birdandhike.com logo
Home | Wilderness | Hiking | Arrow Canyon Range
Arrow Canyon
Hiking Around Las Vegas, Arrow Canyon Range, Arrow Canyon Wilderness Area
Arrow Canyon
Arrow Canyon
Trailhead at gate in the cable fence (view NW)

Overview

This is a great hike through a deep, narrow canyon with vertical and overhanging walls that exceed 200-feet high. At the narrowest points, the bottom of the canyon is about 20-feet wide. The rocks are carbonate with many fossils, and native peoples left their marks on the rock. The top of the canyon, 2.4 miles from the trailhead, is blocked by a dam built by the CCC, but with some logistical, scrambling, and route-finding abilities, hikers can get around the dam and do a one-way hike through the canyon, but it would be easier to just do an in-an-out hike from the bottom.

There are four parts to this hike: lower canyon, lower narrows, side canyon, and upper narrows. The lower canyon is a typical, rocky desert canyon with an old road in the wash. The lower narrows is the lower part of the spectacularly deep-and-narrow gorge, which end at a side canyon that leads a short ways through the rock walls into the open desert. The upper narrows is the narrowest part and ends at a dam built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s.

Link to area map or road access map.

Arrow Canyon

The Arrow Canyon Access Road is a 2WD high-clearance road when conditions are good. Walking from the end of the 2WD sedan-quality section of road adds about 1.5 miles (one way) to the hike.

Historically there have been land access issues with the homeowner in the big house at the mouth of the canyon. At one point, the homeowner tried to block public access the the area, but a public road goes around the house to a municipal well. Hikers are free to turnoff from Highway 168, drive through the ranch gate, drive to the municipal well, and continue into the canyon.

Don't turn off the road or drive up the red-colored gravel driveways to the big house, please drive slowly to reduce dust, and try not to antagonize the home owner who now consider themselves guardians of Arrow Canyon.

Arrow Canyon

Watch Out

Other than the standard warnings about hiking in the desert, ...stay out of the canyon if it looks like flash floods might be possible. This would be indicated by thunderstorms in the Arrow Canyon Range or in other mountains to the north. Otherwise, this is a pretty safe hike if hikers stay in the bottom of the canyon. There are 3rd and 4th class routes out of the canyon, and if trying one of those, be extra careful because a rescue from the upper canyon could be a real pain.

This is a wilderness area, so while hiking, please respect the land and the other people out there, and try to Leave No Trace of your passage. There are no cairns on this route; please don't leave any new ones. Also, even though this hike is fairly short, it is remote, so be sure to bring the 10 Essentials.

Arrow Canyon
Canyon above trailhead (view NW)

Getting to the Trailhead

This hike is located on the east side of the Arrow Range, about 1 hour northeast of Las Vegas, off Highway 168 northwest of Moapa and Glendale.

From town, drive out to the Arrow Canyon Wilderness Area. For the quickest route, drive north on Interstate-15 to Glendale. Exit the interstate and drive northwest on Highway 168. Drive about 11 miles to a dirt road on the left with a western-style ranch gate. This is the Arrow Canyon Access Road.

On Arrow Canyon Access Road, drive southwest, past the house and the municipal well, and into the canyon. In a sedan, stop just past the municipal well (0.6 miles from the pavement), and in a 2WD high-clearance vehicle, check carefully the first wash crossing (0.74 miles out) before driving in. The road ends in 2.0 miles at a cable fence, campsite, wilderness boundary sign, and the trailhead.

Arrow Canyon

The Hike

From the trailhead (Table 1, Waypoint 01), this route runs up the canyon following the old road for 0.9 miles to the entrance to the narrows (Wpt. 02).

Entering the narrows, hikers literally enter a slit in the side of the mountain. The walls instantly are only a few yards apart and the cliffs tower above. Hiking up the canyon, the bottom gets a little wider in places, but it is always narrow. There is little vegetation in this part of the canyon, a testament to the flash floods that scour the canyon from time to time.

