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Joe May Canyon Guzzler
Hiking Around Las Vegas, Desert National Wildlife Refuge
Joe May Canyon Guzzler
Joe May Canyon
Start of the route (view N from trailhead; guzzler behind ridge)

Overview

Joe May Canyon is a middle-elevation valley that runs parallel to, and on the west side of, the Sheep Range. The valley floor is broad and flat (crosswise), but fairly steep (lengthwise), and several canyons come down from the crest of the Sheep Range and terminate here. There is no trail, but the main wash provides easy access up the valley, at least to the sheep guzzler, which is about 1.7 miles out. Native peoples left their mark here, and desert bighorn sheep come here to drink water. The round-trip hike is about 3.5 miles.

For general information on camping, regulations, other issues, and the natural history of the Wildlife Refuge, see the Desert National Wildlife Refuge -- Area Overview page.

Link to a map.

Joe May Canyon Guzzler

Watch Out

Other than the standard warnings about hiking in the desert, ...this is a pretty safe hike. Hiking in loose gravel is tiring, more tiring than might be expected, so don't overestimate the speed at which you will be able to hike up the canyon. Depending on recent weather conditions, a 2WD-HC vehicle should make it to the trailhead, but call the refuge manager if you have questions.

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 fairly short, it is remote, so be sure to bring the 10 Essentials.

This is a wildlife refuge, so pay extra attention to respecting the land. Please, don't bother the bighorn sheep. They have a hard enough time making a living in these desert lands; they don't need extra stress from people hanging around the water hole.

Joe May Canyon Guzzler

Getting to the Trailhead

This hike is located in Desert National Wildlife Refuge, about 1.5 hours north of town.

From town, drive out Corn Creek Road to Corn Creek Field Station and continue east 100 yards to a T-intersection with a large directional sign. Turn left onto Alamo Road and drive north for 3.1 miles to Joe May Road. Turn right onto Joe May Road and drive east towards the mouth of Joe May Canyon.

As the road starts into the canyon, it passes gray limestone cliffs on the left (north), an old closed road on the left (which is the trail), and shortly an old corral and some stonework. The corral is just before the road goes up a hill that looks a bit 4WD-ish, most of 4 miles from Alamo Road. Park near the corral; this is as good as it gets for the trailhead.

Joe May Canyon Guzzler

The Hike

From the trailhead (Table 1, Waypoint 01), the route runs north-northwest down off the road berm and down across the hillside and washes towards a small cave at the base of limestone cliffs across the valley (Wpt. 02). From the trailhead, the cave looks deep and interesting; it is not, but getting to that point puts hikers in Joe May Wash.

From the cave (Wpt. 02), the route turns northeast following Joe May Wash upstream. Shortly, the route passes below an enormous agave roasting pit on the hillside to the left.

Native people used these mountains. One sign of their presence is this agave-roasting pit. Look for what looks like a large pile of gray limestone mine tailings. If you hike up the hill above the agave roasting pit to where you can get a good view from above, you will see that the pit is actually two pits. There appears to be a small, older pit near the wash and a larger pit above (partially overlying) the smaller one.

Joe May Canyon Guzzler

These, and all archaeological sites, are protected by law; please do not disturb anything here. Spend a few minutes contemplating life in the desert without modern amenities. Consider what it would have been like to sit here a few thousand years ago, chatting with the neighbors and roasting your Utah agaves. You might consider, for example, where would you get your firewood and agave, and what you would do for food, water, and shelter.

Continuing up the wash beyond the agave roasting pit, the route follows along the base of the ridge on the left. At about 0.46 miles out (Wpt. 03), the wash forks and the hillside pulls back to the left. At the fork, the route continues north (right-ish) following the wash along the bottom of the main valley (which is Joe May Canyon).

By about a mile out, the route (still in the wash) is again passing along the edge of limestone cliffs on the left and still continuing north. At about 1.22 miles out (Wpt. 04), the wash forks, and here the route stays left following the wash along the base of the cliffs. The main wash, Joe May Wash, stays right in the bottom of the valley.

