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Black Butte Dam and 21 Goats (via Falling Man) Route
Hiking Around Las Vegas, Gold Butte National Monument
Black Butte Dam
Falling Man Rock Art Site
Trailhead Parking (view SW)

Overview

Black Butte Dam was built by cattlemen years ago. The reservoir is filling in with sediment, but it still holds a fair bit of water during wet years. The walking on this route is fairly easy, but parts of the route cross rocky areas where the use-trail is faint.

For people just wanting to see the dam, there is a shorter route (Black Butte Dam Direct), but this route makes a nice hike starting from the Falling Man Trailhead. After passing through the Falling Man Rock Art Site, the route continues west following use-trails and traversing slickrock to the 21 Goats rock art site. From there, the route continues down a wash until eventually turning south on an old road that leads to Black Butte Dam. For a description of the return hike, see Return to Falling Man Trailhead.

After seeing so many petroglyphs at the Falling Man area, your eyes will be trained to see others along the route.

Link to hiking map.

Falling Man
Hiker departing the trailhead (view S)

Watch Out

Other than the standard warnings about hiking in the desert, ... this is a safe area, but be careful scrambling around on the rocks.

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 short, the area is remote, so be sure to bring what you need of the 10 Essentials. Cell phones don't work in this area.

This is a wild and remote area without services of any kind (no restrooms, no water, no gas, no food). Bring what you need to survive. Be prepared and be self-reliant. Someone will find you eventually if you stay on a main road, but be prepared to survive alone for a day or two. Cell phones only work along parts of the paved road.

While in the area, remember that petroglyphs and other rock art are national treasures and easily damaged. Please take care of the area and leave it as you found it for generations to come.

Falling ManTrail crosses bedrock (view S)

Getting to the Trailhead

The Black Butte Dam and 21 Goats sites are located out in Gold Butte National Monument at the northeast end of Lake Mead, about 2 hours northeast of Las Vegas in a wild and remote, but scenic area.

From town, drive out to Gold Butte National Monument. From Whitney Pocket, turn around and drive back north for 1.4 miles to Black Butte Road, a dirt road to the west, which is just past a large sandstone crag with campsites around the base. Turn left and drive west on Black Butte Road.

A number of side roads branch off Black Butte Road, but most are obviously not the main road. However, at 1.2 miles from the pavement, the road forks equally; stay left. At 1.9 miles out, drivers arrive at the parking area, delineated by wooden corral fencing. Park here; this is the trailhead.

Falling Man
Trail continues beyond bedrock (view S)

The Hike

From the trailhead (Table 1, Waypoint 01), a well defined trail runs southwest through the gap in the fence. The trail passes the first large pile of red and white sandstone rock and heads towards the second. Just after walking across slickrock, look up and right to see the Rabbit Ears petroglyph panels atop the rocky crag.

The trail, an old road, passes an open area, then passes a low, rounded crag. Just past the crag (0.16 miles out), a spur trail runs right about 70 yards to First Boulder. Consider walking over to see the artwork.

Back on the main trail, the trail continues south following the old road towards rocky crags. Approaching the crags, about 0.25 miles out, a use-trail departs the old road to the right and heads up towards a tunnel (Tunnel Petroglyph Site) through the cliff. This use-trail leads to the Falling Man petroglyph site.

Falling Man
Hiker detouring to First Boulder, route stays left (view SW)

Staying left on the old road, the old road ends at the base of low cliffs (Wpt. 02). Scampering up the cliffs and staying a bit to the right, the route drops into an open, sandy area. Following the water course downhill, the route passes below the Amphitheater petroglyph sites (above on the right), and continues down onto slickrock with tinajas.

After dropping into the sand beyond the last tinaja, the water course bends right and heads northwest towards more petroglyph sites (e.g., Newspaper Rock). The route to Black Butte Dam, however, continues straight (southeast) on use-trails that climb over a low ridge (Wpt. 03). From this low ridge, Black Butte can be seen in the distance; this is a good landmark.

The use-trail runs southwest, more or less on the contour, across gentle desert slopes and across sandstone slickrock. It is easy to loose the trail on the slickrock, but continue contouring across the rocks and the trail will be seen continuing on the contour.

Falling Man
Approaching the Tunnel, route stays left (view SW)

The use-trail runs out to the crest of a ridge (Wpt. 04). The route bends left and descends the rocky hillside towards the broad, sandy wash below. Staying a bit to the left, the route passes the 21 Goats petroglyph panel (Wpt. 05), which is on a large, west-facing wall just before the route reaches the broad wash in the bottom of the canyon.

After spending a few minutes with the 21 Goats (don't count them, it will only annoy you; plus yes, they are sheep -- not goats), the route drops into the broad wash and heads downstream. The wash runs between rocky walls for a few minutes, then the walls lay back as the landscape begins to open up.

After hiking down the wash for 0.28 miles (Wpt. 06), an old road crosses the wash (Wpt. 06). The route turns left onto the old road, which runs southeast towards the dam.

