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Scanlon Dugway - Southbound (Downhill)
Hiking Around Las Vegas, Gold Butte National Monument
Gold Butte, Scanlon Dugway
Scanlon Dugway
Vehicle turned around and parked atop Scanlon Trailhead (view S)

Overview

Scanlon Dugway is the steep section of an historic wagon road that connected northern Arizona with southern Nevada, crossing the Colorado River at Scanlon Ferry. The "dugway" is a section of road "dug out" of the cliffs where it climbs up Gregg Canyon to the high country between Bonelli and Jumbo peaks. The road is narrow, old, and rocky -- these days better left to hikers. The steep part of the dugway drops 1,040 ft in 1.3 miles -- on average, a very steep roadway grade of 15%. While hiking here, consider what it must have been like to run freight wagons drawn by 6 to 12 mules through this country during the early 1900s. This historic 4-mile (round trip) hike is located about 5.5 hours from Las Vegas.

Link to hiking map. Link to photos of returning up the Dugway.

Scanlon Dugway
Scanlon Dugway (view SW from trailhead)

Watch Out

Other than the standard warnings about hiking in the desert, ... this is a safe hike, but the edge of the dugway drops away steeply, so be careful on the edge. With loose gravel on hard bedrock, it is easy to slip on steeper parts of the dugway.

This is wild and remote country 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. It is a big place and someone will find you eventually if you stay on a main road, but be prepared to survive alone for a day or two, or even longer on side roads. Consider signalling the tourist helicopters that traverse the area coming and going from the Grand Canyon.

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 the 10 Essentials.

Scanlon Dugway
Hikers starting down Scanlon Dugway (view SW)

Getting to the Trailhead

Scanlon Dugway is located out in Gold Butte National Monument at the northeast end of Lake Mead, about 5.5 hours northeast of Las Vegas in a wild, remote, and scenic area.

From town, drive out to Gold Butte National Monument. From Whitney Pocket, continue south on the unpaved Gold Butte Road to Gold Butte Townsite.

From the townsite, Scanlon Road is the main road running southwest. Drive south on Scanlon Road 14.6 miles to where the road crests a sharp ridge, which is the top of Scanlon Dugway. Stop on the ridgeline and park here; this is the trailhead.

Scanlon Dugway
The first curve (view SW)

The Hike

From the trailhead (Table 1, Waypoint 01), the route runs down onto the steep, narrow dugway where the old wagon road was carved out of the rocky hillside.

From the saddle, the route runs southwest and down to an abrupt and spectacular curve where the road turns sharply to the southeast. At the curve, the extent of the steep road can be seen, and one tries to imagine how a teamster could drive mules down the road without careening out of control and crashing off the cliff.

This part of Gold Butte is in the Upper Sonoran (Mojave Desert Scrub) vegetation zone where sparse creosote bush and white bursage dominate the landscape, but many other species of shrubs also are common. Look for mojave yucca, catclaw acacia, and silver cholla that looks a lot like blue diamond cholla.

Scanlon Dugway
Around the first corner (view S)

Hiking down the narrow dugway, the road is in relatively good shape, but many parts are very steep with gravel overlying carved bedrock that makes for serious slipping hazards. About 0.44 miles out, the dugway makes a hairpin turn (Wpt. 02) to the right that provides grand views out over the Lake Mead region. If you are driving down the dugway and chicken out, this is the first place to turn around (of course, this is also past the bad parts).

Shortly thereafter, an old USGS benchmark (Wpt. 03) set in concrete adorns the edge of the road. As hard as it is to imagine teamsters driving mules up and down the road, imagine what life was like for surveyors hiking across this country in 1935.

From the benchmark, the road makes a sharp turn (Wpt. 04) to the left and continues downhill at an easier grade across a less steep hillside. The road runs down, then climbs a short distance onto a saddle, and continues downhill. Eventually the steep part of the road is passed (Wpt. 05) and the old road runs on a sandy, more gentle road.

Scanlon Dugway
First long view of the dugway (view S)

Shortly after the grade eases, signs announce the Lake Mead National Recreation Area boundary (Site 1017), and another 0.44 miles brings one to the north edge of Lakeshore Mine. Most of the mine was a strip mine, but there is at least one adit (horizontal shaft) towards the southeast edge of the stripped area. Timbers hold the opening open, but dirt and gravel have washed in and nearly cover the opening. In the canyon to the west of the mine, old foundations and tailings reveal the former presence of a mill.