Joe May Canyon
Hiker at the not-so-interesting cave (view NW)

At about 1.47 miles out (Wpt. 05), the wash forks again, and again the route stays left along the base of the cliffs. Now heading northwest, the route follows the wash around the toe of the ridge and bends even more to the west. By now, the old drinker for the original guzzler is visible on the low ridge ahead on the right.

Hikers can walk up the toe of the ridge to the drinker, but it is easier to stay in the wash, turning right at a fork (Wpt. 06) to head northwest again. The wash runs up along the low ridge to a point (Wpt. 07) where it is only a few steps up to old drinker (Wpt. 08), which is now dry and unused.

About 30 yards farther up the low ridgeline, the route passes the old water tank (with the apron removed but the gutter remaining) looking somewhat like a UFO partially buried in the ground. Area 51 is not too far away!

Joe May Canyon Guzzler
Route turns to run up the wash (view NE)

About 70 yards farther up the low ridge, the route arrives at the new guzzler (Wpt. 09). Four large plastic water tanks feed a metal drinker that is watched by the unblinking eye of a game camera.

Two large black pipes feed into the tanks, and following them uphill for another 80 yards brings hikers to the base of the new apron. This is a large water collector that feeds water down to the tanks. The apron is about 15 yards wide and 30 yards long, and the route ends at the top of the apron (Wpt. 10).

While in this area, watch the hills for bighorn sheep and other wildlife, visit the guzzler briefly, and then back off a ways (perhaps back to the edge of the main canyon). Find a comfortable spot for lunch, and watch for wildlife.

For the return, follow your tracks back down the wash to the cave, then angle left to the trailhead. Vehicles are visible from a great distance.

Joe May Canyon Guzzler
Agave roasting pits (view NW from Joe May Wash)
Joe May Canyon Guzzler
Agave roasting pits (view NW from Joe May Wash)
joe may canyon
Biggest agave roasting pit I've ever seen (view NE)
Joe May Canyon
Limestone outcrop and Penstemon petiolatus (view SE)
Joe May Canyon Guzzler
Route continues up the wash (view NE)
Joe May Canyon Guzzler
Hiker in the wash (view N)
Joe May Canyon Guzzler
The route passes limestone outcrops (view N)
Joe May Canyon Guzzler
After passing limestone outcrops, route forks right (view N)
Joe May Canyon Guzzler
Route angles towards gravel berm (view N)
Joe May Canyon Guzzler
Hiker in the wash (view N)
Joe May Canyon Guzzler
Route runs along gravel berm (view N)
Joe May Canyon Guzzler
Canyon open beyond gravel berm (view N)
Joe May Canyon Guzzler
The guzzler is behind the skyline ridge (view N)
Joe May Canyon Guzzler
Hiker continuing up the wash (view N)
Joe May Canyon Guzzler Joe May Canyon Guzzler
Joe May Canyon Guzzler
Broad, open wash (view N)
Joe May Canyon Guzzler
Route stays left against base of hillside (view N)
Joe May Canyon Guzzler
Route passes below limestone pillars (view N)
Joe May Canyon Guzzler
Route bends left along base of hillside (view NW)
joe may canyon
Upper Joe May Canyon (view N from near turn towards guzzler)
Joe May Canyon Guzzler
Hiker in side-wash heading towards guzzler (view NW)
Joe May Canyon Guzzler
Route stays left along base of hillside (view NW)
Joe May Canyon Guzzler
The old guzzler comes into view on low ridge (view NW)
Joe May Canyon Guzzler
Departing base of hillside, route turns into another wash (view NW)
Joe May Canyon Guzzler
Route goes to old guzzler on low ridge (view NW)
Joe May Canyon Guzzler
Old guzzler (view NW)
Joe May Canyon Guzzler
Old guzzler (view NW)
Joe May Canyon Guzzler
The old guzzler is dry (view down)
Joe May Canyon Guzzler
Water tank and gutter for old guzzler (apron is gone; view NW)
Joe May Canyon Guzzler
Water tank and gutter for old guzzler (apron is gone; view E)
joe may canyon
Historic guzzler showing apron above water tank (view N)
joe may canyon
Historic guzzler showing drinker and apron (view NW)
Joe May Canyon Guzzler
Hiker arriving at new water tanks and drinker (view NW)
Joe May Canyon Guzzler
Hiker at new water tanks and drinker (view NW)
Joe May Canyon Guzzler
New drinker (view N)

