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Wilson's Pimple Loop Trail
(aka Potato Knoll Loop)
Hiking Around Las Vegas, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
Wilson's Pimple Loop
wilson's pimple loop trail
Wilson's Pimple (aka Potato Knoll) below the face of Mt. Wilson

Overview

This pleasant 4.3-mile hike crosses Red Rock Valley to the base of Mt. Wilson, traversing a variety of desert habitats (including Blackbrush Flats, typical Mojave Desert Scrub, and Pinyon-Juniper Woodland) along the way. The hike then runs around the back of Wilson's Pimple (aka Potato Knoll) to Oak Creek (with water in season), follows the Riparian Woodland downstream along the far side of Wilson's Pimple, and finally loops back across desert flats to the trailhead.

This hike links together several old mining roads that all run out to Wilson's Pimple where someone tried to open a quarry or mine. As such, there is a network of old roads and a variety of ways to get to Wilson's Pimple. Then on the far side of Wilson's Pimple, there is a plethora of use-trails, which can seem confusing, but again provide a variety of ways to do the loop.

Link to map or elevation profile.

Wilson's Pimple
Wilson's Pimple Trailhead (view W)

The open views and many options makes some general rules useful. First, always stay on main trails. Second, on the way out, always hike towards the saddle between Mt. Wilson and Wilson's Pimple (always stay left). Third, behind Wilson's Pimple, stay close to the base of Wilson's Pimple (always stay right). Finally, after crossing the creek for the second time and running along the northeast base of Wilson's Pimple, always stay left on main trails back towards the trailhead.

Watch Out

Other than the standard warnings about hiking in the desert, ...this is a safe hike, even for kids. Watch for slippery rocks along the creek when water is flowing, 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 hike is short, be sure to bring what you need of the 10 Essentials.

Wilson's Pimple Loop

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 entrance to and exit from the Scenic Loop Road, to the Oak Creek Camp Trailhead. Park here; this is the trailhead.

 

The Hike

From the trailhead (Table 1, Waypoint 01), the trail runs west, through the barbed-wire gate, and down the old road towards the original Red Rock Campground. Off to the left, this was a nice campground in the old days. The trail runs straight down the old road to a trail sign and heavy metal gate at the edge of Red Rock Wash (Wpt. 02). Vegetation along the wash includes desert willow and shrub live oak, which provides habitat for desert birds.

Wilson's Pimple Loop
Start of Wilson's Pimple Trail (view W)

The trail runs around this gate, across Red Rock Wash, and up the old road on the other side. The road curves to the right and runs northwest out across the desert flats. Vegetation through here largely is Blackbrush with a few Buckhorn Cholla, plus a few Mojave Yucca and Joshua Trees.

The trail runs northwest on the wide dirt road to a fork (Wpt. 03). Here, the outbound loop stays left, while the returning hikers will come back on the right fork. Staying left, the trail runs up the hillside on a narrow dirt road.

The narrow old road, which is quite rocky in places, runs northwest across the desert flats until it forks (Wpt. 04). Here, the loop trail again stays left until finally rejoining the original wide dirt road (Wpt. 05) a short ways ahead.

On the wide dirt road, the loop trail now runs west and starts up into an open canyon on the south side of Wilson's Pimple. An old road forks right, marked by a pile of white boulders, and higher up, an old campsite on the left made for a nice place for me to live during the winter of 1980 when I was climbing in the area. Higher in the canyon the vegetation begins to change, with Utah Juniper, Cliffrose, and Mojave Yucca becoming common.

Wilson's Pimple Loop
Approaching trail sign and old gate (view W)

In the canyon, several dirt roads branch off to the right, but the loop trail stays left on the main dirt road up to a saddle (Wpt. 09). At the saddle, the use-trail to Wilson's Pimple Peak forks off to the right.

The loop trail crosses straight over the saddle and runs down the other side into a nice forest of Singleleaf Pinyon Pine and Utah Juniper. The trail stays out of the bottom of the canyon, running along the western hillside (the toe of Mt. Wilson). Through here, there is a maze of old roads, use-trails, and illegal walk-in campsites, but the loop trail always stay to the right on main trails.

As the trail begins to pass Wilson's Pimple and the canyon below the saddle opens into Oak Creek Canyon, the trail forks (Wpt. 07). Here, the well-used Escarpment Trail stays left, while Wilson's Pimple Loop Trail stays right. Both of these trails look like "main" trails.

The trail now runs down a low ridge, staying towards the base of Wilson's Pimple Hill. The trail winds about and feels like it might be going in the wrong direction, but always stay right at trail junctions and begins to run east on a bench above Oak Creek.

Wilson's Pimple Loop
Trailhead sign at edge of Oak Creek Wash (view W)

At a not-so-obvious fork in the trail (Wpt. 08), the trail again stays right. After crossing a few rocks, the trail again becomes wide and obvious. If this trail junction is missed, hikers can use any of the next two or three side-trails to the right to easily get back on track.

