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Gold Butte Road -- Paved Section Southbound
(Highway 170 to Whitney Pocket)
Backroads Around Las Vegas, Gold Butte
Gold Butte Road
Gold Butte Road
Highway 170 approaching Gold Butte Road (view SE)

Overview

Gold Butte Road, which starts near the town of Mesquite, Nevada, is the gateway to the wild and rugged Gold Butte region. The road is paved for 21 miles, although the pavement is washed out twice and a bit rough the rest of the way. As of January 2017, the potholes are pretty bad again.

The road runs down along the Virgin River, then turns south and climbs over the flanks of Virgin Peak. Long stretches of open desert below the Virgin Mountains lead to Whitney Pocket, an historic area nestled among outcrops of colorful red and white sandstone.

The paved section of Gold Butte Road provides access to such places as the Key West mining area, Little Virgin Peak Trail, Fisherman's Cove Road, and Black Butte Road (Falling Man Rock Art site).

Beyond Whitney Pocket, the road becomes graded dirt and the real wildness starts. For details of the unpaved road, see Gold Butte Road Unpaved Southbound.

Link to map.

Gold Butte Road
Highway 170 at Gold Butte Road (view SE)

Watch Out

Other than the standard warnings about being in the desert, ... this is a fairly safe road, but parts (especially the northern 6-7 miles) are narrow and winding with blind corners. I've been run off the road by thoughtless drivers coming towards me driving too fast with big trucks and long trailers packed with ATVs, so always assume there will be a drunk driver coming around the blind corner towards you.

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 out, 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.

Gold Butte Road
Commercial sign at Hwy 170--Gold Butte Road intersection (view S)

Getting to Gold Butte Road

Gold Butte Road is located out in Gold Butte northeast of Lake Mead, about 1.5 hours northeast of Las Vegas.

From Las Vegas, drive out Interstate 15 to Exit 112, which is about five miles before Mesquite, and take Highway 170 towards Riverside and Bunkerville. Exiting the Interstate starts the journey into the wildlands as Highway 170 winds down 3.5 miles of sparsely vegetated desert hillsides towards the Virgin River. Just across the bridge, Gold Butte Road branches to the right (watch for signs to Meadowland Farm).

Gold Butte Road is unmarked, and because of the tilt of Highway 170, the turnoff looks more like a paved pullout than a paved 2-lane road, but the turn is only a few yards past the end of the bridge.

Gold Butte Road
Historic commercial sign (now gone; view S)

The Road

From Highway 170 (Table 1, Site 0686), Gold Butte Road runs southwest, but before really leaving the intersection, the road passes a dirt parking lot on the left with information signs and maps about the Gold Butte region. This is also a popular ATV trailhead and carpool parking lot.

Beyond the dirt parking lot, Gold Butte Road runs down along the south side of the verdant Virgin River. Initially, the narrow road is posted 25 mph as it winds past farms, over low ridges, and around tight, sometime blind, corners.

After passing several farms, including the infamous Bundy Ranch (1.6 miles out), the road straightens a bit and there is a tendency to drive faster. There remain however, several narrow spots with drop-offs towards the river and blind corners that require caution. I've been run off the road in this section.

Gold Butte Road
Road sign at start of Gold Butte Road (view SW)

At about 3.4 miles out, about 100 yards of pavement is washed out, but the county maintains the dirt section.

At about 6.7 miles out, Gold Butte Road abruptly bends to the left, away from the river, and again the pavement is wash away (about 300 yards), but here the road begins to climb southeast through desert canyons towards Virgin Peak in the distance. The road climbs at moderate grades and winds along valleys and over ridges, and at about 13.1 miles out, passes a dirt road on the left that leads to the Key West Mine area, the Great Eastern Mine, and Government Spring.

Continuing, the road climbs over the saddle between Virgin Peak on the left and Little Virgin Peak on the right. Shortly past the high point, the road passes a dirt wide spot (Site 1652) on the right that serves as the trailhead for Little Virgin Peak.

Gold Butte Road
Gold Butte Road at information sign parking area (view SW)

Continuing, the rough paved road descends past Fisherman Cove Road (Site 1653), bends a bit to the left, and begins to run south across broad desert flats with the Virgin Mountains to the left and Lake Mead far to the right.

