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Cobalt Mine Route
Hiking Around Las Vegas, Gold Butte National Monument
Cobalt Mine
Cobalt Mine
Garden Wash Road at Cobalt Mine trailhead (view NE)

Overview

The Cobalt Mine, actually the Quartz Load Claim, is a prospect where in 1982 miners found a deposit of cobalt ore with world class concentrations but limited quantity (Moyle and Buehler, 1990). As always has been the case with mining in Gold Butte, prospectors can find any mineral they want, but not in commercial quantities, and there was no record of any production from this site.

Starting from Garden Wash Road, the route climbs over a ridge into the next wash to the north (Cobalt Wash), then follows the wash east to near the Arizona border. After a long walk down the gravel wash, an old road cuts steeply out of the wash up to the mine site, which is marked by a trench, two large pits, and nine smaller pits.

From the mine, the easy route back returns up the same wash, but hiking south over a corrugated landscape drops hikers into Garden Wash, which can be followed up through the spectacular Garden Canyon and back to the trailhead.

Link to map.

Cobalt Mine
Departing the trailhead (view NE)

Watch Out

Other than the standard warnings about hiking in the desert, ...this is a particularly wild and remote area, but there are no unusual hazards. The mine is just a few pits and trenches, so there are no unsafe holes in the ground.

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. AT&T cell phones actually work at the mine site, probably hitting a cell tower to the south in Arizona. 4WD is best on Garden Wash Road, but I normally drive my jeep in 2WD.

While hiking, please respect the land and the other people out there, and try to Leave No Trace of your passage. Also, this is a remote hike, so be sure to bring the 10 Essentials. This hike goes into the Million Hills Wilderness Study Area, so pay particular attention to respecting the land and please leave the ore as it lays so that others can see it the way you saw it.

Cobalt Mine
Trail drifts left towards north edge of wash to old road (view NE)

Getting to the Trailhead

The Cobalt Mine is located out in Gold Butte National Monument at the northeast end of Lake Mead, about 4 hours northeast of Las Vegas in a wild, remote, and scenic area adjacent to the Arizona Border.

From town, drive out to Gold Butte National Monument. From Whitney Pocket, continue south on the unpaved Gold Butte Road for 16.2 miles to a fork in the road. Stay left onto Devils Cove Road and drive southeast for an additional 1.0 miles to Garden Spring Road, a sandy road in the wash on the left.

Following Garden Spring Road 0.7 miles to Garden Spring and Corral, Garden Wash Road forks left in front of the corral. Driving 2.9 miles northeast on Garden Wash Road, the road arrives at the trailhead, a wide spot in the wash with parking on the left (north) side. Park here; this is the trailhead.

Cobalt Mine
Hiker on old road climbing out of Garden Wash (view E)

The Hike

From the trailhead (Table 1, Waypoint 01), the route runs down the wash staying on the north side. At about 260 yards out, an old road cuts up the side of the ridge to the north. Following this old road, the route climbs rather steeply up across the hillside to the crest of the ridge (Wpt. 02).

It is hard to see, but the road forks atop the ridge. One fork runs east along the top of the ridge, while the main fork continues over the ridge and down the other side. Angling down across the north-facing hillside, the old road disappears into Cobalt Wash (Wpt. 03) and continues downstream.

The route runs down the wash for 2.4 miles. The hike is easy, just a gentle downgrade in a wash with fairly firm soils, and the scenery keeps changing. The wash is wide, narrow, has high steep walls, has low sloping walls, has caliche walls with interesting holes to investigate, and has well vegetated parts.

Cobalt Mine
Hiker on old road approaching crest of ridge (view NE)

For the entire 2.4 miles down the wash, the walking is in gravel. However, at that distance, the wash runs over caliche ledges. The lowest caliche ledge forms a 3-4 ft high pour-over (Wpt. 04), and at that point, notice that a burro trail exits the wash to the right. This is the start of the route to Garden Wash, should hikers choose to return that way.

Continuing down the wash, in only 70 yards from the lower pour-over, an old road (Wpt. 05) exits the wash to the left. The route follows this old road steeply out of the wash, then northeast. The road drops through a broad wash, then climbs steeply up the next hillside. Near the crest of the ridge, where the old road is quite steep, stop for a moment and notice the trench carved into the hillside ahead to the right. This is the first evidence of arriving at the mine site.

The old road ends (Wpt. 06) atop the ridge where the only metal at the mine site (frames of two old chairs) lies baking in the desert sun.

Cobalt Mine
Old road forks at crest of the ridge; stay left (view NE)

From the end of the road, a short spur road turns back and heads straight up the hillside. Near the start of this spur road, a small pit with some ore can be seen on the right. A bit farther up, a 4x4 wooden mining claim marker post can be seen 40 yards to the right (north). The marker sits near the Upper Mine Pit (Wpt. 07). The Lower Mine Pit (Wpt. 08) sits about 50 feet down the ridge, and a small test pit lies between the two.

