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Black Butte Dam Direct Route
Hiking Around Las Vegas, Gold Butte National Monument
Black Butte Dam Direct Route
Black Butte Dam WestBlack Butte Dam; Twenty-one Goats Trailhead (view E)

Overview

Black Butte Dam was built decades ago by ranchers to hold rain water that was then piped to watering troughs for use by cattle. Back in the old days when it rained regularly, the system probably worked well, but with the land drying out in the modern age, the dam holds back sand and the occasional pond after a summer thunderstorm. When the pond is full, be sure to look for fairy shrimp and other tiny creatures in the water.

The troughs are gone and the pond usually is dry, but this remains an historic site worth visiting. The trail from the west is only 0.44 miles round trip, so it is more of a stroll than a hike, but it can be combined with a hike to the Twenty-one Goats petroglyph site (add 0.50 miles round trip), or it can be a destination when starting from Falling Man (about 3 miles round trip).

Link to hiking map.

Black Butte Dam Direct

Watch Out

Other than the standard warnings about hiking in the desert, ... this route is short, easy, and about as safe as they get, but do be careful on the rocks around the dam.

Twenty-one Goats Road may require a 4WD vehicle, but usually 2WD-HC is sufficient. Use your own good judgment as road conditions change.

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 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.

Black Butte Dam Direct

Getting to the Trailhead

Black Butte Dam is located out in Gold Butte National Monument at the northeast end of Lake Mead, about 2.5 hours northeast of Las Vegas in a wild, remote, and 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, an unmarked dirt road to the west. Black Butte Road runs southwest, passing Falling Man Trailhead (1.9 miles from the pavement) and continuing southwest. At 3.2 miles out, the road crosses a sandy wash and starts up and over a ridge.

Here, Twenty-one Goats Road turns left and runs up the wash. If the gravel looks too treacherous, park here. Otherwise, turn left and drive 0.35 miles up the wash (east) to the parking corral at the end of the road. Park here; this is the trailhead.

Black Butte Dam Direct
Route leaves wash onto old road (view SE)

The Hike

From the trailhead (Table 1, Waypoint 01), the route runs up the wash for most of 100 yards to an old road that crosses the wash (Wpt. 02). Here, the route turns right onto the old road and runs southeast towards the dam. Note that the wash continues straight (east) to the Twenty-one Goats petroglyph site.

Turning right onto the old road, the route runs southeast between low hills on the right and sandstone cliffs on the left. Just before reaching the first sandstone cliffs on the right, a spur trail (Wpt. 03) forks left and runs to the bottom of the dam (Wpt. 04) on the downstream side.

After returning to the old road (Wpt. 03), the route continues south among sandstone crags. Shortly, the old road ends at the base of low sandstone crags (Wpt. 05).

Black Butte Dam
Route follows old road (view SE)

The pond (or sand flats) lies just over the crags, but before getting there, notice the rock shelter. It was used by prehistoric people, but modern people have used it too and erased most evidence of earlier use. Be sure to look for the bighorn petroglyph.

In addition to the rock shelter, there is an interesting tunnel through a sandstone crag. Hikers can crawl through the tunnel and climb (brief 3rd-class scramble) to the top of the dam (Wpt. 06). Other routes are available but not a fun.

The route naturally leads onto the top of a sandstone crag, and from there hikers get a nice view of the pond, if wet, and the surrounding area.

When ready to depart, follow your footprints in the sand back to the trailhead, or consider hiking up the wash to the Twenty-one Goats petroglyph site, which is only 0.25 miles up the wash.

Black Butte Dam West
Departing the wash, this old road runs up to the dam (view SE)
Black Butte Dam
Hiker approaching Black Butte Dam (view SE)
Black Butte Dam West
Black Butte Dam (view SE)
Black Butte Dam
Black Butte Dam with water leaking from above (view SE)
Black Butte Dam West
Rock shelter at the end of the old road (view S)
Black Butte Dam
Hikers approaching "tunnel entrance" to the dam (view SE)
Black Butte Dam West
"Tunnel entrance" to the dam (view SE)
Black Butte Dam West
Bighorn sheep petroglyph
Black Butte Dam
"Tunnel entrance" to the dam (view SE)
Black Butte Dam
Looking back down into the "Tunnel entrance" (view NW)
Black Butte Dam
Black Butte Pond (view E)
Black Butte Dam
Black Butte Dam (view NE, down from the top)
Black Butte Dam
Black Butte Pond (view E)
Black Butte Dam
Black Butte Pond (view E)
Black Butte Dam
Black Butte Pond (view E)
Black Butte Dam
Natural spillway at Black Butte Pond (view E)
Black Butte Dam
Horsemen at Black Butte pond
Black Butte Dam
Horsemen departing Black Butte pond
Black Butte Dam
Fairy shrimp
Black Butte Dam
Atop the dam, looking back down the old road (view NW)
Black Butte Dam
Black-and-Yellow Mud Dauber nest
Black Butte Dam
Sheltered perch used by Rock Wrens
Black Butte Dam
Gilia Beardtongue (Penstemon ambiguus), entire shrub
Black Butte Dam
Gilia Beardtongue (Penstemon ambiguus), flower top view
Black Butte Dam West
Black Butte Pond during normal conditions: dry (view NE)
Black Butte Dam West
Black Butte Pond during normal conditions: dry (view E)
Black Butte Dam
Black Butte Pond during wet conditions: January 2016
Black Butte Dam
Black Butte Pond during wet conditions: January 2016
Black Butte Dam
Black Butte Pond during wet conditions: January 2016
Black Butte Dam
Black Butte Dam during wet conditions: January 2016

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 Black Butte Dam Trailhead 751191 4042969 2,281 0.00 0.00 GPS
02 Turn out of Wash 751260 4042952 2,288 0.05 0.05 GPS
03 Trail Forks to Below Dam 751355 4042850 2,290 0.10 0.14 GPS
04 Base of Dam 751380 4042840 2,291 0.02 0.16 GPS
03 Trail Forks to Below Dam 751355 4042850 2,290 0.02 0.18 GPS
05 Old Road Ends 751372 4042799 2,298 0.04 0.22 GPS
06 Black Butte Dam Overlook 751382 4042826 2,303 0.02 0.24 GPS
01 Black Butte Dam Trailhead 751191 4042969 2,281 0.20 0.44 GPS

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

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