Nearing the end of the road, the dam can be seen on the left filling a narrow cleft between rock piles. After visiting the base of the dam (downstream side), the route continues on the old road a few more yards to where the old road ends in a broad loop.

Falling Man
Approaching low cliffs (view S)

On the left, an unusual tunnel through a sandstone crag leads to the top of the dam (Wpt. 07) where flat sandstone provides a nice place to sit and enjoy the scenery and look for birds and dragonflies attracted to the water. Hikers can find above-ground routes to the top of the dam a few yards to the right of the tunnel.

Enjoy a rest and perhaps lunch, and be sure to look for fairy shrimp in the water, then return to the trailhead by following your footprints back across the beautiful desert. As an alternative, hikers can stay to the right exiting the dam and pick up a use-trail that angles back into the main wash.

Walking back, explore the grand scenery and interesting vegetation. This part of Gold Butte is in the Upper Sonoran (Mojave Desert Scrub) vegetation zone where creosote bush and white bursage dominate the landscape, but many other species of shrubs also are common. Around the rock piles, look for Joshua trees, and keep an eye out for our common Mojave yucca. In sandy places, look for the uncommon Utah yucca and the unusual birdcage evening primrose with its arms all rolled up like a wire birdcage.

Falling Man
Route ascends low cliff (view SE)
Falling Man
Route crosses sandy and slickrock area (view SW)
Falling ManWatch for this very old petroglyph Falling Man
Route descends slickrock area with tinajas (view W)
Falling Man
Lower tinaja area (view W)
Falling Man
Lowest Tinaja: look! -- Red-spotted toadlets!
Falling Man
Route crosses slickrock and follows use trails (view SW)
Falling Man
Route crosses slickrock and follows use trails (view SW)
Falling Man Falling Man
Falling Man
Falling Man
Route crosses slickrock and follows use trails (view SW)
Falling Man
Route approaching ridgeline (view SW)
Black Butte Dam
Ridgeline (view SSW down towards broad wash)

Hikers descending rocky slope towards wash (view SW)

Hikers descending towards wash (view SE)
Black Butte Dam
Hikers descending towards wash (view SE)
Black Butte Dam
Hikers low in the canyon (view SE)
Black Butte Dam
Hikers approaching 21 Goats panel (view SE)
Black Butte Dam
21 Goats panel (view SE)
21 goats
Hikers at 21 Goats panel (view SE)
21 goats
A couple of "goats"
black butte wash
Hikers descending wash (view W)
Black Butte Dam
Petroglyphs and historic graffiti along the wash
Black Butte Dam
historic graffiti: horse
Black Butte Dam
historic graffiti: June 24, 1910
Black Butte Dam
Petroglyph: foot
Black Butte Dam
Petroglyph: hand
Black Butte DamPetroglyph: spiral
black butte wash
Hikers approaching left turn onto old road (view W)
black butte wash
Trail junction (view W; note 21 Goats Trailhead just ahead)
Black Butte Dam
Old road leads towards dam (view S)
Black Butte Dam
Old road leads towards dam (view S)
black butte dam
Hiker below Black Butte Dam (view S)
Black Butte Dam
Black Butte Dam (view S)
Black Butte Dam
Black Butte Dam (view S)
Black Butte Dam
Continuing past dam (view S)
Black Butte Dam
Approaching end of the old road (view S)
Black Butte Dam
End of the old road (view S)
Black Butte Dam
Rock art and mud wasp nest inside shelter site
Black Butte Dam
End of the old road (view S)
black butte dam
Hikers at passageway entrance to the dam (view SE)
Black Butte Dam
Hikers inside passage (view SE)
black butte dam
Passage to the dam (view SE)
Black Butte Dam
Hiker beyond the passage (view SE)
black butte dam
Black Butte Dam from above (view NE)
Black Butte Dam
Atop the dam (view N towards access route)
black butte dam
Water impounded behind the dam (view SE)
black butte dam
Water impounded behind the dam (view SE)
black butte dam
Look carefully in the water for fairy shrimp
Black Butte Dam
Dry reservoir (view SE)
Black Butte Dam
Exit to the left or back through passage (view SW)
black butte dam
Passage to exit (view SW from stop crag)

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 Falling Man Trailhead 752138 4044187 2,393 0.00 0.00 GPS
02 End of Old Road 752065 4043799 2,432 0.27 0.27 GPS
03 Low Saddle 751971 4043623 2,426 0.18 0.45 GPS
04 Low Ridge 751643 4043234 2,370 0.36 0.81 GPS
05 21 Goats Petro Site 751672 4043074 2,315 0.14 0.95 GPS
06 Depart Wash 751294 4042944 2,287 0.28 1.23 GPS
07 Black Butte Dam 751379 4042816 2,303 0.14 1.37 GPS
01 Falling Man Trailhead 752138 4044187 2,393 1.37 2.74 GPS

Happy Hiking! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 160909

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