The Upper Mine Pit (Wpt. 07) is the most interesting pit at the mine. Rocks were dug out revealing an outcrop capped by a layer of conglomerate and what apparently formed the top of a small cave. Water seeping into the cave precipitated calcium carbonate into a crystalline form of calcite called aragonite. included within the argonite are layers of leaf-like or fern-like deposits of cobalt-bearing manganese oxide. The Lower Mine Pit (Wpt. 08) has similar deposits, but smaller quantities.

When finished at the two mine pits, hikers might consider walking to the top of the ridge above the pits. The low knob makes a nice place to eat lunch and take in the expansive, 360-degree view, which includes the Virgin Mountains to the north and the end of the Grand Canyon to the southeast.

Cobalt Mine
Old road descends towards wash (view NE)

When ready, return to the trailhead by returning back up Cobalt Wash and the old roads, or consider hiking south to Garden Wash and returning up through Garden Canyon.

If hiking south, the route cuts across the grain of the corrugated landscape, and the farther east one hikes, the easier the crossing is; but of course, the shorter route is due south. Regardless, the route south cuts across numerous washes, some deep and some not so deep, with several "false summits." When hikers arrive atop impassible cliffs above a broad wash, they have arrived at Garden Wash. The easier descent is at the west end, close to the toe of the mountains. In Garden Wash, the route turns west and follows the wash up through Lower Garden Canyon and Upper Garden Canyon, past Azure Mine (copper) and Azure Cabin, and back to the trailhead.

Reference: Moyle, P.R., and A.R. Buehler, 1990. Site-specific investigation of a cobalt/manganese occurrence in the Million Hills [Wilderness] Study Area, Clark County, Nevada: U.S. Bureau of Mines Mineral Land Assessment Open-File Report MLA-3- 90, 41 p.

Cobalt Mine
Old road disappears into the wash (view NE)
Cobalt Mine
Hiker in the wash (view NE)
Cobalt Mine
Hiker in the gravel wash (view E)
Cobalt MineHiker in the gravel wash (view E)
Cobalt Mine Cobalt Mine
Cobalt Mine Cobalt Mine
Cobalt Mine Cobalt Mine
Cobalt Mine Cobalt Mine
Cobalt Mine Cobalt Mine
Cobalt Mine
Hiker approaching low caliche pour-overs (view NE)
Cobalt Mine
Wash runs over low caliche pour-overs (view NE)
Cobalt Mine
Lowest caliche pour-over; 3-ft drop (view NE)
Cobalt Mine
Old road exits the wash (view NE)
Cobalt Mine
Hiker on old road exiting the wash (view NE)
Cobalt Mine
Hiker on old road (view NE)
Cobalt Mine
Old road crosses a low ridge (view NE)
Cobalt Mine
Old road crosses a shallow wash (view NE)
Cobalt Mine
The old road climbs the hillside (view N)
Cobalt Mine
The old road climbs the hillside steeply (view N)
Cobalt Mine
Trench on hillside -- first evidence of mining activity (view NE)
Cobalt Mine
Hiker on old road approaching crest of the ridge (view NE)
Cobalt Mine
Hiker on old road arriving at crest of the ridge (view NE)
Cobalt Mine
End of old road (view E)

Cobalt Mine Site

Cobalt Mine
Near end of the road, small prospect pit and ore (view N)
Cobalt Mine
Upper main pit visible from old road (view N)
Cobalt Mine
Small pit en route to the upper main pit (view N)
Cobalt Mine
Wooden mining claim marker at the upper main pit (view N)

Upper Cobalt Mine Main Pit

Cobalt Mine
Approaching upper main pit (view N)
Cobalt Mine
Upper main pit (view N)
Cobalt Mine
Argonite (white mineral) layer in the upper main pit (view N)
Cobalt Mine
Argonite and cobalt ore in the upper main pit (view N)
Cobalt Mine
Argonite with fern-like deposits of cobalt-bearing manganese oxide
Cobalt Mine
Conglomerate roof of cave and argonite with cobalt ore
Cobalt Mine
Argonite with fern-like deposits of cobalt-bearing manganese oxide
Cobalt Mine
Cobalt-bearing manganese oxide
Cobalt Mine
Fern-like deposits of cobalt-bearing manganese oxide
Cobalt Mine
Fern-like deposits of cobalt-bearing manganese oxide
Cobalt Mine
Flow-stone deposits near top of cave with cobalt ore
Cobalt Mine
Roof of the cave with argonite deposits
Cobalt Mine
Argonite deposit
Cobalt Mine
Argonite deposits with cobalt ore
Cobalt Mine
Argonite deposit formed like stalactites from roof of cave
Cobalt Mine
Argonite deposit formed like stalactites from roof of cave
Cobalt Mine
Argonite deposit formed like stalactites from roof of cave
Cobalt Mine
Argonite deposit: looking straight up at stalactites
Cobalt Mine
Argonite deposits with cobalt ore in tailings pile
Cobalt Mine
Argonite deposits with cobalt ore in tailings pile
Cobalt Mine
Hiker inside upper main pit (view S)
More to come
More to come ...