With the water in the canyon and the shade from Wilson's Pimple, the forest along this section is dense and diverse. Here, the usual conifers mix with Ponderosa Pine (including young trees!), Fremont's Cottonwood, Velvet Ash, and Ashy Silktassel so big they look like trees.

The trail follows Oak Creek downhill, staying on the forested bench between the creek and Wilson's Pimple until the streamside bench pinches out against the hillside and forces the trail to cross Oak Creek (Wpt. 09). On the north side of the creek, the trail continues downhill on the rocky bench above the creek, staying right when side trails branch off.

Wilson's Pimple Loop
Trail crosses Red Rock Wash (view W)

Eventually the trail drops back towards the creek, passing a nice outcrop of Shinarump Conglomerate, and crosses back over Oak Creek (Wpt. 10). Now, again on the south side of the creek, the trail winds through a forested area, but eventually begins to feel as if it is wrapping back around Wilson's Pimple. Several minor trails branch off through here, but the main trail remains obvious.

Heading southeast, the trail joins an old road (Wpt. 11) and continues southeast. As the trail emerges from an area of conifer trees and tall oak and tall shrubs into open desert, the old road forks (Wpt. 12).

From this point (Wpt. 12), the goal is to return to the trailhead, which is off to the southeast. Hikers can turn left and hike more directly back to the trailhead, or they can stay right and continue circling around the base of Wilson's Pimple.

Wilson's Pimple Loop
Old road runs across desert flats (view NW)

Staying left, the road runs east to pass right of a grove of tall, Canyon Oak trees that probably made for another nice campsite in the old days, then curves southeast to rejoin the original wide dirt road (near to Wpt. 04).

Staying right (straight), the old road wraps around the base of Wilson's Pimple, staying close to the hillside around to the southeast corner of the hill. This old road reaches a T-intersection where hikers can stay right to absolutely complete the circumnavigation of Wilson's Pimple and return to the original wide dirt road. Staying left returns more directly to the trailhead, returning to the original wide dirt road (near to Wpt. 05).

Returning, Wilson's Pimple Loop Trail now continues southeast, but stays left at forks in the wide dirt road to maximize the amount of new terrain. Eventually, however, hikers return to the original fork in the road (Wpt. 03) and everyone returns to the trailhead (Wpt. 01) on the same trail.

Wilson's Pimple Loop
Old road forks (view NW)
Wilson's Pimple Loop
What's left of an historic sign post (view NW)
Wilson's Pimple Loop
Smooth trail and grand views across desert flats (view N)
Wilson's Pimple Loop
Rocky trail crosses desert flats (view NW)
Wilson's Pimple Loop
Fork in the old road, main loop goes left (view NW)
Wilson's Pimple Loop
Back to the main old road (view W)
Wilson's Pimple Loop
Side road to the right (possible return trail; view W)
Wilson's Pimple Loop
Wilson's Pimple below the face of Mt. Wilson (view W)
Wilson's Pimple Loop Wilson's Pimple Loop
Wilson's Pimple Loop
Side road to the right (possible return trail; view W)
Wilson's Pimple Loop
Home, Sweet Home (winter 1980; view W)
Wilson's Pimple Loop
Trail runs up canyon below Mt. Wilson (view NW)
Wilson's Pimple Loop
Climbing towards Wilson's Saddle (view NW)
Wilson's Pimple Loop
Climbing towards Wilson's Saddle (view NW)
Wilson's Pimple Loop
Old quarry site on the right (view NE)
Wilson's Pimple Loop
Wilson's Saddle (view NW)
Wilson's Pimple Loop
Descending behind Wilson's Pimple (view NW)
Wilson's Pimple Loop
Interesting color in the rocks
Wilson's Pimple Loop
Descending behind Wilson's Pimple (view NW)
Wilson's Pimple Loop
Minor side trail to the left (view N)
Wilson's Pimple Loop
Descending behind Wilson's Pimple (view NW)
Wilson's Pimple Loop
Trail forks: Escarpment left; Wilson's Pimple Loop right (view N)
Wilson's Pimple Loop
Trail forks: Escarpment Trail left -- Wrong Way! (view NW)
Wilson's Pimple Loop
Trail forks: Wilson's Pimple Loop (view N)
Wilson's Pimple Loop
Descending towards Oak Creek (view N)
Wilson's Pimple Loop
Fork in the trail: stay right (view NW)
Wilson's Pimple Loop
Trail stays along edge of Wilson's Pimple Hill (view E)
Wilson's Pimple Loop
Not-so-obvious trail junction: stay right (view E)
Wilson's Pimple Loop
Trail runs on bench above Oak Creek (view E)
Wilson's Pimple Loop
Trail runs on bench above Oak Creek (view E)
Wilson's Pimple Loop
Crossing to north side of Oak Creek (view NE)
Wilson's Pimple Loop
Oak Creek upstream during winter (view W)
Wilson's Pimple Loop
Oak Creek downstream during winter (view E)
Wilson's Pimple Loop
Trail stays left across the creek (view NE)
Wilson's Pimple Loop
Trail on bench above Oak Creek (view E)
Wilson's Pimple Loop
Passing below an outcrop of Shinarump Conglomerate (view E)
Wilson's Pimple Loop
Crossing to south side of Oak Creek (view SE)
Wilson's Pimple Loop
Oak Creek downstream during winter (view E)
Wilson's Pimple Loop
Oak Creek upstream during winter (view W)
Wilson's Pimple Loop
Minor side trail forks right; Loop stay left (view S)
Wilson's Pimple Loop
Staying along base of Wilson's Pimple (view S)
Wilson's Pimple Loop
Trail merges with old road (view S)
Wilson's Pimple Loop
Passing through area of conifer trees and tall shrubs (view S)
Wilson's Pimple
Old road forks; hikers can go either way (view S)

