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Uranium Ridge Route
Hiking Around Las Vegas, Gold Butte National Monument
Uranium Ridge
Uranium Ridge
Garden Spring Road at Uranium Ridge South Road (view E)

Overview (Text and most photos from my friend Chris)

Uranium Ridge is the east-most ridge in the Tramp Ridge Complex, the major limestone ridge system that runs north-south through the center of Gold Butte. Uranium Ridge was prospected for uranium in the 1970s, and as always is the case for mines in Gold Butte, the ore is good quality, but it is not present in commercial quantities. The richer ore and the mine adit are located on the west side of the ridge, a fair ways below the ridgeline, and this route does not visit the mine.

This 4-mile route uses old prospecting roads to traverse 2.8 miles of the ridgeline. The remaining section, 1.2 miles, has no road but just follows the rocky ridgeline. The hike is best done with two vehicles, but it can be done as a loop by walking an additional 3.7 miles on valley-bottom roads (7.7 miles total).

This hike provides access to an open, airy ridge with grand views out across Gold Butte and Grand Canyon-Parashant national monuments.

Link to map.

Uranium Ridge
pic2. Uranium Ridge South Road (view N from Garden Spring Road)

Watch Out

Other than the standard warnings about hiking in the desert, ... this is a fairly safe route, but there are opportunities to stumble and fall off the ridge, so always be extra careful when high enough to get hurt.

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 don't work in this area.

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.

Getting to the Trailhead

Uranium Ridge located out in Gold Butte National Monument at the northeast end of Lake Mead, about 3 hours northeast of Las Vegas in a wild, remote, and scenic area adjacent to the Arizona Border.

Uranium Ridge
pic3. Looking back down Uranium Ridge South Road (view S)

From town, drive out to Gold Butte National Monument. From Whitney Pocket, continue south on the unpaved Gold Butte Road. At about 15.4 miles out, Horse Spring Road branches to the left to head east.

For hikers staging a vehicle at the end of the hike, turn left onto Horse Spring Road, drive east 40 yards, and then turn left again to head northeast 1.4 miles to a T-intersection with Uranium Ridge North Road, which branches to the right. Leave a vehicle here, then return to Gold Butte Road.

On Gold Butte Road, continue south about 1.0 miles. The road forks; 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. In a low-clearance vehicle, continue south another 0.2 miles to the next side road on the left and park. Walk this side road about 0.1 miles until it merges with Garden Spring Road. Staying right, walk another 0.1 miles to the trailhead.

Following Garden Spring Road, drive east 0.3 miles to Uranium Ridge South Road, a rough jeep road to the left. A carsonite sign reads: "Road Ends in 0.2 miles" (pic2). Park here; this is the trailhead.

Uranium Ridge
pic4. Uranium Ridge South Road ends past the saddle (view N)

The Hike

From the trailhead (Table 1, Waypoint 01), this route runs north and up Uranium Ridge South Road. The road climbs the ridge steeply. In the advertised 0.2 miles, the road ends at a flat turnaround area on the ridgeline (pic3; Wpt 02). The old road continues to contour along the steep western slope (pic4), but is blocked off and unused. From the turnaround, the route leaves the road and runs up the ridgeline heading northeast.

The ridgeline is broad at first (pic5) but gradually narrows. It remains quite steep on the west side, but more sloped on the east side, following the tilt of the exposed slanted strata (pic6). Travel along the ridgeline (or just below it to the east) is straightforward; when the line along the top of one exposed stratum runs out, hikers can go up or down 10 feet or so to another more passable layer (pic7). Route finding is straightforward with the crest of the ridge as a guide.

Continuing along the ridge, at 0.9 miles out, the route traverses the high point (Wpt. 03) on the ridge (pic8). Although the approach looks gnarly, passage is straightforward.

Uranium Ridge
pic5. Easy hiking atop Uranium Ridge (view N)

Travel along the ridge is scenic and the views on both sides are grand. Views to the west and northwest include Tramp Ridge and the red sandstone of the Little Finland area. The Virgin Mountains lie to the north. To the east is a small corral and views off across the Grand Wash to the Grand Wash Cliffs. Views south along the route include Azure Ridge, Summit Peak, Mica Peak, and the Gold Butte Townsite area. This is the best part of the walk (pic9).

Continuing, at about 1.14 miles out, the route (Wpt. 04) passes above the main uranium mine, an adit about 10 yards long.