At about 0.4 miles past Fisherman Cove Road, Gold Butte Road passes a dirt spur road (Site 1661) to the left that leads about 80 yards to an old borrow pit. While not the most aesthetically pleasing, this is a popular campsite and big enough for several trailers.

For the next 5 miles, Gold Butte Road runs fairly straight as it heads southeast towards the far skyline. At about 16.7 miles out, Gold Butte Road passes a well-used dirt road that forks to the left. This road seems to go nowhere, but eventually reconnects with Gold Butte Road at about 19.1 miles out.

Gold Butte Road
Turning into information sign parking area (view SW)

At 19.5 miles out, Gold Butte Road passes the first of several large sandstone outcrops on the right, then just before getting to the second sandstone outcrop, Gold Butte Road passes Black Butte Road (Site 1004), on the right. Black Butte Road leads southwest to the popular Falling Man Rock Art area and other adventures.

Continuing, Gold Butte Road bends to the left adjacent to the second sandstone crag and passes another unmarked road (19.9 miles out) on the right. This road leads to a large campsite (visible from the pavement) suitable for several trailers on the south side of the sandstone outcrop. The road continues past the campsite and circles the outcrop with several smaller campsites along the loop.

Gold Butte Road
Info signs on left at start of Gold Butte Road (view W)

Gold Butte Road runs east (on some of the finest asphalt on the entire road) and climbs across the hillside below towering limestone mountains, then bends right (southeast) and drops to cross a major wash. Shortly thereafter, the pavement ends (Site 0461) as the road arrives at Whitney Pocket, a scenic area with red-and-white sandstone crags. This is a popular camp area, and for visitors who don't want to stray far from the paved road, this is a good place to stop and enjoy the solitude and scenery.

For the more adventuresome, continue south on the unpaved Gold Butte Road. Birders might want to take the Arizona Road up into the Virgin Mountains to look for birds of the desert mountains.

