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First Creek Falls Trail
Hiking Around Las Vegas, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
First Creek Falls Trail
First Creek Falls Trail
Trailhead (view W)

Overview

This is a pleasant 1.1-mile walk (one way) across a desert valley beneath towering red-and-white sandstone cliffs. Near the beginning of the trail, the area burned in a wildfire, but farther out the landscape is heavily vegetated with Mojave Desert Scrub vegetation. The trail ends at a little waterfall with cottonwood trees, desert willows, and other shade trees around a large plunge pool cut into interesting conglomerate rock. Except for the last few yards, the hike follows a well-defined trail. At the falls, the route follows a use-trail down the side of the wash into the canyon. As with other falls in the area, these often are dry, but there usually is water at the base.

Link to map.

First Creek Falls TrailStaggered cable fence defines trail in burn area

The main trail does not go to the falls, there are no signs indicating the falls, and there are lots of confusing wild burro trails and other use-trails that cross the main trail, so it is important to use GPS coordinates or landmarks to find the turnoff from the main trail. In particular, watch for the first pine tree on the south side of the trail, which with binoculars, can be seen from the highway.

After visiting the falls, consider continuing up the trail into First Creek Canyon, scrambling up the canyon as far as you want. The main trail splits into lots of use-trails, but they all go in the same general direction, so the choice of use-trails doesn't really matter

First Creek Falls Trail
Well defined trail past burn area (view W)

Watch Out

Other than the standard warnings about hiking in the desert, ...this is a safe hike, even for kids. The last bit down to the creek is a scramble, but it shouldn't be a problem. Watch for slippery rocks along the creek during summer, and watch for ice during winter. In and around desert washes, always be aware of the potential for flash floods.

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

Beyond the fire (Wpt. 04), the trail wanders among the Joshua trees, Mojave yucca, creosote bush, blackbrush, and a variety of other shrubs, you can see First Creek Wash a few hundred yards off to the north (right). Through here, the trail generally runs straight towards the mouth of First Creek Canyon while slowly getting closer to the wash.
Use-trail to the falls (view NW)
Getting to the Trailhead

This hike is located in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, about 40 minutes from town, but not on the Scenic Loop Road. Drive out West Charleston Blvd, past the exit from the Scenic Loop Road, to the First Creek Trailhead. Park here; this is the trailhead.

First Creek Falls Trail
This tree marks the use-trail to falls (view N)

The Hike

From the trailhead (Table 2, Waypoint 1), the trail winds through a gate, then bends southwest and crosses Oak Creek Wash. Water flows in the wash after wet winters, but usually it is dry; a sign advises hikers to stay out of the water during floods. The trail then bends to the west and heads out towards the Wilson (Red Rocks) Cliffs and First Creek Canyon.

First Creek Falls Trail
Upper hiker on trail; lower hikers off route (view W)

Across the wash, the trail strolls westward across the gently sloping valley. About 400 feet out (Wpt. 02), the trail enters an area that burned in a 2006 wildfire. Most of the Joshua trees and other shrubby vegetation is gone, but other things are growing back. The help the land recover, the BLM installed cable fencing along the trail to encourage people to stay on the trail and avoid trampling the new vegetation. They did a nice job: they put fencing only on one side of the trail at any one point, but alternated the sides of trail so that hikers are guided in the right direction but never feel hemmed in. It will be interesting to see how the vegetation comes back over the years.

First Creek Falls Trail
Use-trail and conglomerate rocks (view E)

 

Beyond the fire (Wpt. 04), the trail wanders among the Joshua trees, Mojave yucca, creosote bush, blackbrush, and a variety of other shrubs. Along this section, hikers can see First Creek Wash a few hundred yards off to the north (right). Through here, the trail generally runs straight towards the mouth of First Creek Canyon while slowly angling closer to the wash.

At about 0.44 miles out (Wpt. 04), the trail crosses a north-south trending use-trail. The trail south leads to Spring Mountain Ranch State Park, and the trail north connects with a network of trails in the Oak Creek Canyon area.

First Creek Falls Trail
First Creek Falls in spring (view W)

At about 0.63 miles out, the trail suddenly veers off to the south (left), away from the wash, and winds through a big S-shaped curve as it crosses a broad, rocky, shallow, side-wash and climbs the low bank on the far side. After that, the trail abruptly bends back to the west, continues towards the mouth of the canyon, and slowly angles back towards First Creek Wash.

After the S-curves, hikers can start getting your bearings on the falls (see banner photo). Look for the first pine tree on the south (left) side of the trail (Wpt. 08) and a yellowish rocky outcrop across First Creek Wash at the far end of a red stream bank. Both points are about 0.3 miles ahead. The falls lie between these two landmarks.

First Creek Falls
Landmarks as seen from the highway (view W)

About 100 yards before getting to the first pine tree on the south side of the trail, an unmarked use-trail (Wpt. 05) angles off to the northwest towards another pine tree about 100 yards out at the edge of the wash (see banner photo).

Follow the use-trail to the pinyon pine at the edge of the cliff (Wpt. 06). From the tree, a use-trail starts down towards the waterfall. The route runs down and west across the slope following a narrow use-trail. Avoid scrambling straight down the purple-dirt embankment.

Winding around some interesting conglomerate boulders of Triassic-age Shinarump Conglomerate, the trail reaches the bottom of the canyon and the base of the waterfall (Wpt. 7). The total elevation change here is only about 25 vertical feet.

First Creek Falls Trail
Boulders and brush up in the canyon (view W)

The bottom of the falls is a small, quiet place. Be sure to take a few minutes to enjoy the solitude while listening to the falling water, songbirds, and Pacific treefrogs, and please respect the solitude of other people in the area.

To get back to the trailhead, retrace your steps in the dust back to the trailhead. However, before you go, consider hiking up into First Creek Canyon. Use-trails lead onto the canyon, but eventually you end up boulder-hopping up the wash and through the brush.

First Creek Falls Trail
Trail with fence posts in the distance (view W)
Pacific Treefrog (Pseudacris regilla)
Green-phase Pacific Treefrog at First Creek Falls

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

Wpt Location Easting Northing Elevation Point-to-Point Distance (mi) Cumulative Distance (mi) Verified
01 Trailhead 639812 3993885 3,661 0.00 0.00 GPS
02 East Edge of Fire 639704 3993848 3,647 0.08 0.08 GPS
03 West Edge of Fire 639278 3993775 3,695 0.28 0.36 GPS
04 Use-Trail Junction 639136 3993779 3,718 0.08 0.44 GPS
05 Use-Trail Junction 638333 3993726 3,825 0.56 1.00 GPS
06 Pine at Edge of Cliff 638266 3993767 3,843 0.07 1.07 GPS
07 Waterfall 638228 3993774 3,831 0.03 1.10 GPS
08 First Pine 638270 3993671 3,846 . . GPS

Happy Hiking! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
© 2014 Jim Boone; Last updated 130329

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