Arrow Canyon

About 0.75 miles from the entrance to the narrows, the canyon widens a bit where a narrow side canyon comes in from the south (Wpt. 03). This short side canyon exits the main canyon through another narrow gap in the side of the mountain. The side canyon is only 0.2-miles long and is as interesting as the main canyon, so it is worth the walk up there to get a feel for the land outside the canyon (Wpt. 04), all of which is in the Arrow Canyon Wilderness Area.

Back at the confluence (Wpt. 03) in the main canyon, the route continues up the main canyon heading northwest. The nature of the canyon changes here. Previously, the canyon bottom was water-polished cobbles and rocks, but from here on up, much of the bottom is dirt and covered with grasses, forbs, and other vegetation. There are many honey mesquite and catclaw acacia trees (fortunately, most of the claws have been worn off by passing animals and humans).

Arrow Canyon

About 0.27 miles into the upper canyon, there is an enormous cave on the west side of the canyon (Wpt. 05; Swamp Cave). Rock climbers have been working here, and this is a good example of why bolting is prohibited in wilderness areas. There are many bolts, slings, carabineers, and other pieces of climbing junk hanging from the wall. Climbers perform some impressive feats here, but a wilderness area is not the place; there are many rocks elsewhere to climb.

Continuing, the canyon tends to narrow a bit as hikers dodge back and forth to avoid the catclaw and mesquite. About 0.26 miles above Swamp Cave, there are opportunities to climb onto a ledge system (Wpt. 06) that runs along the cliffs above the wash. For hikers wanting to hike out through the upper end of Arrow Canyon, this is the place to leave the canyon bottom. Ledges on both sides of the canyon can be used, but it is easier and safer to climb onto the ledge on the east side. I've seen the east-side route from the west side, and it looks OK. Getting up onto the west side ledges is a dicey 4th class climb with few handholds and loose dirt on the ledges.

Arrow Canyon
Entrance to lower narrows comes into view (view NW)

Continuing for another 0.3 miles, the route arrives at the base of a 30-foot dam (Wpt. 07) that blocks further progress. Above the dam, the canyon is narrow only for a few more yards, then it opens into a broad, saltcedar choked wash between low sedimentary cliffs. Hikers who don't go farther up aren't missing much.

Check the mud at the bottom of the dam. When I was there the first time, I found the tracks of bobcat, gray fox, coyote, some small carnivore (perhaps ringtail cat), birds, and others species that I couldn't identify. There were also many carnivore scats about. These looked like coyote, fox, and something smaller, again, perhaps ringtail cat.

After resting at the base of the dam, retrace your footprints to the trailhead (Wpt. 01). If you didn't see them on the way up, look for ancient and modern petroglyphs on the way down, but don't mar the canyon by adding more graffiti. For photos of the hike out, see the Arrow Canyon - Hiking Back Down webpage.

Lower Narrows
Arrow Canyon
Approaching the lower narrows (view NW)
Arrow Canyon
Mouth of the lower narrows (view NW)
Arrow Canyon
Mouth of the lower narrows (view NW)
Arrow Canyon
Entrance to the narrows (view NW)
Arrow Canyon
Hikers just inside mouth of lower canyon (view NW)
Arrow Canyon
Hikers at tinaja (view NW)
Arrow Canyon
Hikers below tinaja (view NW)
Arrow Canyon
Hikers at tinaja (view NW)
Arrow Canyon
Layers of stone ...
Arrow Canyon
Hikers in the canyon (view NW)
Arrow Canyon
... layers of time
Arrow Canyon
Hikers in the canyon (view NW)
Arrow Canyon Arrow Canyon
Arrow Canyon Arrow Canyon
Arrow Canyon
Crinoid fossils in the canyon wall
Arrow Canyon
Hikers in the canyon (view NW)
Arrow Canyon Arrow Canyon
Arrow Canyon
Hikers approaching the side canyon (view NW)
Arrow Canyon
Hikers at confluence of side canyon (view NW)