Hiking north, the narrow ridge suddenly widens (pic10) and an old road (Wpt. 05) is encountered. This is the end of the narrow ridgeline; from here on, the ridgeline is quite broad. Before continuing, be sure to take a short detour left to an overlook with expansive views to the west. Take one last look down the steep hillside to the west where Uranium Mine Road and the old cabin site are visible far below.

The little-used road (pic11) runs north along the east side of the ridge and is straightforward to follow, and it provides more views of the Grand Wash (pic12). Shortly, the road bends left and merges with a parallel road (Wpt. 06) on the left, Uranium Ridge North Road.

Uranium Ridge
pic6. Not so easy hiking atop Uranium Ridge (view N)

Heading north on Uranium Ridge North Road, the ridge begins to split, and as the road starts trending into a gully between the two, the views fade away. The road follows the bottom of the gully, which slowly deepens, then bends left and ascend to the western branch of the ridge. Back on the ridgeline, the road merges with another road (Wpt 07) that stays on the western ridge and ends. Once again, from up here on the ridgeline, the views are grand (pic13).

The road continues north on the top of the ridge (pic14); this is a very scenic section of the route with views to the west and north, and looking down on a large Joshua Tree forest between the ridge and the Gold Butte Road.

Once again, however, the road drifts westward and drops somewhat steeply into another deep gully between ridges (pic15) where the views again are limited. Running down the canyon, the road bends left around a sharp corner and pops through a surprising gap in the mountains -- and suddenly the northwest view is grand. 

Uranium Ridge
pic7. Looking back along the route (view S)

From the gap, the road drops steeply through two switchbacks (pic16) and runs down into Horse Valley. Out in the valley bottom, Uranium Ridge North Road ends at a T-intersection with Horse Spring Road (pic17).

With staged vehicles, the second vehicle should be here. Otherwise, the route turns left onto Horse Spring Road and heads north.

Before leaving the intersection, however, a nice side trip is to turn right and head north 0.4 miles to Horse Spring, the old Stone Corral, and the Stone Wall.

Returning towards the trailhead, the route heads north following Horse Spring Road (pic18) through the Joshua Tree forest. This is what the entire area looked like before the Tramp and Fork Fire of 2005. This road runs about 1.4 miles nearly in parallel to Gold Butte Road, and slowly approaches it until the roads merge.

From here it is about 1 mile on Gold Butte Road to the junction with Devils Cove Road on the left, whence another 1.2 miles to get back to the starting point.

Uranium Ridge
pic8. A small high point where passage is straightforward (view N)
Uranium Ridge
pic9. Crest of the ridge: the best part of the walk (view N)
Uranium Ridge
pic10. The ridge becomes wide (view N)
Uranium Ridge
pic11. Road on the east side of the ridge (view N)
Uranium Ridge
pic12. Nice views of the Grand Wash (view NE)
Uranium Ridge
pic13. More grand views (view NNW)
Uranium Ridgepic14. Road follows ridgeline, then drops off west side (view N) Uranium Ridge
pic15. Road drifts into a gully (view NW)
Uranium Ridge
Road continues down gully (view N)
Uranium Ridge
Road continues down gully (view N)
Uranium Ridge
Washed out piece of road (view N)
Uranium Ridge
pic16. Approaching upper switch back (SW)
Uranium Ridge
pic16. upper switchback (N)
Uranium Ridge
Tilted road traverses hillside (view NE)
Uranium Ridge
Approaching lower switchback (view NE)
Uranium Ridge
Descending into the valley (view W)
Uranium Ridge
pic17. Down in the valley (view W)
Uranium Ridge
Intersection with Horse Spring Road (view W)
Uranium Ridge
pic18. Company along the way (jackrabbit)
Uranium Ridge
pic19. Long walk back up Gold Butte Road (view S)

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 755703 4020727 3,757 0.00 0.00
02 End of Road 755700 4021034 3,937 0.28 0.28
03 Summit 756232 4021755 4,034 0.61 0.89
04 Above Uranium Mine 756418 4022090 4,047 0.25 1.14
05 End of Road 756552 4022554 4,056 0.36 1.50
06 Fork in the Road 756575 4022737 4,030 0.13 1.63
07 Fork in the Road 757319 4024363 3,732 1.17 2.80
08 Upper Switchback 757563 4025459 3,265 0.80 3.60
09 Road Intersection 757303 4025694 3,047 0.35 3.95
01 Trailhead 755703 4020727 3,757 3.71 7.66

Happy Hiking! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 180411

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