Lower Cobalt Mine Main Pit

Cobalt Mine
Small test pit between Upper and Lower Main Pits (view N)
Cobalt Mine
Approaching Lower Main Pit (view N)
Cobalt Mine
Lower Main Pit (view N)
Cobalt Mine
Argonite with deposits of cobalt-bearing manganese oxide

Cobalt Mine Trench

Cobalt Mine
Trench (view S from old road)
Cobalt Mine
Trench (view S)
Cobalt Mine
Trench with argonite and cobalt-bearing manganese oxide (view S)
Cobalt Mine
Trench with argonite and cobalt-bearing manganese oxide (view N)

Mine Site Scenery: View from knob atop the ridgeline

Cobalt Mine
Virgin Mountains (view N)
Cobalt Mine
Grand Wash and Grand Wash Cliffs in Arizona (view NE)
Cobalt Mine
Grand Wash Cliffs and end of the Grand Canyon (view SE)
Cobalt Mine
Azure Ridge and the route to Garden Wash (view S)
Cobalt Mine
Rolling hills and desert vegetation (view E)
Cobalt Mine
Mixed soils: carbonate rocks and metamorphic rocks

Departing the Cobalt Mine Site

Cobalt Mine
Hiker following old road back towards Cobalt Wash (view SW)
Cobalt Mine
Hiker arriving back at Cobalt Wash (view SW)

Return to Trailhead via Garden Wash

Cobalt Mine
Hiker departing Cobalt Wash at caliche pour-over (view SW)
Cobalt Mine
Burro trail quickly fades away (view SE)
Cobalt Mine
Still trending southeast away from Cobalt Wash (view SE)
Cobalt Mine
First views south since leaving Cobalt Wash (view SE)
Cobalt Mine
Some easy hiking (view SSE)
Cobalt Mine
Some obstacles (view SSE)
Cobalt Mine Cobalt Mine
Cobalt Mine Cobalt Mine
Cobalt Mine
Approaching Garden Wash (view SSW)
Cobalt Mine
Grand view across Garden Wash towards Grand Canyon (view SE)
Cobalt Mine
End of the Grand Canyon (view SE)
Cobalt Mine
Cliffs at edge of wash block travel (view W)
Cobalt Mine
Descending burro trail towards side canyon in Garden Wash (view W)
Cobalt Mine
Garden Wash (view W)
Cobalt Mine
Hiker entering Lower Garden Canyon (view W)
Cobalt Mine
Hiker in Lower Garden Canyon (view W)
Cobalt Mine
Hiker exiting Lower Garden Canyon (view W)
Cobalt Mine
Garden Wash between Upper and Lower Garden canyons (view W)
Cobalt Mine
Blooming ocotillo along Garden Wash (view N)
Cobalt Mine
Hiker entering Upper Garden Canyon (view W)
Cobalt Mine
Hiker in Upper Garden Canyon (view W)
Cobalt Mine
Azure Cabin (view N)
Cobalt Mine
Garden Wash Road (view W)
Cobalt Mine
Returning to trailhead along Garden Wash Road (view W)

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 Trailhead 760113 4022875 2,442 0.00 0.00
02 Ridgeline 760329 4023290 2,540 0.31 0.31
03 Old Road Enters Wash 760574 4023505 2,480 0.21 0.52
04 Burro Trail Leaves Wash 763916 4023977 2,419 2.42 2.94
05 Old Road Leaves Wash 763967 4024013 1,857 0.04 2.98
06 End of Old Road 764143 4024283 1,935 0.23 3.21
07 Upper Cobalt Mine 764101 4024330 2,479 0.15 3.36
08 Lower Cobalt Mine 764116 4024332 2,471 0.00 3.36
01 Trailhead 760113 4022875 2,442 3.36 6.72
. . . . . . .
. Return Via Garden Canyon . . . . .
07 Upper Cobalt Mine 764101 4024330 2,479 0.00 3.36
04 Burro Trail Leaves Wash 763916 4023977 2,419 0.42 3.78
09 Enter Garden Wash 763904 4022553 2,305 1.27 5.05
10 Top - Lower Canyon 763568 4022514 2,362 0.23 5.28
11 Bottom - Upper Canyon 762957 4022729 2,448 0.43 5.71
12 Azure Mine 761927 4023111 2,772 1.02 6.73
13 Azure Cabin 761592 4023127 2,820 0.26 6.99
01 Trailhead 760113 4022875 2,442 1.02 8.01

Happy Hiking! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 180412

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