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Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Hiking Around Las Vegas, Gold Butte National Monument
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
First Rock Campsite #1 Trailhead Parking (view SW)

Overview

The Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail starts in the First Rock Camp area and runs 3.2 miles following gravel roads across the desert and up onto a ridge with grand views. On the ridge, an old road is followed at mostly easy grades, past several nice overlooks and ends at an overlook with great views east over the Whitney Pocket area. From the overlook, the route returns over the same route with a variation that makes a partial loop and shortens the return hike.

The trail traverses Mojave Desert Scrub vegetation, passes Native American campsites and ancient rock art, and provides fairly easy access to hilltops with grand views.

Link to hiking map.

Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Trail starts on First Rock Campground Road (view SW)

Watch Out

Other than the standard warnings about hiking in the desert, ...this is a fairly safe hike in a wild and remote place. I encountered no unusual hazards, but be careful when hiking near edges where hikers could fall to their death -- and remember -- cliff edges can crumble.

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.

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.

Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Ancient kitchens along the road (view SW)

Getting to the Trailhead

The Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail is located 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. From the start of Gold Butte Road (Table 1, Site 0686), drive south 19.9 miles to First Rock Campground Road (Site 1768), which is about 1.2 miles before the pavement ends at Whitney Pocket.

Turn right onto First Rock Campground Road and drive southwest about 200 yards to the first campsite (inside the large parking corral). Park here, this is the trailhead. Try to be courteous if campers are already setup in the area.

Whitney Pocket Overlook TrailUpper campsite and kitchen area (view SW)

The Hike

From the trailhead (Table 2, Waypoint 01), the route runs southwest following First Rock Campground Road out of the parking corral. The road starts out along the base of a sandstone crag. At the base of the vertical cliffs, notice darkened earth. This is an ancient Native American kitchen (agave roasting pit), and the darkness in the soil is soot and ash from the ancient fires. Except for the limestone cobbles, this site is so degraded that it is hard to recognize, but along the left side of the road, there is a smaller, nicely preserved agave roasting pit that still shows the circular structure with a pit in the middle. Fortunately, the road grader only nicked the edge of this archaeological site.

Continuing, First Rock Campground Road forks (Wpt. 02). The campground road stays right to three more campsites, but the hike takes the left fork and starts out across the desert heading towards a sandstone crag some 0.4 air-miles south-southwest.

Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Lower campsite and kitchen area (view SW)

The span between the two crags is a broad, braided wash where rain water and snow melt from the adjacent mountains is funneled into this 0.4-mile-wide area and sometimes flash floods cross the road. As a result of relatively more moisture in the soil here, the area supports a fairly robust and diverse mix of Mojave Desert shrubs. Creosote Bush, White Bursage, and Joshua Trees are common, as are Mormon Tea (aka Nevada Jointfir), Matchweed, and Indigo Bush (Fremont's Dalea). Where the route crosses the main wash, Desert Willow, Catclaw Acacia, and Mojave Rabbitbrush are common. The broad wash also harbors a remarkable covering of biological soil crust. Keep this relatively lush and diverse vegetation in mind when hiking on the dry ridgeline ahead.

The road generally runs southwest across the broad wash, but it winds a bit back and forth, crosses the main wash, and then bends due west heading towards the red sandstone outcrop. In morning light, the east face of the outcrop is very bright. Before getting to the outcrop, an old closed road forks to the left (notice Restoration-in-Progress signs) and another road forks to the right (Wpt. 03).

Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Lower campsite and kitchen area (view E)

The route stays straight and passes the south edge of the sandstone outcrop. At the point of rock (Wpt. 04), it is disturbing to notice the years of graffiti where, since at least the 1930s, modern people have carved names and dates in the sandstone. The graffiti continues to the left (on the east-facing side) for several yards, and there are even bullet holes and shotgun-pellet holes in the rock ( I can hear them saying: yep, aren't I special, I can shoot the rock wall with a shotgun!). Eventually, the graffiti runs out, and towards the center and south side of the wall, there are some much nicer carvings on the rock.

During spring, the bird nesting season, keep an eye out for young in the Common Raven nest atop the wall. If nestlings are present, don't stay too long because the parents won't come feed their kids if humans are nearby. There is also a Mexican Free-tailed Bat colony in one of the deep cracks in the rock face. Watch (or smell) for their droppings at the base of wall.

Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
The campground road continues along the crag (view SW)

At the toe of the crag (Wpt. 04), the route wraps around the corner to head southwest. Staying along the rock wall, notice the nice examples of cross-bedding in the sandstone. Here, you can see evidence of the original sand dunes that eventually solidified to form the sandstone.

