Willow Springs Loop Trail trailhead (view south)
This 8.4-mile route runs along the base of the Wilson Cliffs (the escarpment) from Willow Springs Picnic Area to the old Oak Creek Campground. The route connects the Willow Springs Loop, SMYC, Dale's, Pine Creek, Arnight, Knoll, a use-trail, and Wilson's Pimple Trails. The scenery is grand and the desert vegetation is relatively lush (well, for the desert). As described here, this is a one-way route that requires shuttling vehicles or arranging a pickup at the end of the trail, but the hike can be done in either direction, in its entirety, or in part by starting or stopping at any of the several trailheads along the way; I've described it from north to south, the downhill direction.
Link to map. For more detailed maps of the route, see the individual links below.
SMYC Trail (view south).
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. Crossing Oak Creek Wash requires about 0.1 miles of off-trail hiking.
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.
Dale's Trail (view S towards Rainbow and Wilson peaks)
Getting to the Trailhead
This hike is located along the Scenic Loop Road in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, about 1 hour 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.
Pine Creek Trail (view W)
This route starts on the Willow Spring Loop Trail, runs south along the base of the escarpment by connecting several short trails, and finishes on the Wilson's Pimple Loop Trail at the old Oak Creek Campground.
From the Willow Spring Loop trailhead (Table 1, Waypoint 1), 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 Route runs southwest, downstream, for about 0.08 miles to Red Rock Wash. The trail crosses the wash (Wpt 2) and climbs the hillside to run along the bench above the wash.
Arnight Trail at Knoll Trail (view S)
The trail runs south, winding along the hillside, for 0.31 miles to a T-intersection with the Children's Discovery Trail (Wpt 3). The Escarpment Route 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; Wpt 4). 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 5).
Consider turning right and hiking west for the short distance to Lower Lost Creek Falls, or turn left and continue east on the Escarpment Route. About 20 yards past the intersection, the trail crosses a wet willow thicket area on a wooden boardwalk, then crosses Red Rock Wash and runs east towards the Lost Creek parking area. About 80 yards before getting to the parking area, the trail reaches an intersection with the SMYC Trail (Wpt 6).
Knoll Trail (view S towards Wilson's Pimple)
The Escarpment Route 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 Route runs south on the SMYC Trail for 1.1 miles to an intersection with the Icebox Canyon Trail (Wpt 7). For details of this segment of the Escarpment Route, see the description of the SMYC Trail.
From the Icebox Canyon Trail (Wpt 7), the Escarpment Route 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.
Knoll Trail at Oak Creek Trail (view S)
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 Route runs south on Dale's Trail for 2.1 miles to a T-intersection with the Pine Creek Trail (Wpt 8). 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 8), the Escarpment Route turns right and runs west on the Pine Creek Trail for 0.37 miles to old-man Wilson's homestead. Just past the foundations, the trail forks (Wpt 9). The Escarpment Route turns left, runs southwest across Mr. Wilson's garden, crosses Pine Creek, and continues west along the south side of the creek. After 0.12 miles, the trail reaches a T-intersection with the Arnight Trail (Wpt 10). For details of this segment of the trail, see the description of the Pine Creek Trail.
|Use-trail connects Oak Creek Trail with Wilson's Pimple Trail (view S)
From the T-intersection with the Arnight Trail (Wpt 10), the Escarpment Route 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 that runs through some spectacular desert country. Stay to the left (east) at an unmarked trail junction (Wpt 11). The Escarpment Route runs south on the Arnight Trail for 0.5 miles to an intersection with the Knoll Trail (Wpt 12). For details of this segment of the trail, see the description of the Arnight Trail.
From the intersection with the Knoll Trail (Wpt 12), the Escarpment Route turns right onto the Knoll Trail, which runs south on gentle grades across open desert with little elevation gain. The Escarpment Route runs south on the Knoll Trail for 1.25 miles to an intersection with the Oak Creek Canyon Trail (Wpt 13). For details on this segment of the trail, see the description of the Knoll Trail.
Bluff overlooking Oak Creek and Wilson's Pimple Saddle (view S)
From the intersection with the Oak Creek Canyon Trail (Wpt 13), 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. The saddle is due south of the intersection. 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 on a use-trail that runs down to the edge of Oak Creek. Pick your way across the wash, avoiding the shrub live oak thickets as much as possible, aiming for a trail intersection across the wash (Wpt 14). 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's Pimple Saddle (Wpt 15).
Descending towards Oak Creek (view S)
From the saddle (Wpt 15), the Escarpment Route continues on the Wilson's Pimple Loop Trail, staying on the main old-road as it runs east down out of the hills and onto the flats. The route runs east on the old road for 0.73 miles to an unsigned junction where a trail to the right forks off from the road (Wpt 16). The Escarpment Route continues southeast on the trail until it rejoins the old road, then continues on to cross Red Rocks Wash and enter the old campground. From the wash crossing, the route runs east on the campground entrance road to a locked gate at the parking area on Charleston Blvd. (Wpt 17). For details on this segment of the trail, see the description of Wilson's Pimple Loop Trail.
Table 1. Hiking Coordinates and Distances based on GPS Data (NAD27; UTM Zone 11S). Download Hiking GPS Waypoints (*.gpx) file.
||Willow Springs Trailhead
||Crossing Red Rock Wash
||Willow Spring--Children's Trail Jct
||Willow Spring--Lost Creek Trail Jct
||Lost Creek--SMYC Trail Jct
||SMYC--Icebox--Dale Trail Jct
||Dale--Pine Creek Trail Jct
||Fork Past Homestead
||Pine Creek--Arnight Trail Jct
||Unmarked Trail Junction
||Arnight--Knoll Trail Jct
||Knoll--Oak Creek Trail Jct
||Across the Wash
||Wilson's Pimple Saddle
||Old Road--Trail Junction
||Oak Creek Campground