Gold Butte Road
Info signs in pullout at start of Gold Butte Road (view W; new)
Gold Butte Road
Info signs in pullout at start of Gold Butte Road (view W; now)
Gold Butte Road
Info sign shot during the 2014 Bunkerville Standoff
Gold Butte Road
Info sign shot during the 2014 Bunkerville Standoff
Gold Butte Road
Info sign shot during the 2014 Bunkerville Standoff
Gold Butte Road
Jeep club from Utah meeting at the info sign
Gold Butte Road
Jeep club from Utah meeting at the info sign
Gold Butte Road
Visitors getting an introduction to the area
Gold Butte Road
Landmark: the "blue barn" (view W)
Gold Butte Road
Starting down Gold Butte Road (view SW)
Gold Butte Road
Gold Butte Road with trees along the river (view SW)
Gold Butte Road
Gold Butte Road with open desert above the river (view SW)
Gold Butte Road
Gold Butte Road at Government Spring Road (view SW)
Gold Butte Road
Gold Butte Road approaching Bundy Ranch (view SW)
Gold Butte Road
Gold Butte Road approaching Bundy Ranch (view SW)
Gold Butte Road
Bundy Ranch doing a big BBQ? (view SW)
Gold Butte Road
Gold Butte Road at Bundy Ranch (view SW)
Gold Butte Road
Gold Butte Road at Bundy Ranch sign (view SW)
Gold Butte Road
Bundy Ranch Road (view NW)
Gold Butte Road at Bundy Ranch (view SW)
Bundy Ranch sign (view SW)
Gold Butte Road
Bundy Ranch sign at sunset (view W)
Gold Butte Road
Historic Bundy Melon Ranch sign (view SW)
Gold Butte Road
At work in the Bundy hayfield - ranching is hard work
Gold Butte Road
At work in the Bundy hayfield - ranching is hard work
Gold Butte Road
Ostrich (now Goats) ranch along the river (view N)
Gold Butte Road
Gold Butte Road (view SW)
Gold Butte Road
Road climbs steeply to sharp, blind curve (view S)
Gold Butte Road
Approaching sharp, blind curve right (view S)
Gold Butte Road
Virgin River farms area along Gold Butte Road
gold butte road
Always watch for cows on the road -- especially at night!
Gold Butte Road
Approaching curve and washed-out pavement (view SW)
Gold Butte Road
100 yards of washed-out pavement (view SW)
Gold Butte Road
Watch for oncoming traffic on tight, narrow curves ahead!
Gold Butte Road
Approaching narrow crest of a hill (view SW)
Gold Butte Road
Caution: I got run off the road here (view SW)
Gold Butte Road
Approaching area information sign
Gold Butte Road
Information sign
Gold Butte Road
Gold Butte Back Country Byway sign
Gold Butte Road
One of many "National Back Country Byway" road signs
Gold Butte Road
Gold Butte Road (view SW)
Gold Butte Road Gold Butte Road
Gold Butte Road
Grand scenery along the road (view S)
Gold Butte Road
Grand scenery along the road (view S)
Gold Butte Road Gold Butte Road
Gold Butte Road Gold Butte Road
Gold Butte Road
Descending again towards the Virgin River (view SE)
Gold Butte Road
Heading across the open desert
Gold Butte Road
Approaching curve and washed-out pavement (view SW)
Gold Butte Road
Approaching curve and washed-out pavement (view SW)
Gold Butte Road
300 yards of washed-out pavement (view SW)
Gold Butte Road
300 yards of washed-out pavement (view SW)
Gold Butte Road
Beyond the washed-out pavement (view S)
Gold Butte Road
Vehicle at Virgin River Valley Overlook Campsites (view SW)
Gold Butte Road
GB Road at Virgin River Valley Overlook Camp Road (view S)
Gold Butte Road
Virgin River Valley Overlook Camp Road (view W from GB Rd)
Gold Butte Road Gold Butte Road
Gold Butte Road Gold Butte Road
Gold Butte Road Gold Butte Road
Gold Butte Road
Climbing into the hills (view E)
Gold Butte Road
Approaching an oasis and private Juanita Springs Ranch (view SE)
Gold Butte Road
Gold Butte Road approaching Juanita Springs Road (view SE)
Gold Butte Road
Seasonal sign at Juanita Springs Ranch (view S)
Gold Butte Road
Seasonal sign (April Fool's Day) at Juanita Springs Ranch (view S)
Gold Butte Road
Approaching "Local Color" signs (view SW)
Gold Butte Road
Local color. Sign on private property along the Gold Butte Road: "The most exciting thing I have seen out here was a flat tire and a hot radiator." (March 2010)
Gold Butte Road
Local color. Backside of sign on private property along the Gold Butte Road: "Wasted time? What a 'shame'. In loving memory of Keith Nay." Keith Nay was a rancher in the area. (March 2010)
Gold Butte Road
2013: vandalized sign
Gold Butte Road
2013: vandalized sign
Gold Butte Road
2013: vandalized sign
Gold Butte Road
2013: vandalized sign
Gold Butte Road
2016: vandalized sign
Gold Butte Road
2016: vandalized sign
Gold Butte RoadLittle Virgin Wash Road, on the right (view SE) Gold Butte Road
Virgin Peak (view SE)
Gold Butte Road
Little Virgin Peak ahead (view SE)
Gold Butte Road