Only a few yards past the toe of the crag, it becomes apparent that the route continues on an old, closed road. The old road angles away from the sandstone crag, then joins another old road (an old triangle intersection) and heads southeast. Notice on the left that there is a shallow cave at the base of the rock wall: this is another ancient campsite.

The old road continues, now climbing gently, and passes the edge of more sandstone crags. At the far edge of this wall, the old road forks (Wpt. 05). Here, the route forks. Staying right, the route will eventually return on the left fork.

Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
The route departs the campground road (view SW)

Staying right at the fork (Wpt. 05), the route follows the old road as it becomes steep and heads for a gap in the sandstone crags ahead. Shortly, the old road ends and the route follows the gully upward through the sandstone. Climbing above the red sandstone, the route reaches a low saddle (Wpt. 06).

The route continues left, but it adds another scenic overlook to turn right and climb the ridgeline 100 yards northwest to the nearby unnamed peaklet (Wpt. 06a).

Atop the peaklet (Wpt. 06a), grand views spread out below in all directions north (from west to east). The trailhead and the route to this point are clearly visible, as is the nearby Virgin Peak and the far off Mormon and Muddy mountains.

Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Crossing broad wash heading towards sandstone crags (view SW)

From the unnamed peaklet (Wpt. 06a), the route returns to the low saddle (Wpt. 06) and continues southeast climbing onto the ridgeline to the south. The route joins a faint old road atop the ridge (Wpt. 07) and turns left to head east. However, from this point, it is worth walking a few yards farther south to an overlook at the edge of a deep canyon with grand views south into the eroded sandstone Doodlebug Canyon and points beyond.

After partaking of the view, the route continues northeast more-or-less following the ridgeline on the faint old road. There are more great views along this faint road, but eventually the faint road bends off the ridgeline to the left and angles towards a slightly higher ridgeline (Wpt. 08). Here, the faint old road joins a much more obvious old road.

This ridge is much more broad, and although there are occasional views into the sandstone canyon, the feeling here is not on-the-edge. There is a layer of eroded caliche along the top of the ridge, and in a few places, it forms small caves that are always worth examining for creatures seeking relief from hot summer sunshine.

Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Winding across the broad wash (view W)

The broad ridge is followed east-northeast on a gentle incline to near the highpoint on this ridge. At that point, the old road turns abruptly right to head down into a saddle. Before descending, however, there is another nice overlook a couple of yards left of the bend. This overlook provides nice views north, including back to the trailhead.

Continuing, the old road drops rather steeply into a saddle (Wpt. 09). Here, this route crosses the Doodlebug Canyon Route, and a faint use-trail leading left and right down off the saddle can be seen.

From the saddle (Wpt. 09), this route follows the old road as it climbs rather steeply onto the next ridge to the southeast. Atop this next ridge, the old road bends left to follow the crest of the ridge. Along this section, the ridgeline provides nice views, right into Amber Cat Canyon and left to the north and the trailhead.

Continuing along the ridgeline, the old road eventually runs out to the end of the ridge and ends with cliffs on all sides (Wpt. 10).

Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Remarkable covering of biological soil crust in the broad wash

Here, the Whitney Pocket Overlook provides grand views east over the red and white sandstone cliffs of Whitney Pocket backed by gray limestone mountains that tower above.

To the south, Amber Cat canyon opens below with striking and colorful sandstone set off by gray alluvial materials. Farther out, hikers can see the Tramp and Lime ridge complex, as well as the high peaks just south of Gold Butte Townsite.

To the north, views stretch across the vast Fisherman's Cove Bajada bordered by the Virgin Ridge complex on the right and bounded by Black Ridge in the distance. In the far distance, hikers can see the Mormon Mountains, which are far to the north of Interstate 15.

To the west, the near ground is the ridge system followed during the hike, but in the farther distance, hikers can look across the Virgin River to the Muddy Mountains and even the Sheep Range and Spring Mountains (Mt. Charleston) west of the Las Vegas Valley. Fortunately, none of the Las Vegas buildings are tall enough to be see from this point.

Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Crossing the main wash heading towards sandstone crags (view S)

Upon departing Whitney Pocket Overlook, the route follows the old road back down the ridge. The route drops into the saddle and climbs back up the other side, then continues west-southwest, eventually passing the faint road (Wpt. 08) while remaining on the main old road.

In this area, notice that the vegetation is sparse and composed mostly of only a few species. The land here only gets water from direct precipitation, and the moisture that falls quickly flows off the ridge. Compared to the broad wash below, this is very dry country. Few species can tolerate such condition, and only a few individuals of each species can survive. Look for stunted Joshua Trees, Creosote Bush, and White Bursage, some Matchweed, and even a few Whitestem Paperflower and one beautiful Cottontop Cactus.

