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Bighorn Loop Trail at Corn Creek Station
Hiking Around Las Vegas, Desert National Wildlife Refuge
Corn Creek ADA Loop Trail
Corn Creek
Visitor Center (view NE)

Overview

The Bighorn Loop Trail is a 0.6-mile ADA compliant trail that loops through upland portions of the Corn Creek area. Corn Creek has been a birdwatching destination for decades, and now the Bighorn Trail opens a bit of this area to persons in wheel chairs or with other walking issues, plus families with children in strollers. The trail has interpretive signs describing the ecology and human history of the area.

Corn Creek is a tiny spot of green in a vast sea of desert-dry Mojave Desert Scrub. Springs provide water that supports trees, lush vegetation, desert wildlife, and even humans over the last few thousands of years. The ancients left their marks on the land, but most evidence of human use derives from pioneer and more recent times.

Link to Trail Map.

Bighorn Trail
Trail around Visitor Center (view E)

Most of the habitat immediately surrounding Corn Creek is low-elevation Mojave Desert Scrub dominated by creosote bush, white bursage, fourwing saltbush, and a few Mojave yucca). This area is in the rain shadow of the Spring Mountains, so it gets less rain than usual, even for a desert, and as a result, the vegetation is sparse and stunted.

Springs at Corn Creek provide water for a desert oasis supporting honey mesquite, cottonwood trees, and many other wetland plant species. Water from two of the springs was used by late-1800s homesteaders to support a farm, and these two springs still water the cement pond and the trees, grass, and orchards that remain.

Bighorn Trail
Trail starts behind Visitor Center (view NE)

Watch Out

Other than the standard warnings about hiking in the desert, ... this is a safe hike if hikers stay on the trails as requested by refuge management.

The Bighorn Loop Trail is fairly level, although the first half generally is uphill, and the second half generally is downhill. The surfacing is smooth and looks like frozen mud, making one feel unsure about the footing on cold winter mornings. There are several benches where people can stop and rest: about 50 yards out, about 1/3 of the way around the loop (with shade), about the half-way mark (Whispering Ben Trail junction), and most of the way around (overlooking the cement pond).

While hiking, please respect the land and the other people out there, and try to Leave No Trace of your passage. Even though this trail is short, bring what you need of the 10 Essentials. Also, this is a wildlife refuge, so pay extra attention to respecting the land and wildlife.

Bighorn Trail
Information sign at trail junction (view NE)

Getting to the Trailhead

The Bighorn Trail is located northwest of Las Vegas on the Desert National Wildlife Refuge, about 30 minutes northwest of downtown Las Vegas, at the Corn Creek Visitor Center.

Bighorn Trail
Information kiosk (view E)

The Hike

From the trailhead (Table 1, Waypoint 01), hikers can walk through the Visitor Center and out the back of the building, or they can walk around outside the Visitor Center (through the doorway leading to the rest rooms and drinking water) to the northeast (far) corner of the building.

A few steps beyond the building, the concrete trail arrives at a trail junction with an information sign. Here, the outbound trail (technically the Jackrabbit Trail) turns right and runs up along the creek towards the springs, while the inbound trail returns from the left along the edge of the cement pond.

Continuing to the right, the trail passes the official start of the trail (through entrance pillars). Passing through the entrance, the trail crosses the outflow creek from the springs, which are located upstream to the right. Notice the small fish, dragonflies, and birds in the trees along the stream.

Bighorn Trail

Across the bridge, the trail reaches a T-intersection. Hikers can turn left on the Jackrabbit Trail to short-cut the Bighorn Loop and return to the Visitor Center via the cement pond, or turn right and continue on the Bighorn Trail.

Staying to the right, the Bighorn Loop Trail runs up along the stream, then bends left and generally runs northwest out into the desert climbing at a gentle grade. In this area, there are grand views in all directions. To the west (left) are the Spring Mountains (Mt. Charleston) and to the east (right) is the Sheep Range.

The trail passes an information sign about native people, then arrives at a shade structure with benches (Wpt. 21). This is a nice place to sit and contemplate the banded geology of the Sheep Range that towers above the desert flats.

