicksand. Walk close to the rocky shore where the soil is firmer. If you go into the water, again be careful of the soft soil as you try to regain your footing on the beach.
El Dorado Jeep Trail Road
Lake Mohave (Photo 0856)
Return the way you came; after you pass the brown sign, turn left (north) onto the red dirt road. It bends to the right (east) and returns to U.S. 93, where you will turn left (north) again to head back to Las Vegas. Allow an extra half-hour (or more on the weekends) for your return trip, due to the hordes of tourists at Hoover Dam.
El Dorado Jeep Trail Road
Chalk Cliffs in the distance (Photo 0858)
Bonus detour: Either on the way there or on the way back, stop at Hemenway Park in Boulder City where desert bighorn sheep are commonly sighted grazing amidst the playground equipment and tennis courts. Hemenway Park is reached by turning north on Ville Drive about 2 miles after downtown Boulder City.

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

Site Location Latitude Longitude Easting Northing Elevation Point-to-Point Distance (mi) Cumulative Distance (mi) Verified
1248 Hwy 93 at Jeep Road 35.75237 114.50109 725951 3959163 2,400 0.0 0.0 Map
1249 Road intersection 35.74419 114.55411 721179 3958135 2,898 3.2 3.2 Map
1250 Road intersection 35.73861 114.55472 721139 3957515 2,950 0.4 3.5 Map
1251 Lake Mead Boundary 35.73016 114.57474 719351 3956532 2,990 1.4 4.9 Map
1252 Lake Mohave 35.73000 114.69348 708611 3956255 645 8.6 13.5 Map

Happy Hiking! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
© 2014 Jim Boone; Last updated 120426

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