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Gun Range Ridge Loop Trail
Hiking Around Las Vegas, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
Gun Range Ridge
 
Gun Range Ridge Loop Trail
Public Trailhead parking area (view south).

Overview

A number of nice use-trails have been established in the Red Rock Canyon Campground Area. The Gun Range Ridge Loop (2.65 miles round trip) runs east from the public trailhead towards Gun Range Ridge, then makes a long loop south and back around to the trailhead, following the paved road at the end. Except for crossing one gully, this loop is gentle and easy with broad expansive views. After hiking this loop, consider hiking one of the other short or long loops in the campground area.

This hike is nice because it is close to town and not on the Scenic Loop Drive. This makes it free, a quick little get away from town, and it minimizes time driving to and from the trailhead.

Link to map.

Gun Range Ridge Loop
Trailhead (gate through fence) (view east).

Watch Out

Other than the standard warnings about hiking in the desert, ...this hike is about as safe as hiking in the desert can be, but watch out for dog poop near the trailhead. Watch for vehicles on Moenkopi Road on the way back; the speed limit is low, but drivers don't necessarily drive slow.

While hiking, please respect the land and the other people out there, and please try to Leave No Trace of your passage. Also, even though this hike is short and close to civilization, be sure to bring what you need of the 10 Essentials.

Gun Range Ridge Loop
Trail junction that starts the loop (view east).

Getting to the Trailhead

This hike is located in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, about 30 minutes from town, but not on the Scenic Loop Road. For non-campers, drive out West Charleston Blvd to the General Access Campground Trailhead, which is located along the Campground Road. Park here; this is the trailhead.

For campers, continue into the campground, park at your campsite, then walk out into the desert and pick up the trails.

Gun Range Ridge Loop
Nice, flat hiking (view southwest).

The Hike

From the public trailhead (Table 2, Waypoint 17), the trail crosses the road, passes through the fence, and heads east across the desert. Initially the trail runs through an old burn area with little vegetation.

Gun Range Ridge Loop
Fork in the trail; go either way (view south).

In the burn area, the vegetation is sparse, but it is coming back. Common species here include big galleta grass, common Mediterranean grass (a weed), tumbleweed (another weed), and five-needle prickly leaf (Thymophylla pentachaeta), a native species with little yellow flowers that I have growing in my yard. Unfortunately, inconsiderate dog owners let their dogs poop on the trail along here, so watch your step.

Past the burn area, the trail approached the first Joshua trees. Adjacent to the second Joshua tree, the trail forks (Wpt. 18). Stay to the right and head south.

Gun Range Ridge Loop
Old road along the low caliche cliff (view east).

From the fork, the trail bends to the southeast and runs out to a second fork (Wpt. 19). The more heavily used shortcut trail takes a hard left turn here, but it is hard to see the turn in the trail, and many people continue heading more to the south until intersecting an old road (Wpt. 20).

In the unburned area, the vegetation is diverse, but typical Mojave Desert Scrub habitat type with lots of creosote bush and white bursage, plus Nevada ephedra, spiny menodora, desert globemallow, littleleaf ratany, and galleta grass. Also watch for beavertail cactus, matted cholla, pencil cholla, and silver cholla.

Gun Range Ridge Loop Trail
Trail across the broad wash (view southeast).

At the old road, the loop turns left and runs northeast, passes a junction where the shortcut trail comes out (Wpt. 21), and continues to a fork in the road (Wpt. 22) where the loop turns right. For a shorter hike, the Campground Flats Loop Trail turns left here.

All along here, the old road has been running along the edge of a low caliche cliff. Atop the edge, the soil is shallow and the vegetation is somewhat different from the surrounding desert. Growing along here are lots of indigo bushes, a few pincushion cactus, and lots of cryptobiotic crust.

Gun Range Ridge Loop Trail
Trail along Gun Range Ridge (view southeast).

From the fork in the old road, the Gun Range Ridge Loop drops into and crosses the broad wash to the south, then continues southeast on a gentle incline. It is a bit hard to see the trail amidst the old roads here, so look for it across the wash (passing by a big Mojave yucca) before starting down into the wash.

Beyond the wash, the trail climbs the hill at a gentle grade. The views to the north keep getting better and better (so be sure to turn around and take in the view). The loop trail passes an apparent trail junction about 250 yards past the broad wash, but that trail runs down the hill a short ways and fades away.

Gun Range Ridge Loop Trail
Grand view of the La Madre Range (view northwest).

The loop trail eventually runs up onto a low knoll overlook the campground area and intersects an old road (Wpt. 26). The loop turns right here and starts back down towards the trailhead. For a longer loop, turn left and follow the Campground Knoll Loop farther south.

Turning right, the loop starts down the old road on a ridge overlooking the group campground in the near distance and the family campground in the farther distance. The loop passes a trail junction (Wpt. 34) to the group campground, and then continues heading west to Moenkopi Road.

Climb through the barbed-wire fence and follow Moenkopi Road north and back to the trailhead to finish the loop. Be sure to watch for fast-moving vehicles.

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

Wpt. Location Easting Northing Elevation (ft) Point-to-Point Distance (mi) Cumulative Distance (mi) Verified
17 Public Trailhead 644738 4000438 3,445 0.00 0.00 GPS
18 Fork in the Trail 645104 4000504 3,437 0.24 0.24 GPS
19 Shortcut Trail (start) 645300 4000383 3,429 0.14 0.38 GPS
20 Old Road 645358 4000269 3,435 0.09 0.47 GPS
21 Shortcut Trail (end) 645514 4000349 3,413 0.12 0.59 GPS
22 Road Forks 645761 4000551 3,400 0.22 0.81 GPS
26 Low Knoll 646378 4000041 3,501 0.54 1.35 GPS
34 Trail to Group Campground 646215 3999988 3,469 0.11 1.46 GPS
33 Moenkopi Road 645274 3999799 3,470 0.62 2.08 GPS
17 Public Trailhead 644738 4000438 3,445 0.57 2.65 GPS

 
Note: All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
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© 2014 Jim Boone; Last updated 120427

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