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Arizona Hot Spring -- White Rock Canyon Route
Hiking Around Las Vegas, Lake Mead National Recreation Area
Arizona Hot Springs
Arizona Hot Springs
Hikers departing the trailhead (view SW)

Due to extreme temperatures, this area is closed during summer. Link to details (PDF).

Overview

This is a great, 3.25-mile (one-way) hike to hot springs near the Colorado River. The route runs 2.75 miles down a deep, narrow, geologically interesting canyon to the Colorado River, turns to run downstream for 0.5 miles to Hot Spring Canyon, which is the next major canyon, and ascends that canyon for about 5 minutes to a 20-ft waterfall and a ladder. Climbing the ladder brings hikers to the hot springs. Visitors use sandbags to dam the stream, creating hot-pools in the deep, narrow canyon. This is a place to sit, relax, and meet interesting people. This hot spring sometimes is called Ringbolt Hot Springs, a reference to Ringbolt Rapids that lie just upstream from Hot Spring Canyon. This hike makes for a nice overnight outing, as there are nice places to camp at the river and in the canyon just above the hot springs.

Link to map or elevation profile.

Arizona Hot Spring Route
Departing the trailhead (view SW)

Return to the trailhead by retracing your footprints in the dust or by continuing up Hot Spring Canyon on a mostly easy route with three scramble-ups, one of which requires 40 feet of 4th-class climbing to bypass a pour-over. The pour-overs can by entirely bypassed on the steeper Mountains Route, which branches out of Hot Spring Canyon before the pour-overs.

Watch Out

Because of extreme summer temperatures, many hikers have required rescue here in recent years. The extreme temperatures put the lives of rescue personnel at risk. Therefore, the National Park Service closes this area during about June through September. Link to details (PDF).

Arizona Hot Springs

Otherwise, other than the standard warnings about hiking in the desert, ...this is a fairly safe hike. There are places to trip and hurt yourself in White Rock Canyon, and the trail and scrambles along the river are sometimes narrow, but there is nothing out of the ordinary. Be extra careful on the metal ladder, and be careful walking on slick rocks after you've picked up wet sand on the bottom of your shoes. Be sure to keep your nose dry in the hot pools.

Air temperatures can be high at these low elevations, so carry enough water to make it back to the trailhead.

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, rescues from narrow canyons can be difficult, so be sure to just bring what you need of the 10 Essentials.

Arizona Hot Springs
Passing under Highway 93 (view SE)

Getting to the Trailhead

This hike is located along Highway 93 in Arizona, south of the Hoover Dam in Lake Mead National Recreation Area, about 45 minutes southeast of Las Vegas.

From town, drive out to Lake Mead NRA, then over the bridge on Highway 93 into Arizona and down to the White Rock Canyon Trailhead. Park here; this is the trailhead.

Arizona Hot Springs
Approaching trail signs (view SW)

The Hike

From the trailhead at the far end of the parking area by the information kiosk (Table 1, Wpt. 01), a trail runs down the hillside into White Rock Wash and down under the twin Highway 93 bridges. Just past the southbound bridge, trailhead signs (Wpt. 02) introduce the route.

The route then follows the wash all the way down to the Colorado River. In this area, the sparsely vegetated country provides grand views down White Rock Wash towards the start of the narrows and out over the mountains into Nevada and the Black Canyon Wilderness Area.

Coming out, this area is steep than it looks and can be quite hot under the afternoon sun, so carry plenty of water for the return tip.

Arizona Hot Springs
While true, Naegleria fowleri is an extremely low risk issue

The dominant vegetation in the wash is catclaw acacia, brittlebush, Mormon tea, and cheesebush. The dry hillsides are sparsely vegetated with creosote bush, white bursage, a few beavertail pricklypear cactus, and little else. The ecological differences between the relatively well-watered wash and the dry ridges are clear. Following the main wash for about 0.51 miles (Wpt. 03), an alternate, more direct route to the hot springs cuts south to an old trail.

Continuing down the main wash, the route runs through a shallow, but straight and narrow canyon for some 150 yards. When the canyon opens, the trail to Liberty Bell Arch leaves the main wash and turns north (watch for a sign on the right bank above the wash. The White Rock Canyon route continues downhill into deep narrows.

Continuing down the main wash, the wash cuts into pyroclastic flow materials (volcanic rock) where many rocks and boulders were caught up in a matrix of reddish brown rock (Wpt. 05). About 10 minutes into this layer, the route passes an enormous boulder (Wpt. 06) that fell from high on the cliffs above; it’s enough to make you stop and think for a minute.

Arizona Hot Spring

Through this part of the deep, reddish-brown canyon, the name "White Rock Canyon" becomes apparent. The mountains above the canyon (the high peaks, Wilson Ridge, east of Highway 93) are granitic, and over the eons, granite boulders washed down the canyon and became lodged in the narrows. The granite boulders aren't exactly white, but the contrast between the dark canyon walls and the light-colored boulders makes them look white.

After winding through narrows for about 45 minutes, the canyon opens up into a broad wash (Wpt. 07) that gives a nice change from the claustrophobic narrows, but it only last for about 10 minutes.

