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Whitney Wash Route
Hiking Around Las Vegas, Gold Butte National Monument
Whitney Wash
Whitney WashTrailhead Parking (view N)

Note (Nov 2017). This canyon flash flooded during the summer, and it seems that all of the sand and gravel was washed away, leaving mostly boulders and loose rocks in the wash. The hike is now harder on the ankles and knees than it used to be.


Whitney Wash is an interesting hike into a box canyon that hides striking red sandstone cliffs overtopped by towering limestone cliffs. As described, the hike is short, only 2.6 round-trip miles to a low knob with grand views all around, but hikers are free to explore farther up the canyon and scramble on the scenic canyon walls.

There are some old prospects in the canyon, but it appears someone bulldozed a road and then stopped working. Otherwise, the area is unblemished and with relatively lush vegetation.

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.

Whitney Wash
Hiker crossing rolling terrain heading towards canyon (view N)

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.

This canyon flash flooded during the summer of 2017, and it seems that all of the sand and gravel washed away, leaving mostly large rocks boulders in the wash. The hike is now harder on the ankles and knees than it used to be.

While visiting Whitney Wash, 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.

Whitney Wash
Old trail crosses hillside (not necessarily the best route; view N)

Getting to the Trailhead

Whitney Wash is located above 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 120 yards to Arizona Road, a major road to the left. Turn left onto Arizona Road and drive east 0.4 miles to a left turn into an undeveloped camping area. Drive to the far side of the camp area. Park here; this is the trailhead.

Whitney Wash
Hikers in Whitney Wash (view N)

Whitney Wash

From the trailhead (Table 1, Wpt. 01), the route heads north across rolling terrain, dropping into washes and climbing over low ridges aiming towards the mouth of a rocky canyon that can be seen in the middle distance (about 1/4 miles out).

Walking across the rolling terrain, an old animal trail becomes visible on the right leading into the canyon. Hikers can climb high enough to use this trail, but staying low and reaching the wash near a prominent Joshua tree (Wpt. 02) a few yards downstream from the animal trail is easier.

In the wash, the route turns right and heads upstream (northeast) through a bit of narrows. On the right, a curious washout in the cliff exposes purple and green muds that perhaps are volcanic ash. A bit farther up, the east wall is a big gypsum deposit. Just as the east (right) wall begins to lay back, an old mining road cuts up the hillside (Wpt. 03). This is not a better way to go; hikers should stay in the wash bottom.

Whitney Wash
Historic cattle fencing (view NE)

Continuing upstream, the canyon opens into a broad box canyon. The canyon bottom remains fairly narrow while rocky slopes sweep high to limestone cliffs. Gray limestone gravels fill the wash and in places contrast with red sandstone and conglomerates, and more gypsum is exposed on the west (left) wall. Sponge fossils are easily seen in the limestone along the wash, and brachiopod and crinoids can be seen, but less frequently.

Vegetation in the canyon is relatively lush and diverse. On the hillsides, the vegetation is typical for this elevation: creosote bush and white bursage, sprinkled with cactus (e.g., buckhorn cholla and california barrel cactus) and Joshua trees. Along the wash, however, the vegetation is much more diverse and includes a few species usually found at higher elevations. Species typical of this elevation include desert willow, catclaw acacia, matchweed, brittlebush, turpentinebroom, and bunchgrasses, while cliffrose, skunkbush sumac and shrub live oak at usually found higher in the mountains.

Continuing up the wash, hikers can go as far as they want, but at about 1.3 miles out (Wpt. 04), there is a good place to exit the wash to the east and climb onto a low knoll (Wpt. 05) with grand views all around of the towering limestone and sandstone cliffs. When ready, follow your footprints back down the wash and across the rolling terrain to the trailhead (Wpt. 01).

Whitney Wash
Hikers mistakenly starting up the mining road (view NNE)
Whitney Wash
The canyon opens a bit (view N)
Whitney Wash
Buckhorn Cholla with Cactus Wren nest (view N)
Whitney Wash
Water pocket in the wash (view N)
Whitney Wash
The wash runs over slickrock (view N)
Whitney Wash
Rocky outcrops along the wash (view N)
Whitney Wash
Hikers getting close to exiting the wash and climbing onto knob
Whitney Wash
Low knob (view NW across Whitney Wash)
Whitney Wash
Low knob (view E)
Whitney Wash
Low knob (view W along Whitney Wash)

Returning Down Whitney Wash

Whitney Wash
Hikers crossing slickrock returning down Whitney Wash (view S)
Whitney Wash
Young Joshua tress growing along the wash (view W)

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

Wpt. Location UTM Easting UTM Northing Elevation (ft) Point-to-Point Distance (mi) Cumulative Distance (mi)
01 Trailhead Parking 756746 4045757 2,991 0.00 0.00
02 Enter Whitney Wash 756674 4046053 2,940 0.21 0.21
03 Route Stays in Wash 756841 4046220 2,981 0.21 0.42
04 Exit Wash to Knoll 756917 4047377 3,139 0.87 1.29
05 Knoll 756965 4047370 3,190 0.04 1.33
01 Trailhead Parking 756746 4045757 2,991 1.33 2.66

Happy Hiking! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 180329

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