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Long Canyon
Hiking Around Las Vegas, Desert National Wildlife Refuge
Long Canyon
Long Canyon
Mormon Well Road at Yucca Peak Trailhead (view N)

Overview

Long Canyon requires a 2WD-HC vehicle to reach the trailhead, but the road leads to a nice, remote-feeling desert hike that is less than an hour from town. At the south end of the Sheep Range, the route follows an old road across open Mojave Desert Scrub habitat into a deep, narrow canyon that runs up into Pinyon-Juniper Woodlands. The top of the narrows is about 3.3 miles out, but hikers can keep going up Long Canyon Wash for as far as they want -- as it is a long canyon.

Link to map or elevation profile.

Long Canyon

Watch Out

Other than the standard warnings about hiking in the desert, this is a wild and remote area. There are no particular dangers, but be prepared to take care of yourself. It is just an hour from town, but this area is seldom traveled.

While hiking, please respect the land and the other people out there, and try to Leave No Trace of your passage. Also, this hike is in a remote area, 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 arid lands.

Long Canyon

Getting to the Trailhead

This hike is located on the Desert National Wildlife Refuge, about 2 hours north of town.

From town, drive out to Corn Creek Field Station and continue east 50 yards to a T-intersection. Turn right onto Mormon Well Road and drive south then east and finally north for 9.3 miles as the road winds through Yucca Gap and around to the east side of the Sheep Range. Stop at a large parking area on the left at a hard curve to the right. Park here; this is the trailhead. For more details, see the Mormon Well Road.

The Hike

The trailhead is on the top of a dirt cliff overlooking Long Canyon Wash. From the trailhead (Table 1, Waypoint 01), the route starts on an old road that runs north along the top of the bluff overlooking Long Canyon Wash.

Long Canyon

This part of the route runs across open country with great views in all directions. Off to the east is the Yucca Forest, a broad, flat valley that seems to get a fair amount of precipitation and is full of Joshua trees and other vegetation. To the south is Fossil Ridge, a striking ridge that is, in fact, full of fossils. To the west is Yucca Peak with imposing summit cliffs. Long Canyon wraps around the east and north sides of Yucca Peak before turning north into the narrows.

About 1.0 miles up the old road, the route bends right onto a constructed trail and passes to the right of several large agave roasting pits (Wpt. 02). Agave roasting pits are places where native peoples brought Utah Agave plants and other foods to centralized roasting areas. It is always interesting to me that there can be so many agave roasting pits in an area with so little firewood and so few agave plants.

Vegetation along the hike includes Joshua tree, a few Mojave Yucca, lots of Banana Yucca, Blackbrush, Four-winged Saltbush, Spiny Menodora, few spring and fall flowers, and Nevada Jointfir. Near the trailhead, the vegetation is fairly sparse, but near the hills it gets more dense, and in the wash it is much more dense and diverse because of underground water.

Long Canyon
Old road running north along Long Canyon Wash (view N)

Past the agave roasting pits, the trail turns west and drops abruptly (Wpt. 03) into Long Canyon Wash. In the wash, the route continues up-canyon and westward for another 1.5 miles to what appears to be the head of a box canyon (Wpt. 04). The wash passes interesting carbonate (limestone or dolomite) cliffs and caves high on the sides of the canyon, and there are a few glimpses of Yucca Peak.

At the head of the canyon (Wpt. 04), beneath the towering cliffs on the north side of Yucca Peak, the canyon takes a hard turn to the north and cuts up through carbonate cliffs. The canyon is fairly narrow for about 0.8 miles to the top of the cliffs (Wpt. 05). Beyond the narrows, hikers can continue up the wash into Long Valley for as far as they wish, as Long Canyon really is a long canyon.

Returning to the trailhead, it is common to simply walk down the wash, ignoring the trail to the old road (Wpt. 03), until there is a convenient place to climb the bluffs and get out of the wash. A few yards upstream from the trailhead is one option.

Long Canyon
Old road running north along Long Canyon Wash (view N)
Long Canyon
Old road running north along Long Canyon Wash (view N)
Long Canyon
Trail departs old road to the right (view NW)
Long Canyon
Trails run around agave roasting pits (view W)
Long Canyon
Trails run towards the edge of the wash (view W)
Long Canyon
Trails disappears over the edge of the wash (view W)
Long Canyon
Watch for the cairn with hiking back down the wash (view W)
Long Canyon
Long Canyon Wash (view W)
Long Canyon
The canyon begins to narrow (view N)
Long Canyon
In the narrows (view N)
Long Canyon
In the narrows (view N)
Long Canyon
Near the top of the narrows (view N)
Long Canyon
Long Canyon Wash above the narrows (view NE)
Long Canyon
Above the narrows, the route is a mystery to me (view N)

Hiking Back Down the Long Canyon Wash

Long Canyon Long Canyon
Long Canyon Long Canyon

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 Long Canyon Trailhead 658347 4038085 4,988 0.00 0.00 GPS
02 Agave Roasting Pit 658118 4039591 5,377 1.03 1.03 GPS
03 Drop into Wash 658063 4039631 5,290 0.07 1.10 GPS
04 Head of Canyon 655948 4039625 5,963 1.48 2.58 GPS
05 Above the Narrows 656230 4040827 6,584 1.30 3.88 GPS
01 Long Canyon Trailhead 658347 4038085 4,988 3.88 7.76 GPS

Happy Hiking! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 150623

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