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Doodlebug Arch Loop Route
Hiking Around Las Vegas, Gold Butte National Monument
Doodlebug Arch
Arriving at the trailhead (Whitney Pocket Campsite 3; view W)

Overview

The Doodlebug Arch Loop is an interesting 4-1/2 mile hike through the wild and scenic red-and-white sandstone country of Gold Butte west of Whitney Pocket. Hikers may even find doodlebugs in the soft sand under the arch.

The route runs down an old road and then hops over a low ridge into Doodlebug Canyon. The arch is towards the end of the canyon, and some hikers may simply return from there. For others, the route continues down the wash until the confluence with Amber Cat Canyon, which is followed upstream and back over the ridge to the trailhead.

This is a convenient hike because it is easily accessible from Whitney Pocket, a popular camping and picnic area in Gold Butte National Monument, that is accessible in 2WD vehicles.

Link to map.

Doodlebug Arch
Hikers continuing on the road past the trailhead (view W)

Watch Out

Other than the standard warnings about hiking in the desert, ... this is a relatively safe hike for those who stay in the bottom of the wash. This is, however, 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 don't work in this area.

While visiting Gold Butte, please respect the land and the other people out there, and try to Leave No Trace of your passage. Also, this is a remote area, so be sure to bring the 10 Essentials.

Doodlebug Arch
Hikers staying left onto lesser road before campsite 4 (view W)

Getting to the Trailhead

Doodlebug Arch is located below Whitney Pocket out in Gold Butte National Monument at the northeast end of Lake Mead, about 2 hours northeast of Las Vegas in a wild, remote, and scenic area.

From town, drive out to Gold Butte National Monument. Drive east on Interstate-15 to Highway 170. Take Exit 112 south towards Riverside and Bunkerville. Drive south and cross the Virgin River, then quickly turn right onto the paved Gold Butte Road. Follow the pavement (there are no paved side roads) for 21 miles until it ends at Whitney Pocket.

Continue south on the unpaved Gold Butte Road for about 100 yards to the day-use parking area on the right. Pull in towards the information kiosk signs on the right, or continue a short ways farther west to the first campsite area. Either way, park here; this is the trailhead.

Doodlebug Arch

The Hike

From the trailhead by the kiosks (Table 1, Wpt. 01) or the campsite a bit farther west, the route heads west on the old road. When the road forks before the last campsite, the route stays left on the lesser road.

The old road runs west down the wash, which is seriously washed out in places, and at about 0.25 miles out, passes a cairn (Wpt. 13) and a use-trail on the left -- this will be the return route for hikers doing the entire loop. Continuing down the old road following the wash, the route passes a saddle on the ridge to the left. This is Amber Cat Pass and also is on the return route for the loop.

Vegetation here on the desert flats is relatively lush and diverse, and typical for this elevation: creosote bush and white bursage, sprinkled with cactus (e.g., buckhorn cholla and california barrel cactus) and Joshua trees.

Doodlebug Arch
Passing the return route

By about 1 mile out, there is another saddle on the ridge to the left, which is bordered on the west side by a dark-red sandstone outcrop: this is Doodlebug Pass. The route will cross the ridge using this pass.

When almost past Doodlebug Pass, a narrow wash (Wpt. 02) on the left comes down the hillside. This wash provides hikers a way to get up the hillside and over the pass without trampling the abundant cryptobiotic soils in this area.

Heading up the hillside following the wash and slickrock, hikers cross over Doodlebug Pass (Wpt. 03) and drop into Doodlebug Canyon to the southwest.

Along the wash, however, the vegetation is much more diverse than the desert flats. Species typical of this elevation include desert willow, catclaw acacia, matchweed, brittlebush, turpentinebroom, and bunchgrasses.

Heading down the canyon, the route passes sandy areas, red sandstone slickrock, white sandstone slickrock, tinajas, and even mini-narrows.

Doodlebug Arch
Hikers continuing on the lesser road (view W)

When the wash begins to open and the sandstone outcrops on the right end (Wpt. 04), the route to the arch turns right, leaves the wash, and climbs the hill heading south along the far edge of the last white sandstone crag. Before long, a large alcove becomes apparent on the west side of the outcrop, and finally hikers can see that the roof of the alcove is detached -- it is an arch (Wpt. 05).

For some hikers, the arch is a good place for lunch before heading back the way they came, but for others, the loop continues downstream.