The old road eventually arrives at the top of a steep descent that bends a bit right and leads down towards the top of the red sandstone crags seen earlier from below (the crags marked with art and graffiti).

Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Crossing broad wash heading towards sandstone crags (view S)

Descending the steep old road, the route passes a closed side road to the right. For hikers, this would make a shortcut to the base of the sandstone cliffs, but people are working to erase this old road, so it is better if we don't open a new use-trail down that side. Rather, the main old road continues a few yards farther northwest, then bends sharply left and drops off the side of the ridge.

Before following the old road down, it is fun to continue northwest and climb out onto the sandstone crags. There are several ways to go, but the easiest way to get to the far highpoint is to stay on the gray limestone gravel as far northwest as possible. At that point, a cleft in the crag leads northeast into a narrow gorge. Climbing a ramp on the left side, hikers can get onto the top of the crags again, and then the route to the far highpoints is clear; minor 3rd-class scrambling.

When ready, perhaps after lunch, hikers can return to the old road and continue the descent. Near the bottom of the hill, the road reaches a fork (Wpt. 05) where this road merges with a road on the left -- the fork to the left was the route followed while hiking outbound.

Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Approaching the sandstone crags (view W)

Staying right, the old road follows along the base of the sandstone crags, passing the ancient campsite in the shallow cave at the base of the rock wall, and eventually returning to the open road at the toe of the sandstone crag (Wpt. 04).

From here, the route follows the roads used while hiking outbound. The route stays straight at a side road left (Wpt. 03), bends left to start out across the broad wash, and heads towards the sandstone crags in the distance to the north-northeast. The road winds left and right, but generally continues towards the crags. This road eventually merges with First Rock Campground Road (Wpt. 02) and continues northeast the short distance to the trailhead (Wpt. 01).

Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Approaching forks in the road (view W)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Closed side road with restoration signs (view SE)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Side road right. The route stays left (view W)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
The toe of the crag is marked with graffiti (view W)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
The route leaves the road (view SW)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
The old road soon becomes apparent (view SW)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
The old road bends left (view SW)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
The old road follows along the base of the crags (view SW)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Ancient campsite in a shallow cave (view E)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
The old road follows along the base of the crags (view SE)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
The old road forks past the crags (view SE)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
The left fork: the route will return this way (view E)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
The right fork: the route continues this way (view E)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
The old road ends and the route continues up the gully (view S)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Approaching the saddle at the top of the gully (view SW)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Arriving at the saddle atop the gully (view W)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Looking back down the route (view NNE)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Detour to unnamed peaklet (view NW)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Approaching unnamed peaklet (view NW)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Unnamed peaklet (view NW)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Unnamed peaklet (view N towards Mormon Mountains)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Unnamed peaklet (view E towards Virgin Ridge)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Unnamed peaklet (view S towards Gold Butte Townsite)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Unnamed peaklet (view W towards Las Vegas)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Unnamed peaklet (view NE towards trailhead and route)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Departing the unnamed peaklet (view SE)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Descending from unnamed peaklet towards saddle (view SE)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Back at the saddle, route climbs side of ridge (view SE)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Approaching top of the next ridge with faint old road (view E)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Edge of the cliff on other side of the ridge (view SE)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Doodlebug Canyon (view E)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Doodlebug Canyon (view SE)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Doodlebug Canyon (view S)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Faint road atop the ridgeline (view NE)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Faint road atop the ridgeline (view NE and to both sides)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Doodlebug Canyon (view S)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Faint road atop the ridgeline (view NE)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Faint road merges with main old road (view NE)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Main old road runs out on broad ridgeline (view ENE)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Main old road approaching dip into saddle (view ENE)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Lots of caliche atop the ridge (view down)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Details of inclusions in caliche atop the ridge (view down)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Main old road approaching overlook (view ENE)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Arriving at overlook (view N towards trailhead)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Overlook (view N towards trailhead and Mormon Mountains)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Overlook (view NE towards Virgin Mountains and Whitney Pocket)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Main old road drops steeply into saddle (view SE)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Main old road approaching the saddle (view SE)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Saddle (view NE towards Virgin Mountains)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Saddle (view SW into Doodlebug Canyon)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Main old road climbs steeply past the saddle (view SE)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Arriving atop the next ridge (view E)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Main old road runs out along broad ridgeline (view ENE)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Main old road runs along broad ridgeline (view E)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Main old road runs along broad ridgeline (view E)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Main old road bends right towards higher ridgeline (view SE)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Amber Cat Canyon (view S from main old road)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Amber Cat Canyon; detail of interesting detached mesa (view S)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Climbing towards the higher ridgeline (view SE)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Approaching highpoint: Whitney Pocket Overlook (view S)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Arriving at Whitney Pocket Overlook (view E)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Whitney Pocket Overlook (view E into Whitney Pocket area)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Overlook (view E into Whitney Pocket area)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Overlook (view N towards Virgin Mountains)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Overlook (view SE into Amber Cat Canyon)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Overlook (view S into Amber Cat Canyon)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Departing Whitney Pocket Overlook (view N towards trailhead)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Main old road runs down ridgeline with big views (view W)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Main old road runs down ridgeline with big views (view W)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Main old road approaching dip into saddle (view WNW)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Main old road approaching dip into saddle (view NW)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Main old road at the saddle (view NW)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Main old road atop the next ridgeline (view SW)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Main old road approaching intersection with faint old road (view SW)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Grand view from ridgeline (view WSW)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Grand view from ridgeline (view WNW)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Main old road approaching end of the ridge (view W)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Main old road at the end of the flat ridge (view SW)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Main old road dropping steeply along ridgeline (view NW)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Descending not-so-steeply towards sandstone crag
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Rehabilitated old road (don't use as shortcut; view N)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Main old road drops steeply off ridgeline (view NW towards crags)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Detour to top of sandstone crags (view NW)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Detour to top of sandstone crags (view NW)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Notice fossils in the limestone boulders (view down)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Detour to top of sandstone crags drops into cleft (view NW)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Route exits narrow gorge to the left (view N)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Approaching northern highpoint atop the sandstone crags (view N)
Whitney Pocket Overlook TrailAtop the sandstone crags (view NE towards trailhead) Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Atop the sandstone crags (view SE towards main old road)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Exiting the sandstone crags (view SE)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Route exits back up narrow gorge (view S)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Beyond the cleft, the route returns to the main old road (view SE)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Route rejoins old main road (view SW)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Old main road approaching Y-intersection (view NW)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Old main road at Y-intersection (view NW)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Old main road continues downhill (view NW)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Passing the ancient campsite (view NE)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Main old road stays right at faint fork in the road (view NE)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Approaching the toe of the crag (view NE)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Old main road returning to open road at toe of the crag (view NE)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Open road at toe of the crag (view NE)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Road continues straight past side road (view E)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Bottom of the shortcut (don't use this rehabilitated old road)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Road bends left and drop towards broad wash (view NE)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Road approaching main wash (view N)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Road winds across broad wash (view N)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Road winds across broad wash (view NE)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Road approaching First Rock Campground area (view NE)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Returning to First Rock Campground Road (view NE)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Passing agave roasting pit on the right (view NE)
Whitney Pocket Overlook Trail
Returning to the trailhead (view NE)