For hikers, the mine is a good place to turn around and retrace your steps back up the dugway to the trailhead. The old road continues another 4.5 miles to the edge of Lake Mead, but the road beyond the mine is said to be in worse shape than the dugway.

Scanlon Dugway Scanlon Dugway
Scanlon Dugway Scanlon Dugway
Scanlon Dugway Scanlon Dugway
Scanlon Dugway
Approaching the big switchback (view S)
Scanlon Dugway
Arriving at the big switchback (view S)
Scanlon Dugway
Below the switchback (view NW)
Scanlon Dugway
Road runs along side-ridge (view SW)
Scanlon Dugway
USGS Benchmark placed in 1935; including wooden concrete frame
Scanlon Dugway
USGS Benchmark placed in 1935
Scanlon Dugway
Road runs along side-ridge (view S)
Scanlon Dugway
Descending off the side-ridge (view SE)
Scanlon Dugway
Hikers on Lower Dugway (view S)
Scanlon Dugway
Descending towards a low point (view SE)
Scanlon Dugway
low point before climbing over next low saddle (view S)
Scanlon Dugway
Atop saddle (note Blue Diamond Cholla on left; view S)
Scanlon Dugway Scanlon Dugway
Scanlon Dugway Scanlon Dugway
Scanlon Dugway Scanlon Dugway
Scanlon Dugway
Few parts of the road are washed out (view S)
Scanlon Dugway
Smooth, sandy road (view S)
Scanlon Dugway Scanlon Dugway
Scanlon Dugway
Designated route sign (view S)
Scanlon Dugway
Red carsonite signs mark Lake Mead NRA boundary (view S)
Scanlon Dugway
Lake Mead NRA boundary (view S)
Scanlon Dugway
Lake Mead NRA designated road sign (view S)
Scanlon Dugway
First mining debris associated with Lakeshore Mine (view S)
Scanlon Dugway
Little used sandy road (view S)
Scanlon Dugway
Little used sandy road (except by feral burros; view S)
Scanlon Dugway
More mining debris on the roadside (view E)
Scanlon Dugway
Little used sandy road (except by feral burros; view SE)
Scanlon Dugway
Area scattered with mining debris (view NE)
Scanlon Dugway
More mining debris on the roadside (view SE)
Scanlon Dugway
Getting close to Lakeshore Mine (view S)
Scanlon Dugway
The road forks just before Lakeshore Mine (view SE)
Scanlon Dugway
Staying left on the main (mine bypass) road (view SE)
Scanlon Dugway Scanlon Dugway
Scanlon Dugway
Mine road returns to the main (mine bypass) road (view SE)
Scanlon Dugway
Scanlon Road continues towards Lake Mead (view SE)

Lakeshore Mine Road

Scanlon Dugway
Lakeshore Mine Road stays right (view S)
Scanlon Dugway
Lakeshore Mine Road (view S)
Scanlon Dugway
Approaching Lakeshore Mine (view SW)
Scanlon Dugway
Lakeshore Mine is mostly a strip mine (view SW)
Scanlon Dugway
Lakeshore Mine Road (view S)
Scanlon Dugway
Entrance to short mine adit (view E)
Scanlon Dugway
Lakeshore Mine Road departing the mine area (view E)
Scanlon Dugway
Lakeshore Mine Road rejoining the main road (view NE)

Lakeshore Mine

Scanlon Dugway
Foundation and tailings below the mine (view SW)
Scanlon Dugway
Mine entrance (adit) at Lakeshore Mine (view E)
Scanlon Dugway
Short adit (view E)
Scanlon Dugway
Short adit (view W)

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

Wpt Location Easting Northing Elevation (ft) Point-to-Point Distance (mi) Cumulative Distance (mi) Verified
01 Trailhead 751872 4005260 3968 0.00 0.00 GPS
02 Hairpin Turn 751940 4004654 3541 0.44 0.44 GPS
03 USGS Benchmark 751837 4004598 3487 0.09 0.53 GPS
04 Wide Turn 751821 4004542 3460 0.04 0.57 GPS
05 End of Steep Road 752154 4003613 2930 0.71 1.28 GPS
06 Lake Mead NRA Boundary 752248 4003334 2840 0.19 1.47 GPS
07 Lakeshore Mine 752424 4002722 2646 0.44 1.91 GPS

Happy Hiking! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 161118

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