Back in Doodlebug Wash (Wpt. 04), the route continues southwest. Before long, a pour-over (Wpt. 06) is passed either directly (look for hidden footholds) or on the sides.

A bit farther down the wash, the ridges fade away and the wash opens onto a broad desert flat (Wpt. 07). Not seen from eye level, another major wash comes down the next valley to the left. Hikers can continue 50 yards farther down to the confluence, or they can cut across the flats (about 30 yards) into that wash (Wpt. 08).

Doodlebug Arch
The return route: Amber Cat Pass (view SW)

In the next wash, which is Amber Cat Wash, hikers head east to begin the return side of the loop. Heading upstream, Amber Cat Wash runs east to the toe of a white sandstone ridge (Wpt. 09) on the left. The wash forks here, and the route continues straight into the left fork following the base of the sandstone crag.

In about 0.3 miles, the wash forks again (although it might not be noticed) and here the route stays left in the main wash following the high ridge to the left that separates Amber Cat Canyon from Doodlebug Canyon.

The canyon begins to wind about and even curves back around to the southeast. Coming out of this big S-curve, hikers will notice the Free-standing Amber Cat (Wpt. 10) crouched down on the right side of the wash. The cat has no ears, but the humped back, head, and folded arms are striking.

Doodlebug Arch

From the Free-standing Amber Cat, the route continues winding up Amber Cat Wash where the sandstone cliffs get higher and more interesting. When passing a curious somewhat detached sandstone mesa on the right, hikers can look back and see Amber Cat Wall. In this case, the red cat is leaping across the amber wall to the right.

Continuing up the wash, the route eventually climbs out of the top end of the canyon onto the ridge above, crossing the ridgeline at Amber Cat Pass (Wpt. 12).

A use-trail continues over the pass heading northeast towards Whitney Pocket. The use-trail eventually hits the old road (Wpt. 13), which is followed back to the trailhead (Wpt. 14).