Little Virgin Peak ahead (view SE; zoom)
Gold Butte Road
Looking ahead towards Big and Little Virgin Peaks (view SE)
Gold Butte Road
Sunset from Gold Butte Road (view W from roadside)
Gold Butte Road
Gold Butte Road (view SE)
Gold Butte Road
Road to Key West Spring and mine sites (view SE)
Gold Butte Road
Key West Spring Road (view S)
Gold Butte Road
Road climbs along base of Little Virgin Peak (view SE)
Gold Butte Road
Saddle between Virgin Peak and Little Virgin Peak (view S)
Gold Butte Road
Approaching Little Virgin Peak Trailhead (view S)
Gold Butte Road
Approaching Little Virgin Peak Trailhead (view S)
Gold Butte Road
Little Virgin Peak trailhead (view S)
Gold Butte Road
Little Virgin Peak trailhead (view S)
Gold Butte Road
Descending past Little Virgin Peak trailhead (view S)
Gold Butte Road
Approaching Fisherman's Cove Road (view S)
Gold Butte Road
Approaching Fisherman's Cove Road (view S)
Gold Butte Road
Gold Butte Road at road sign (view S)
Gold Butte Road
Gold Butte Road at Fisherman's Cove Road (view S)
Gold Butte Road
Fisherman's Cove Road (view SW from Gold Butte Road)
Gold Butte Road
Sign at Fisherman's Cove intersection
Gold Butte Road, Paved
Fisherman's Cove Road sign (view SW; sign missing in Fall 2015)
Gold Butte Road
Gold Butte Road at Gravel Pit Campsite Road (view S)
Gold Butte Road
Gravel Pit Campsite Road (view NE from Gold Butte Road)
Gold Butte Road
Gravel Pit campsite (view W)
Gold Butte Road
Gold Butte Road on long, rolling flats; notice rough pavement
Gold Butte Road
Tall Mojave Yucca along the road
Gold Butte Road
Bundy trespass cattle: road hazards -- especially at night!
Gold Butte Road
Starving Bundy trespass cattle: is this animal abuse?
Gold Butte Road, Paved
Bundy trespass cattle: road hazards
Gold Butte Road
Bundy trespass cattle: road hazards -- especially at night!
Gold Butte Road
Bundy cattle: how many sets of eyeshine can you see?
Gold Butte Road, Paved
Tall Mojave Yucca along the road
Gold Butte Road
Side road parallels GB Road and eventually returns to the pavement
Gold Butte Road
Long, rolling flats (view SE)
Gold Butte Road
Whitney Pocket on the horizon (view SE)
Gold Butte Road
Parallel road returns to Gold Butte Road (view SE)
Gold Butte Road
Approaching first of the sandstone crags ( view SE)
Gold Butte Road
Gold Butte Road at Black Butte Road (Falling Man Road) (view SE)
Gold Butte Road
Black Butte Road (view SW from Gold Butte Road)
Gold Butte Road
Approaching First Rock Campsite area (view S)
Gold Butte RoadGold Butte Road, approaching road to First Rock campsites (view E) Gold Butte Road
Whitney Pocket in the distance; notice smooth pavement (view E)
Gold Butte Road
Busy day for Gold Butte ATV riders (view E)
Bundy trespass cattle: road hazards -- especially at night!
Gold Butte Road at turnoff to First Rock campsites (view E)
Bundy trespass cattle: road hazards -- especially at night!
Whitney Pocket in the distance; more smooth pavement (view E)
Gold Butte Road
Whitney Pocket in the distance (view SE)
Gold Butte Road
Whitney Pocket in the distance (view E)
Bundy trespass cattle: road hazards -- especially at night!
Side road at last curve before Whitney Pocket (view E)
Gold Butte Road
Side road at last curve before Whitney Pocket (view E)
Gold Butte Road
Approaching main Whitney Pocket area (view S)
Gold Butte Road
Always watch for temporary traffic signs (left after flashflood)
Bundy trespass cattle: road hazards -- especially at night!
Approaching sandstone crags of Whitney Pocket (view SE)
Gold Butte Road
Approaching Whitney Pocket (view SE)
Gold Butte Road
Approaching Whitney Pocket (view SE)
Gold Butte Road, Paved Section
First campsite at Whitney Pocket, proper (view W)
Gold Butte Road
End of the pavement at Whitney Pocket

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

Wpt. Location Latitude (N) Longitude (W) Elevation (ft) Point-to-Point Distance (mi) Cumulative Distance (mi) Verified
0686 Hwy 170 at Gold Butte Rd 36.73179 114.21724 1,444 00.00 00.00 Yes
0687 Gold Butte Rd at turn away from river 36.67191 114.28907 1,384 06.50 06.50 Yes
1652 Gold Butte Rd at Little Virgin Peak Trailhead 36.60265 114.20890 2,775 07.28 13.78 Yes
1653 Gold Butte Rd at Fisherman Cove Rd 36.59583 114.21061 2,692 00.48 14.26 Yes
1661 Gold Butte Rd at Borrow Pit Camp Rd 36.58983 114.20866 2,638 00.43 14.69 Yes
1004 Gold Butte Rd at Black Butte Rd 36.53039 114.16102 2,776 04.99 19.68 Yes
0461 Gold Butte Rd at End of Pavement 36.52425 114.13964 3,023 01.39 21.07 Yes

Happy Hiking! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 170130

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