Bighorn Trail
Formal start of the trail system (view N)

In another 110 yards, the Bighorn Loop Trail arrives at a junction (Wpt. 22) with the Whispering Ben Trail, and then a bench (Wpt. 24) a few steps farther. For those inclined, the narrow, unsurfaced Whispering Ben Trail runs out about 150 yards to an unusual archaeological artifact (Wpt. 24): a boulder used like a bedrock mortar for grinding mesquite beans. Native peoples used this stone for so long that one of the holes got so deep that it broke through the bottom of the boulder!

Back at the bench on the Bighorn Loop Trail (Wpt. 24), the trail begins to loop back and runs downhill at a gentle grade. The trail passes through an historic fence that was part of a pen used by refuge managers in the 1950s and 1960s to corral a herd of Desert Bighorn Sheep. This was useful at the time for scientists studying the sheep, but fortunately, they now roam free in the mountains.

Continuing downhill, the Bighorn Loop Trail arrives at an intersection (Wpt. 25) with the Coyote Loop Trail. For hikers inclined, the restored Railroad Tie Cabin and Pahrump Poolfish Refuge lie to the right, but the Bighorn Trail turns left.

Bighorn Trail
Bridge over spring outflow creek

Turning left at the junction (Wpt. 25), the Bighorn Loop Trail quickly reaches another trail junction (Wpt. 03). Here, the trail to the right (Coyote Loop Trail) wanders among old trees past the orchard, but the Bighorn Loop Trail turns left.

Following the Bighorn Loop Trail, the trail runs along the cement pond. There is a nice bench on the right (but no shade) overlooking the pond. This can be a peaceful place to sit and watch birds flying among the trees or coming in to drink.

Continuing on the Bighorn Loop Trail, the trail reaches yet another trail junction (Wpt. 02) with the Jackrabbit Trail. The Jackrabbit Trail turns left, while the Bighorn Loop Trail continues straight. The trail crosses another bridge over the spring outflow creek, and in a few yards farther, arrives at the information sign behind the Visitor Center.

Bighorn Trail
Trail junction (view north from bridge)
Bighorn Trail
Trail sign (view N)
Bighorn Trail
Trail runs east, then bends north (view E)
Bighorn Trail
Family on trail (view N)
Bighorn Trail
Grand view west towards the Spring Mountains (view W)
Bighorn Trail
Approaching the shade structure (view N)
Bighorn Trail
Under the shade structure (view N)
Bighorn Trail
Information sign and grand view of the Sheep Range (view E)
Bighorn Trail
Approaching Whispering Ben Trail junction (view N)
Bighorn Trail
Whispering Ben Trail junction (view N)
Corn Creek ADA Loop Trail
Fence that was part of Desert Bighorn Sheep pen (view S)
Bighorn Trail
Information sign by fence about the bighorn sheep pen (view E)
Corn Creek ADA Loop Trail
Trail descending towards the west (view W)
Corn Creek ADA Loop Trail
Approaching trail junction (view W)
Corn Creek ADA Loop Trail Corn Creek ADA Loop Trail
Corn Creek ADA Loop Trail
Approaching the cement pond (view S)
Corn Creek ADA Loop Trail
Bench overlooking cement pond (view SW)

Table 1. Hiking Coordinates 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 647214 4033652 2,956 0.00 0.00 Yes
02 Trail Junction 647208 4033672 2,940 0.01 0.01 GPS
20 Springs 647274 4033717 2,919 0.05 0.07 GPS
21 Shelter 647217 4033826 2,946 0.09 0.16 GPS
22 Trail Junction 647145 4033881 2,950 0.06 0.22 GPS
23 Grinding Stone 647143 4033954 2,953 0.08 0.30 GPS
22 Trail Junction 647145 4033881 2,950 0.08 0.38 GPS
24 Bench 647142 4033878 2,946 0.00 0.38 GPS
25 Trail Junction 647084 4033730 2,932 0.11 0.49 GPS
03 Trail Junction 647116 4033705 2,940 0.04 0.53 GPS
02 Trail Junction 647208 4033672 2,940 0.06 0.59 GPS
01 Trailhead 647214 4033652 2,956 0.01 0.60 Yes

Happy Hiking! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 141002

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