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Escarpment Trail - Southbound
Hiking Around Las Vegas, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
Escarpment Route Panorama
Escarpment Trail
Willow Springs Loop Trail trailhead (view SW)

Overview

The Escarpment Trail runs 8.3-miles along the base of the Wilson Cliffs (i.e., the escarpment) from Willow Springs Picnic Area to the old Oak Creek Campground. The trail uses several named trails (Willow Springs Loop, SMYC, Dale's, Pine Creek, Arnight, Knoll, and Wilson's Pimple, plus a bit of use-trail, to traverse the escarpment. The scenery is grand and the vegetation is relatively lush for the desert.

This is a one-way hike that requires shuttling vehicles or arranging a pickup at the end of the trail. The hike can be done in either direction in its entirety or in part by starting and stopping at any of the several trailheads along the way. Here, the trail is described from north to south, the downhill direction, but most details are left to descriptions of the individual trails along the way. For the other direction, see Escarpment Trail - Northbound.

Link to map. For detailed maps, follow links to the named trails.

Escarpment Route
Small Willow Springs Loop Trail trailhead sign (view SW)

Watch Out

Other than the standard warnings about hiking in the desert, ...this generally is a safe trail. In some places, there are so many rocks in the trail that the chance of twisting an ankle is unusually high.

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 long hike, so be sure to bring the 10 Essentials.

Escarpment Trail

Getting to the Trailhead

This hike is located along the Scenic Loop Road in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, about 45 minutes west of Las Vegas. Drive out to Red Rocks, pay the fee, and then drive about half-way around the Scenic Loop Road to Willow Spring Road. Turn right and drive north 0.6 miles to the Willow Springs Trailhead. Park here; this is the trailhead.

The trail ends at the old Oak Creek Campground Trailhead, which is located on Charleston Blvd south of the exit from the Scenic Loop Road.

Alternate trailheads for shortening the route are (from north to south) Lost Creek Trailhead, Icebox Canyon Trailhead, Pine Creek Trailhead, and Oak Creek Road Trailhead.

Escarpment Trail
Trail drops to merge with Children's Discovery (view S)

The Hike

From the Willow Spring Loop trailhead (Table 1, Waypoint 01), which is marked by a small trail sign at the southwest corner of the Willow Spring Picnic Area parking lot (about 50 feet south of the end of the pavement), the Escarpment Trail runs southwest, downstream, for about 0.08 miles to Red Rock Wash. The trail crosses the wash (Wpt. 02) and climbs the hillside to run along a bench above the wash.

The trail runs south, winding along the hillside to a T-intersection with the Children's Discovery Trail (Wpt. 03). The Escarpment Trail turns right and continues south along the west side of Red Rock Wash. The trail shortly passes an archaeological site (marked by a wooden fence). After considering the lives of the people who did the painting, continue south for a short ways to a T-intersection with the Lost Creek Falls Trail (Wpt. 04).

Escarpment Trail
Rock art site along Children's Discovery Trail (view W)

Consider turning right and hiking west for the short distance to Lower Lost Creek Falls if the stream is running, or turn left and continue east on the Escarpment Trail. About 20 yards past the intersection, the trail crosses a wet willow thicket area on a wooden boardwalk, then drops farther, crosses Red Rock Wash, and runs east towards the Lost Creek Trailhead. About 80 yards before getting to the parking area, the trail reaches an intersection with the SMYC Trail (Wpt. 05).

The Escarpment Trail turns right onto the SMYC Trail and runs southwest to cross back to the west side of Red Rock Wash. The SMYC Trail runs south through spectacular open desert along the base of the Wilson Cliffs. This is a pleasant trail with relatively little overall elevation change. The grade generally is gentle, but there are two short, steep sections associated with nice viewpoints. The Escarpment Trail runs south on the SMYC Trail for 1.1 miles to an intersection with the Icebox Canyon Trail (Wpt. 06). For details of this segment of the Escarpment Trail, see the description of the SMYC Trail.

Escarpment Trail
Unmarked junction with Lower Lost Creek Falls Trail (view S)

From the Icebox Canyon Trail (Wpt. 06), the Escarpment Trail continues south on Dale's Trail. Dale's Trail runs at a fairly gentle grade most of the way, but it has several short, steep sections; it is quite rocky and hard to walk on; and it seems to twist and jog back and forth far more than is necessary.

The south end of Dale's Trail cuts across a number of ravines that come down from the cliffs, but rather than contour around, the trail drops into each one and climbs back up the other side. In general, this trail is poorly laid out and is not among my favorites. Fortunately, park benches along the trail encourage you to stop, relax, and enjoy the splendid views. The Escarpment Trail runs south on Dale's Trail for 2.1 miles to a T-intersection with the Pine Creek Trail (Wpt. 07). For details of this segment of the trail, see the description of Dale's Trail.

From the T-intersection with the Pine Creek Trail (Wpt. 07), the Escarpment Trail turns right and runs west on the Pine Creek Trail for 0.37 miles to old-man Wilson's homestead. Just past the historic foundations, the trail forks (Wpt. 08). The Escarpment Trail turns left, runs southwest across Mr. Wilson's garden, crosses Pine Creek, and continues west along the south side of the creek.

Escarpment Trail
Hikers resting shade on boardwalk at Lost Creek Spring

About 0.12 miles past Pine Creek, the trail reaches a T-intersection with the Arnight Trail (Wpt. 09). For details of this segment of the trail, see the description of the Pine Creek Trail.

From the T-intersection with the Arnight Trail (Wpt. 09), the Escarpment Trail turns left and runs southeast on the Arnight Trail. The Arnight Trail climbs out of Pine Creek Canyon and runs through open desert along the base of the Wilson Cliffs. This is a pleasant trail with relatively little elevation change (after climbing out of Pine Creek) that runs through some spectacular desert country. Stay on the main trail at unmarked trail junctions. The Escarpment Trail runs south on the Arnight Trail for 0.5 miles to an intersection with the Knoll Trail (Wpt. 10). For details of this segment of the trail, see the description of the Arnight Trail.