Table 1. Highway Coordinates and Distances based on GPS Data (NAD27). Download Highway GPS Waypoints (gpx) file.

Site Location UTM Easting UTM Northing Latitude (N) Longitude (W) Elevation (ft)
1768 Gold Butte Rd at First Rock Camp Rd 754457 4046190 36.52908 114.15800 2,782

Table 2. 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 754397 4046065 2,769 0.00 0.00
02 Fork in the Road 754309 4045964 2,749 0.09 0.09
03 Roads Intersect 754064 4045411 2,739 0.47 0.56
04 Road Forks Past Crag 754006 4045408 2,740 0.03 0.59
05 Road Forks 753976 4045256 2,723 0.12 0.71
06 Lower Ridgeline 753964 4045117 2,779 0.10 0.81
06a West Highpoint 753887 4045161 2,795 0.06 0.87
06 Lower Ridgeline 753964 4045117 2,779 0.06 0.93
07 Upper Ridgeline 754050 4045075 2,838 0.08 1.01
08 Old Road 754296 4045247 2,894 0.19 1.20
09 Low Saddle 754502 4045234 2,858 0.14 1.34
10 Whitney Pocket Overlook 754983 4045244 2,998 0.32 1.66
09 Low Saddle 754502 4045234 2,858 0.31 1.97
08 Old Road 754296 4045247 2,894 0.15 2.12
11 Crest of Ridge 754077 4045294 2,789 0.15 2.27
11a Crag Summit 754036 4045372 2,805 0.06 2.33
11 Crest of Ridge 754077 4045294 2,789 0.06 2.39
05 Road Forks 753976 4045256 2,723 0.08 2.47
04 Road Forks Past Crag 754006 4045408 2,740 0.12 2.59
03 Roads Intersect 754064 4045411 2,739 0.04 2.63
02 Fork in the Road 754309 4045964 2,749 0.47 3.10
01 Trailhead 754397 4046065 2,769 0.08 3.18

Happy Hiking! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 161031

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