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Durango Long Loop Route
Hiking Around Las Vegas; Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument
Durango Long Loop
Hiker entering Tule Springs Fossil Beds Nat. Mon. (view ENE)

Overview

Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument is a new National Park Service area that was designated in December 2014 and as such, there are not yet any designated trails. However, the Durango Long Loop makes a nice and easy, nearly level, 1-3/4-mile route that provides a nice hike in the new Monument. Following old roads, the route circles around two of the long, low mud-ridge formations, then loops back to the trailhead. Fossils can be seen in the mud, but remember, no collecting here -- all paleontological resources are protected. Hiking in this area was suggested by the Protectors of Tule Springs, so this is one of the less sensitive areas.

Link to Map.

Watch Out

Other than the standard warnings about hiking in the desert, there are no particular dangers on this route, other than broken glass and lead-contaminated soils where illegal shooters once practiced. 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.

Durango Long Loop
Route follows an old road (view E)

Getting to the Trailhead

From downtown, drive north of Highway 95 towards Reno. Towards the north edge of town, exit right onto Durango Drive following signs towards Floyd Lamb Park at Tule Springs, then continue north to the Durango Drive Trailhead. Park here; this is the trailhead.

 

The Hike

From the trailhead, the route passes through the hiker access point (Table 1, Waypoint 01) into the new National Monument and then onto an old road. Following the old road east, the route runs between yellow-mud cliffs.

The valleys between the yellow-mud hills are covered with gray-limestone gravels that washed down from the La Madre Mountains and the Spring Mountains to the west. In addition to producing a nice contrast in colors between the gray gravels and yellow muds, the larger gravel pieces contain ancient Paleozoic seabed fossils, so keep an eye out.

Durango Long Loop
Hiker on old road (view E)

The valleys are sparsely vegetated with Creosote Bush, White Bursage, scattered Mojave Yucca, a few Nevada Jointfir, scattered Fluffgrass, and Desert Indianwheat, but few other species.

At the end of the yellow mud ridges, old dirt road dead-ends at a T-intersection (Wpt. 02). Turning left, the route runs northwest passing below the end of the first mud ridge.

In this area, the old road follows a wash upstream. This area gets more water and the shrubs are more robust and diverse, and there are likely to be wildflowers in the spring. Plant that grow here, but not in the drier areas between the mud ridges include Shadscale Saltbush, Desert Globemallow, Matchweed, and Cheesebush, Virgin River Brittlebush, Brownplume Wirelettuce, and Big Galleta Grass. Unfortunately, the invasive weed Sahara Mustard is spreading into this area.

Continuing along following the wash and the intermittent old road northwest, hikers pass a faint road left that goes up over the mud ridge; the Durango Short Loop Trail goes that way.

Durango Long Loop

Continuing northwest, hikers quickly pass a valley between mud hills, and as before, it is covered with gray limestone gravels that washed down from the mountains. Still following the old road north, the route passes the east end of another mud ridge and enters a third valley covered with gray limestone gravels. Here, the old road forks three ways (Wpt. 07).

Staying left, the old road turns up this third valley to run west and up the gentle incline. Eventually, another old road merges from the right, and the intersection is marked with a sign prohibiting dumping and off-road vehicles -- obviously not very effective.

Continuing west, the old road crosses another old road (Wpt. 08). This road runs north-south, and hikers can turn left here to hike south directly back to the trailhead.

Continuing west, the old road crosses yet another old north-south road, then runs out into the desert flat beyond the mud hills. Here the old road forks three ways again (Wpt. 09), and the route stays left wrapping around the west end of the mud hills to head south.

Durango Long Loop

The old road runs into a flatish, yellow-mud area, splits several times, and becomes faint. Any route heading south will work here, but in general it is easiest to cross the mud area into the gray gravels bending to the left.

Across the muds, the gravel road forks (Wpt. 10), and here the more direct path is to stay left along the base of the mud hills. The road eventually bends right and heads due south towards a gate and tall power towers (Wpt. 11).

At the gate, the route continues south a few yards to the powerline road and turns left, following the powerlines east back to the trailhead (Wpt. 01).

Durango Long LoopApproaching the end of the mud ridge (view NE) Durango Long Loop
T-intersection; route turns left (view NE)
Durango Long Loop
Old road runs in the wash (view NW)
Durango Long Loop
Old road runs in the wash (view NW)
Durango Long Loop
East end of first yellow-mud ridge (view NW)
Durango Long Loop
East end of first yellow-mud ridge (view NW)
Durango Long Loop
East end of first yellow-mud ridge (view NW)
Durango Long Loop
View left into second gray-gravel valley (view W)
Durango Long Loop
Old road runs in the wash (view NW)
Durango Long Loop
Old road runs in the wash (view NW)
Durango Long Loop
East end of second yellow-mud ridge (view NW)
Durango Long Loop
Old road runs in the wash (view NW)
Durango Long Loop
Old road forks; route stays left (view NW)
Durango Long Loop
Hiker on old road (view W)
Durango Long Loop
Another old road merges from the right at sign (view W)
Durango Long Loop
Sign: area closed to motor vehicles - not very effective (view E)
Durango Long Loop
Old road runs up gray-gravel valley (view W)
Durango Long Loop
Approaching first crossroad (view W)
Durango Long Loop
Hiker at second crossroad (view W)
Durango Long Loop
Road begins to curve south around west end of mud hills (view SW)
Durango Long LoopOld road forks three ways; route stays left (view SW) Durango Long Loop
Old road heading south towards power towers (view S)
Durango Long Loop
Approaching gate (view S)
Durango Long Loop
Looking back at sign outside of the fence (view N)
Durango Long Loop
Powerline road; trailhead in the distance (view E)
Durango Long Loop
Returning to the 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 Trailhead 654502 4022410 2,526 0.00 0.00 GPS
02 Old Roads T-intersection 655073 4022622 2,476 0.40 0.40 GPS
07 Old Road Forks 654747 4022933 2,535 0.29 0.69 GPS
08 Cross Old Road 654415 4022905 2,552 0.21 0.90 GPS
09 Old Road Forks 653959 4022826 2,582 0.30 1.20 GPS
10 Old Roads Fork 653991 4022712 2,580 0.08 1.28 GPS
11 Powerline Road 654192 4022371 2,570 0.28 1.56 GPS
01 Trailhead 654502 4022410 2,526 0.20 1.76 GPS

Happy hiking! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 120102

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