Joe May Guzzler

Joe May Canyon Guzzler
Hiker at new water tanks and drinker (view NW)
Joe May Canyon Guzzler
Water tanks (view NW)
Joe May Canyon Guzzler
New drinker (view W)
Joe May Canyon Guzzler
Pipes connecting new apron with water tanks (view N)
Joe May Canyon Guzzler
Apron and gutter with pipe leading to water tanks (view N
Joe May Canyon Guzzler
Hiker by drinker and water tanks (view S)
Joe May Canyon Guzzler
Apron (view N)
Joe May Canyon Guzzler
Sign on the apron (view down)
Joe May Canyon Guzzler
Apron with water tanks in the distance (view S)
Joe May Canyon Guzzler
Edge of apron with water tanks in the distance (view S)
Joe May Canyon Guzzler
Metal frame holding apron off the ground (view SE)
Joe May Canyon Guzzler
Water tanks on ridgeline (view S from below apron)
Joe May Canyon Guzzler
Water pipes running into water tanks (view SE)
Joe May Canyon Guzzler
Water pipes running into water tanks (view E)

Returning to the Trailhead

Joe May Canyon Guzzler
Hiker below water tanks (view SE)
Joe May Canyon GuzzlerHiker departing past the old water tank (view SE)
Joe May Canyon Guzzler
Hiker departing past the old drinker (view SE)
Joe May Canyon Guzzler
Hiker departing down the side wash (view E)
Joe May Canyon Guzzler
Back in the main wash (view S)
Joe May Canyon Guzzler
Red pricklypear and hiker in the main wash (view S)
Joe May Canyon Guzzler
Hiker in the shade of high cliffs (view S)
Joe May Canyon Guzzler
Pretty lady with healthy Ivory-spined Agave
Joe May Canyon Guzzler
Hiker retuning down sunny Joe May Canyon (view S)
Joe May Canyon Guzzler
Hiker retuning down shady Joe May Canyon (view S)
Joe May Canyon Guzzler Joe May Canyon Guzzler
Joe May Canyon Guzzler
Hiker back to the not-so-interesting cave (view SW)
Joe May Canyon Guzzler
Near the not-so-interesting cave (view SE to trailhead)
Joe May Canyon Guzzler Joe May Canyon Guzzler
Joe May Canyon Guzzler Joe May Canyon Guzzler

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)
01 Joe May Trailhead 651643 4041666 5,050 0.00 0.00
02 Joe May Wash near Cave 651590 4041833 5,022 0.12 0.12
03 Fork in the Wash 651775 4042303 5,175 0.34 0.46
04 Fork in the Wash 651963 4043419 5,550 0.76 1.22
05 Fork in the Wash 652019 4043779 5,639 0.25 1.47
06 Fork in the Wash 651865 4043867 5,701 0.13 1.60
07 Exit Wash 651839 4043897 5,709 0.02 1.62
08 Old Drinker 651841 4043912 5,710 0.01 1.63
09 New Drinker 651807 4043988 5,748 0.06 1.69
10 Top of Apron 651799 4044067 5,778 0.07 1.76
02 Joe May Wash near Cave 651590 4041833 5,022 1.65 3.41
01 Joe May Trailhead 651643 4041666 5,050 0.12 3.53

Happy Hiking! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 180110

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