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Joe May Road
Backroads Around Las Vegas, Desert National Wildlife Refuge
Joe May Road
Joe May Road
Alamo Road at Joe May Road sign (view N)

Overview

Joe May Road, sometimes called Joe May Canyon Road, is a side road off Alamo Road that runs from desert flats up to the mouth of Joe May Canyon on the west flanks of the Sheep Range. The road is washed in a few places and bumpy overall, and it gets rougher farther out, but is a 2WD_HC road in good weather. This is a good road for a short drive in the desert or an easy get-away from town to camp in the desert.

There are several primitive campsites along the road, an old corral marks the Joe May Canyon trailhead, and the end of the road is the trailhead for Black Gate Canyon (and a not so nice campsite).

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

Link to map.

Joe May Road

Watch Out

Other than the standard warnings about the desert... Joe May Road generally is a good dirt road, at least out to the old corral, but it runs out into wild and remote country. There are no services or developments of any kind. Cell phones should work, but don't count on it. Bring water and food, a good spare tire, a shovel, tools, a tow rope, bailing wire (I learned the hard way) and anything else that you might need to survive a night stuck out in the desert.

While out there, please respect the land and the other people out there, and try to Leave No Trace of your passage. Also, this road leads to remote country, so be sure to bring the 10 Essentials. This is a wildlife refuge, so pay extra attention to respecting the land.

Joe May Road

Location

Joe May Road is located on the Desert National Wildlife Refuge and starts about 45 minutes northwest of Las Vegas. To get there, drive out Corn Creek Road to the Visitor Center (Table 1, Site 0106) at Corn Creek Field Station.

Continue east on Corn Creek Road for about 250 feet to a T-intersection with a large directional sign (Site 0731). Turn left onto Alamo Road and drive north for 3.1 miles to the signed intersection with Joe May Road (Site 0780).

Joe May Road

The Road

From Alamo Road (Site 0780), Joe May Road angles off to the right and quickly passes a test well on the left, then continues northeast towards the Sheep Range.

The road runs up the bajada, angling left and right to cross washes, avoid difficulties, or to run on higher terrain, but generally heading northeast. In this area, the vegetation is sparse and stunted, the result of a "rain shadow" caused by the Spring Mountains to the west. The Spring Mountains wring moisture from the prevailing winds, leaving relatively little to fall in this lower-elevation area.

At about 1.0 miles out, the road passes a small, but well used campsite on the right. Then, at about 1.6 miles out, the road passes another campsite on the left. This second site is a bit bigger than the first. Both of these campsites are on open terrain with grand views southwest, west, and northwest.

Joe May Road
Joe May Road (view NE from Alamo Road)

Just past the second campsite, the road climbs a steeper bit of road on a white-dirt hillside. This marks the beginning of the decline in road quality, and from here on up, a 2WD-HC vehicle is necessary due to rocks and ruts.

The road continues generally northeast and gradually gets steeper and rockier. At about 3.3 miles out, it passes the third and last of the nicer campsites. At 3.7 miles out, the road passes a 4x4 wooden post on the left that marks where Joe May Road used to head up towards Joe May Guzzler. Then at 3.8 miles out, a "no vehicles" symbol sign marks where the more recent road turned off to head towards the guzzler. This is a possible trailhead for the hike up Joe May Canyon, but a more convenient trailhead lies just up the main road.

At 4.0 miles out, the main road passes historical corrals and the Joe May Canyon trailhead. From the Joe May Canyon trailhead, the road climbs a bit steeply on a patch of nearly 4WD road, then continues another 0.2 miles to end (4.2 miles out) at the Black Gate Canyon trailhead.

Joe May Road
Joe May Road at test well (view NE)
Joe May Road
Notice on the observation well (view NE)
Joe May Road
Sparsely vegetated bajada (view NE)
Joe May Road
Stunted Joshua Trees (view NE)
Joe May Road
First campsite, on the right (view NE)
Joe May Road
Winding up the bajada (view N)
Joe May Road
Winding up the bajada (view E)
Joe May Road
Second campsite, on the left (view NE)
Joe May Road Joe May Road
Joe May Road Joe May Road
Joe May Road Joe May Road
Joe May Road
Third campsite, on the right (view NE)
Joe May Road
More rainfall and more vegetation higher on the bajada (view NE)
Joe May Road
Still stunted Joshua Trees (view NE)
Joe May Road
Wooden 4x4 post (view NE)
Joe May Road
Generally steeper road higher on the bajada (view NE)
Joe May Road
Generally rockier road higher on the bajada (view NE)
Joe May Road
No Vehicles sign (view N)
Joe May Road
Avoiding a gully and rocks on the left (view NE)
Joe May Road
Approaching Joe May Corral, on the right (view E)
Joe May Road
Joe May Corral, on the right (view E)
Joe May Road
Joe May Corral and trailhead parking (view SE)
Joe May Road
A bit of a climb on a rutted road hillside (view SE)
Joe May Road Joe May Road
Joe May Road
Jeep at end of Joe May Road (view SE)
Joe May Road
Approaching end of Joe May Road (view SE)
Joe May Road
End of Joe May Road; not the best campsite (view SE)
Joe May Road
At the end of road, looking north up Joe May Canyon

Returning Down Joe May Road

Joe May Road
At the end of road, grand view across the landscape (NW)
Joe May Road
Starting back from end of road (view NW)
Joe May Road
Rutted road approaching Joe May Corral and trailhead (view NW)
More to come
More to come ...

Table 1. Highway Coordinates Based in GPS Data (NAD27; UTM Zone 11S). Download Highway GPS Waypoints (*.gpx) file.

Site Location Latitude (N) Longitude (W) UTM Easting UTM Northing Elevation (feet) Verified
0779 Joe May Cyn Trailhead 36.51006 115.30653 651650 4041656 5050 Yes
0780 Alamo Rd at Joe May Cyn Rd 36.48346 115.36594 646379 4038613 3240 Yes
0881 Black Gate Cyn Trailhead 36.50930 115.30308 651960 4041577 5200 Yes

Happy Hiking! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 180108

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