Doodlebug Arch
The route follows the old road (view W)
Doodlebug Arch
Looking to the side at grand Gold Butte scenery (view N)
Doodlebug Arch
Hikers continuing down the old road (view W)
Doodlebug Arch
The route crosses Doodlebug Pass (view SW)
Doodlebug Arch
Walking in washes, not on crypto soils (view SW)
Doodlebug Arch
Walking in washes, not on crypto soils (view SW)
Doodlebug Arch
Walking in washes, not on crypto soils (view SW)
Doodlebug Arch
Walking on slickrock, not on crypto soils (view SW)
Doodlebug Arch
Walking on slickrock, not on crypto soils (view SW)
Doodlebug Arch
Doodlebug Pass (view SW)
Doodlebug Arch
Doodlebug Pass; looking back from where we came (view NE)
Doodlebug Arch
Hikers descending over Doodlebug Pass (view SW)
Doodlebug Arch
Hikers heading down into Doodlebug Canyon (view SW)
Doodlebug Arch
Hikers heading down Doodlebug Wash (view SW)
Doodlebug Arch
Interesting patters in the sandstone
Doodlebug Arch
The route crosses red sandstone
Doodlebug Arch
The route crosses white sandstone
Doodlebug ArchThe route crosses more white sandstone
Doodlebug Arch
The route pinches between white sandstone
Doodlebug Arch
The route passes below wild red-and-white sandstone crags (view N)
Doodlebug Arch
The route begins to pass beyond last of sandstone on right (view SW)
Doodlebug Arch
Hikers heading towards last of the white sandstone (view N)
Doodlebug Arch
Doodlebug Arch comes into view (view NE)
Doodlebug Arch
Doodlebug Arch (view NE)
Doodlebug Arch Doodlebug Arch
Doodlebug Arch
Under Doodlebug Arch (view SW)
Doodlebug Arch
Under Doodlebug Arch (view SW)
Doodlebug Arch
Owl roost under Doodlebug Arch
Doodlebug Arch
Desert Woodrat midden under Doodlebug Arch
Doodlebug Arch
Owl roost under Doodlebug Arch
Doodlebug Arch Loop
Doodlebug, or Antlion, sand traps
Doodlebug Arch Loop
Doodling of a doodlebug as it looks for a good sand-trap site
Doodlebug Arch
Hikers preparing to depart Doodlebug Arch (view SW)
Doodlebug Arch
Hikers departing Doodlebug Arch (view SW)
Doodlebug Arch
Hikers descending hillside below Doodlebug Arch (view S)
Doodlebug Arch
Hikers continuing down Doodlebug Wash (view SW)
Doodlebug Arch
Hikers approaching pour-over in Doodlebug Wash (view SW)
Doodlebug Arch
Hiker below pour-over in Doodlebug Wash (view down)
Doodlebug Arch
Pour-over in Doodlebug Wash; easier than it looks (view W)
Doodlebug Arch
Hikers continuing down Doodlebug Wash (view SW)
Doodlebug Arch
Hikers continuing down Doodlebug Wash (view SW)
Doodlebug Arch
Hikers turning out of Doodlebug Wash (view S)
Doodlebug Arch
Hikers heading up Amber Cat Canyon (view E)
Doodlebug Arch
Hikers heading up Amber Cat Canyon (view NE)
Doodlebug Arch
Sandstone patterns in lower Amber Cat Canyon (view NE)
Doodlebug Arch
Interesting sandstone patterns in lower Amber Cat Canyon (view NE)
Doodlebug Arch
Interesting sandstone patterns in lower Amber Cat Canyon (view NE)
Doodlebug Arch Doodlebug Arch
Doodlebug Arch
Water sculpted sandstone in the wash
Doodlebug Arch
Staying left at a fork in the wash (view NE)
Doodlebug Arch
Hiker heading up Amber Cat Canyon (view NE)
Doodlebug Arch
Hiker heading up Amber Cat Canyon (view NE)
Doodlebug Arch
The Freestanding Amber Cat comes into view (view NE)
Doodlebug Arch
Freestanding Amber Cat (view NE)
Amber Cat
The Amber Cat with ears and eyes
Doodlebug Arch
Hiker continuing up Amber Cat Canyon (view NE)
Doodlebug Arch Doodlebug Arch
Doodlebug Arch Doodlebug Arch
Doodlebug Arch
Hikers heading up Amber Cat Canyon (view NE)
Doodlebug Arch
Unusual geology (view S)
Doodlebug ArchAmber Cat Wall (view S) Doodlebug Arch
Hikers heading up Amber Cat Canyon (view NE)
Doodlebug Arch
Looking back at Amber Cat Wall (view SW)
Doodlebug Arch
Continuing up Amber Cat Canyon (view NE)
Doodlebug Arch
Continuing up Amber Cat Canyon (view NE)
Doodlebug Arch
Hikers beginning to climb out of Amber Cat Canyon (view NE)
Doodlebug Arch
Interesting patters in the sandstone
Doodlebug Arch
Hikers climbing towards Amber Cat Pass (view NE)
Doodlebug Arch
Amber Cat Pass (view NE)
Doodlebug Arch
Amber Cat Pass (view SW down Amber Pass Canyon)
Doodlebug Arch
Hikers descending over Amber Cat Pass (view NE)
Doodlebug Arch
Hikers on use-trail descending over Amber Cat Pass (view NE)
Doodlebug Arch Doodlebug Arch
Doodlebug Arch
Hikers returning to the old road (view NE)
Doodlebug Arch
Hikers heading up the old road (view NE)
Doodlebug Arch
Returning towards Whitney Pocket (view E)
Doodlebug Arch
Hikers approaching Whitney Pocket trailhead (view E)

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)
01 Trailhead 756119 4045566 3,102 0.00 0.00
02 Depart Old Road 754502 4045434 2,893 1.05 1.05
03 Doodlebug Saddle 754494 4045242 2,976 0.15 1.20
04 Wash Below Doodlebug Arch 754046 4044922 2,814 0.43 1.63
05 Doodlebug Arch 754040 4044968 2,838 0.04 1.67
06 Pour-Over 753963 4044848 2,799 0.11 1.78
07 Leave Main Wash 753710 4044321 2,734 0.43 2.21
08 Wash 753720 4044290 2,735 0.02 2.23
09 Wash Forks 754137 4044253 2,796 0.28 2.51
10 Free Standing Amber Cat 754636 4044703 2,726 0.54 3.05
11 Amber Cat Wall 754925 4045064 2,808 0.36 3.41
12 Amber Cat Pass 755128 4045286 3,071 0.23 3.64
13 Return to Old Road 755730 4045487 3,059 0.41 4.05
01 Trailhead 756119 4045566 3,102 0.25 4.30

Happy Hiking! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 170824

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