At this fork, hikers can go either way:

  • Regular Route turns left
  • Alternate Route stays straight (right)

Staying Left at the Fork (Regular Route)

Wilson's Pimple
Fork in the trail: staying left on main loop trail (view E)
Wilson's Pimple
Staying left on main Loop trail (view E)
Wilson's Pimple
Nice stand of Canyon Live Oak (view E)
Wilson's Pimple
A hole in the tree ...
Wilson's Pimple
... leads to a shady rest area
Wilson's Pimple
Trail continues east
Wilson's Pimple
Fork in the trail: stay right (view E)
Wilson's Pimple
Getting past the trees
Wilson's Pimple Wilson's Pimple
Wilson's Pimple
Trail angles to the southeast
Wilson's Pimple
Crossing a wash (view S)
Wilson's Pimple
Nice Blackbrush Flats (view S)
Wilson's Pimple
Approaching the old wide road (view S)
Wilson's Pimple
At the old wide road, the trail forks: go either way (view S)
more to come ...

Staying Right at the Fork (Alternative Route)

Wilson's Pimple
Fork in the trail: staying right on the alternate trail (view S)
Wilson's Pimple Loop
Staying right on alternate along base of Wilson's Pimple (view S)
Wilson's Pimple
Wilson's Pimple
Wilson's Pimple
Trail dips through a canyon (view S)
Wilson's Pimple
Interesting white sandstone boulders along the trail (view NW)
Wilson's Pimple
Trail climbs out of canyon to Blackbrush flats (view S)
Wilson's Pimple
Trail reaches a T-intersection (view S)
Wilson's Pimple
Staying left at the T-intersection (view SE)
Wilson's Pimple
Trail (old road) runs down gentle hillside (view SE)
Wilson's Pimple Wilson's Pimple
Wilson's Pimple
Approaching the old wide road (view SE)
Wilson's Pimple
Back on the old wide road (view SE)

Left and Right Routes Merge

Wilson's Pimple Loop
Back at the wide dirt road, take either fork, (view SE)
Wilson's Pimple Loop
Return trail follows the wide dirt road (view SE)
Wilson's Pimple Loop
Approaching the first fork in the wide road (view SE)
Wilson's Pimple Loop
Approaching Red Rock Wash (view E)
Wilson's PimpleCrossing back over Oak Creek Wash (view E) Wilson's Pimple Loop
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 Oak Creek Camp Trailhead 639689 3994796 3,756 0.00 0.00 GPS
02 Trail Sign and Gate 639441 3994828 3,736 0.16 0.16 GPS
03 Road Forks, Stay Left 639284 3994936 3,742 0.13 0.29 GPS
04 Road Forks, Stay Left 638748 3995372 3,821 0.46 0.75 GPS
05 Merge with Main Dirt Road 638524 3995556 3,857 0.18 0.93 GPS
06 Wilson's Pimple Saddle 637473 3995556 4,137 0.79 1.72 GPS
07 Trail Forks, Stay Right 637165 3995892 4,087 0.33 2.05 GPS
08 Trail Forks, Stay Right 637215 3996106 4,045 0.18 2.23 GPS
09 Trail Crosses Oak Creek to North 637495 3996122 3,978 0.21 2.44 GPS
10 Trail Crosses Oak Creek to South 637788 3996165 3,927 0.21 2.65 GPS
11 Trail Joins Old Road 637898 3996027 3,926 0.14 2.79 GPS
12 Old Road Forks 637982 3995943 3,913 0.08 2.87 GPS
04 Road Forks, Stay Left 638748 3995372 3,821 0.67 3.54 GPS
03 Road Forks, Stay Left 639284 3994936 3,742 0.45 3.99 GPS
02 Trail Sign and Gate 639441 3994828 3,736 0.13 4.12 GPS
01 Oak Creek Camp Trailhead 639689 3994796 3,756 0.16 4.28 GPS

Happy Hiking! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
© 2015 Jim Boone; Last updated 150303

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