From the intersection with the Knoll Trail (Wpt 10), the Escarpment Trail turns right onto the Knoll Trail, which runs south on gentle grades across open desert with little elevation gain. The Escarpment Trail runs south on the Knoll Trail for 1.25 miles to an intersection with the Oak Creek Canyon Trail (Wpt. 11). For details on this segment of the trail, see the description of the Knoll Trail.

Escarpment Trail
Hiker at SMYC Trail junction (view SE)

From the intersection with the Oak Creek Canyon Trail (Wpt. 11), the goal is to get across Oak Creek Wash and hike up to the saddle between the face of Mt. Wilson and Wilson's Pimple, the odd hill below the face of Mt. Wilson that can be seen ahead. Unfortunately, there are no good trails to get across Oak Creek, but there are myriad use-trails and old roads throughout the Oak Creek Canyon area that run up and down the canyon.

The shortest route across Oak Creek is to continue south from the intersection (Wpt. 11) on a use-trail that runs down to the edge of Oak Creek (Wpt. 12). Pick your way across the wash, avoiding the shrub live oak thickets as much as possible. From there, wander along use-trails, heading south as much as possible until reaching an old road, which is part of the Wilson's Pimple Loop Trail. Head south on the old road and hike up to Wilson Saddle (Wpt. 13).

Escarpment Route
SMYC Trail (view S)
From Wilson Saddle (Wpt 13), the Escarpment Trail continues on the Wilson's Pimple Loop Trail, staying on the main old road as it runs east and down out of the hills and onto the flats. The old road runs east then southeast until crossing Red Rocks Wash and entering the old campground area. From the wash crossing, the route runs east on the campground entrance road to a gate and the Oak Creek Camp Trailhead (Wpt 14). For details on this segment of the trail, see the description of Wilson's Pimple Loop Trail.
Escarpment Trail
Escarpment Trail crossing Icebox Canyon Trail
Escarpment Route
Dale's Trail (view S towards Rainbow and Wilson peaks)
Escarpment Trail
Escarpment Trail at Pine Creek Trail (view S)
Escarpment Trail
Dale's Trail at Pine Creek Trail (view W)
Escarpment TrailPine Creek Trail at Wilson Homestead (view W) Escarpment Trail
Pine Creek Trail forks to form a loop; Escarpment goes left (view W)
Escarpment Trail
Pine Creek Trail at Arnight Trail (view S)
Escarpment Trail
Arnight Trail climbs out of Pine Creek Canyon (view E)
Escarpment Trail
Arnight Trail runs south along the base of the escarpment (view S)
Added new photos
Arnight Trail at Knoll Trail (view S)
Escarpment Route
Knoll Trail (view S towards Wilson's Pimple)
Escarpment Trail
Knoll Trail at Oak Creek Trail (view S)
Escarpment Route
Escarpment Trail continues across Oak Creek Trail (view S)
Escarpment RouteUse-trail connects Oak Creek Trail with Wilson's Pimple Trail (view S)
Escarpment Route
Bluff overlooking Oak Creek and Wilson's Pimple Saddle (view S)
Escarpment Route
Descending use-trail towards Oak Creek (view S)
Escarpment Route
Descending use-trail towards Oak Creek (view S)
Escarpment Route
Oak Creek (view E)
Escarpment Route
Catching frogs in Oak Creek (view W)
Escarpment Route
One of many use-trails climbing towards Wilson's Saddle (view SE)
Escarpment Trail
Wilson's Pimple Loop Trail below Wilson Saddle (view S)
Escarpment Trail
Wilson's Pimple Loop Trail approaching Wilson Saddle (view SE)
Escarpment Route
Wilson's Pimple Trail just past saddle (view SE)
Escarpment Trail
Wilson's Pimple Trail runs across desert flats (view SE)
Escarpment Route
Wilson's Pimple Trail approaching the trailhead (view SE)
Escarpment Trail
Hikers Approaching the Oak Creek Camp Trailhead (view E)

Table 1. Hiking Coordinates and Distances 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 Willow Springs Trailhead 635138 4002610 4,564 0.00 0.00 GPS
02 Crossing Red Rock Wash 635110 4002496 4,540 0.08 0.08 GPS
03 Willow Spring--Children's Trail Jct 635234 4002262 4,532 0.23 0.31 GPS
04 Willow Spring--Lost Creek Trail Jct 635274 4002118 4,521 0.15 0.46 GPS
05 Lost Creek--SMYC Trail Jct 635496 4002239 4,474 0.17 0.63 GPS
06 SMYC--Icebox--Dale Trail Jct 636233 4001218 4,307 1.04 1.67 GPS
07 Dale--Pine Creek Trail Jct 636965 3998718 3,980 2.13 3.80 GPS
08 Fork Past Homestead 636477 3998548 4,029 0.35 4.15 GPS
09 Pine Creek--Arnight Trail Jct 636349 3998464 4,063 0.11 4.26 GPS
10 Arnight--Knoll Trail Jct 636701 3997957 4,138 0.45 4.71 GPS
11 Knoll--Oak Creek Trail Jct 637160 3996333 4,104 1.26 5.97 GPS
12 Oak Creek Wash 637060 3996117 4,055 0.17 6.14 GPS
13 Wilson's Saddle 637473 3995556 4,137 0.49 6.63 GPS
14 Oak Creek Camp Trailhead 639689 3994796 3,756 1.67 8.30 GPS

Happy Hiking! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
© 2015 Jim Boone; Last updated 150116

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