Side Canyon

Arrow Canyon
From main canyon, looking into side canyon (view S)
Arrow Canyon
Hikers is side canyon (view S)
Arrow Canyon
Contorted stone
Arrow Canyon
Hikers is side canyon (view S)
Arrow Canyon
Hiker exiting from the side canyon (view S)
Arrow Canyon
Wash above the side canyon (view SW)
Arrow Canyon
Canyon above mouth of side canyon (view SW)
Arrow Canyon
Canyon descending into the mouth of the side canyon (view SW)
Arrow Canyon
Returning down the side canyon (view N)
Arrow Canyon
Returning down the side canyon (view N)

Upper Narrows

Arrow Canyon
Starting into the upper canyon (view NW)
Arrow Canyon
Mud bottom in upper canyon (view NW)
Arrow Canyon
Grassy area in the upper canyon (view NW)
Arrow Canyon
Hikers in upper canyon (view NW)
Arrow Canyon
Hiker approaching Swamp Cave (view NW)
Arrow Canyon
Swamp Cave (view NW)
Arrow Canyon
Climber hanging for ceiling of Swamp Cave (view SW)
Arrow Canyon
Climber in Swamp Cave (view SW)
Arrow Canyon
Climber in Swamp Cave who didn't make it (view SW)
Arrow Canyon
Hiker in upper canyon (view NW)
Arrow Canyon Arrow Canyon
Arrow Canyon
Yikes -- high-water mark from past floods!
Arrow Canyon
Narrow canyon full of brush
Arrow Canyon
Route onto ledges to bypass dam (view NW)
Arrow Canyon
Hiker in upper canyon (view NW)
Arrow Canyon Arrow Canyon
Arrow Canyon
Hiker in upper canyon (view NW)
Arrow Canyon
Layers of stone
Arrow Canyon Arrow Canyon
Arrow Canyon Arrow Canyon
Arrow Canyon
Approaching the 30-foot high CCC dam (view NW)
Arrow Canyon
Approaching the 30-foot high CCC dam (view NW)
Arrow Canyon
CCC dam
Arrow Canyon
CCC dam
Arrow Canyon
Hiker on retaining dam
Arrow Canyon
Retaining dam below the 30-foot high dam
Arrow Canyon
30-foot high CCC dam (view NW)
Arrow Canyon
30-foot high CCC dam (view NW)
Arrow Canyon
Mud below 30-foot high dam (view NW)
Arrow Canyon
Interesting footprint in the mud

Special Things to See

Arrow Canyon
Native people's graffiti is very cool graffiti,
but modern people have been adding a lot of fake rock art.
Arrow Canyon
Oldest "white man" graffiti I've ever seen: J.W.H. Aug 24, 1881
(possibly Captain John W. Haynie of Carson City, NV; Civil War Vet)
arrow canyon
Real Rock Art - admire this with respect
arrow canyon
Fake rock art -- DON'T DO THIS!!!
Arrow Canyon
Layer of large, round fossils
Arrow Canyon
This large, round fossil is about 3 feet across
arrow canyon
Fossil sponges
arrow canyon
Horn coral

Old Photos

Arrow Canyon Access Road
Inside the narrows when the road was open (view NW)
Arrow Canyon Access Road
Layers in the rock walls (view NW)
Inside the narrows (view northwest).
Bench to bypass the dam (view NW)
Arrow Canyon
Hiking through the upper canyon (view NW)

Table 1. Hiking Waypoints 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 699374 4066791 1,875 0.00 0.00 Yes
02 Entrance to Narrows 698174 4067238 1,869 0.88 0.88 Yes
03 Junction in Canyon 697327 4067762 1,932 0.69 1.57 GPS
04 View into Wilderness Area 697270 4067600 1,994 . . GPS
05 Climbing Cave 696969 4068075 2,032 0.31 1.88 GPS
06 Escape on Ledges 696656 4068323 1,911 0.25 2.13 GPS
07 Dam 696352 4068692 2,037 0.32 2.45 GPS
01 Trailhead 699374 4066791 1,875 2.45 4.90 Yes

Happy Hiking! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 161209

Arrow Canyon Range Hiking Around Las Vegas Glossary Copyright, Conditions, Disclaimer Home

 

Google Ads