The wash starts into another section of narrows and passes some nice, large specimens of catclaw acacia, and also a few desert fir and rock nettle, two species not common before here. After about 10 minutes in these narrows, the canyon opens up (Wpt. 08) onto the Colorado River. Out on the White Rock Canyon alluvial fan, the first of several signs (marked with #7) points the way south towards Arizona Hot Springs.

Arizona Hot Spring

After taking a detour out to rest on the banks of the mighty Colorado River, the route continues off the south end of the beach, but back against the cliffs. Trail Sign #8 marks entry into ledges that lead downstream above the river.

The route along the river is somewhat confusing because people have walked everywhere possible, obscuring the correct trail with myriad other trails to nowhere. However, after passing cliffs above the river, the trail leads onto a rocky promontory from which cliff-jumpers ply their trade when water levels are high and the weather is warm.

From the rocky promontory, the trail winds around the back of a deep cove packed full of saltcedar trees. From under the trees at the back of the cove (Wpt. 09), the route cuts due south (rather than winding out the south side of cove) to the base of a cliff, then turns left and climbs eastward a few yards to Trail Sign #9.

Arizona Hot Spring

At Trail Sign #9, the route turns right and climbs a steep ramp over the rocky ridge to the south and arrives at yet another rocky promontory overlooking the river. Continuing south a few yards, the route turns left at Trail Sign #10 to run straight up the rocky hillside.

About 20 yards up, Trail Sign #11 seems to be missing, but a fairly obvious use-trail cuts across the dirt slope to the base of an imposing rocky chute, which is not as difficult as it looks. After climbing the chute, a dirt trail again becomes more visible as it continues south and runs up to a saddle (Wpt. 10) on a dirt ridgeline.

For hikers who miss the turn out of the deep cove and stay on the fairly obvious trail along the river, the use-trail eventually runs up to a cliff, turns left, and climbs a steep, rocky gully. Atop the gully, this alternate use-trail crests out on a ridge (Wpt. 10) and joins the main trail.

Arizona Hot Spring

From the saddle atop the dirt ridgeline (Wpt. 10), the trail descends steeply into Hot Spring Canyon, dropping into the canyon by two large desert willow trees (Wpt. 11). At least in wet years, the creek flows to about here. Hot Spring Beach and toilets lie downstream to the right, while the hot spring is to the left. For boaters arriving over the water, the hot springs are in the left-most canyon, as seen from the river.

The route runs up the deep, narrow canyon for a couple of minutes to a 20-ft waterfall that can be climbed using a metal ladder. The ladder is secure, but wet and high, so climb carefully.

From atop the ladder, the route runs around a few corners and arrives at the hot springs (Wpt. 12), which are pools of hot water in the bottom of a water-polished, 8-ft-wide canyon. The pools have natural sills, but they are reinforced with sandbags that add several inches to the depth. The bottom is sandy, so water shoes are not absolutely required. The canyon is deep and narrow, so it can be chilly with no direct sunlight.

Arizona Hot Spring

Relax in the hot water, then either return to the trailhead by retracing your route back through White Rock Canyon, or consider making a loop by hiking up Hot Spring Canyon to the trailhead. There are two options for hiking up Hot Spring Canyon. The easier route follows the wash but has several pour-overs to climb (one of which requires about 30 vertical feet of 4th-class scrambling), and the other follows a steep trail that avoids the pour-overs.

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Arizona Hot Spring Arizona Hot Spring
Arizona Hot Spring
Hiker in the canyon (view SW)
Arizona Hot Spring
Approaching trail junction (view SW)
Arizona Hot Spring
Trail junction to Arizona Hot Spring and Liberty Bell Arch (view W)
Arizona Hot Spring
Trail sign (view NW)
Arizona Hot Spring
Hikers starting into the narrow canyon (view NW)
Arizona Hot Spring
Starting into the narrow canyon (view NW)
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Arizona Hot Spring
Hiker in narrow canyon (view SW)
Arizona Hot Spring
Hikers at the enormous boulder (view SW)
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Arizona Hot Spring Arizona Hot Spring
Arizona Hot Spring
The white rocks in White Rock Canyon (view SW)
Arizona Hot Springs
The white rocks in White Rock Canyon (view W)
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Arizona Hot Spring
Chuckwalla Delight
Arizona Hot Spring
Don't forget to stop and smell the flowers
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bobcat track in mud
Bobcat tracks in fresh mud
Arizona Hot Spring
Narrow canyon (view SW)
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Arizona Hot Spring Arizona Hot Spring
Arizona Hot Spring Arizona Hot Spring
Arizona Hot Spring Arizona Hot Spring
Arizona Hot Spring
Narrow canyon (view SW)
Arizona Hot Spring
Small spring emerging from rock wall (view NW)
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Arizona Hot Spring
Hikers approaching at the Colorado River (view W)
Arizona Hot Springs
Hikers arriving at the Colorado River (view W)
Arizona Hot SpringWhite Rock Canyon beach (view W) Arizona Hot Spring
White Rock Canyon beach (view NW)
Arizona Hot Springs
Hiker detouring to the edge of the Colorado River (view S)
Arizona Hot Springs
Trail Sign #7 points towards passage along the cliffs (view SW)
Arizona Hot Springs
Trail Sign #7 points towards Arizona Hot Springs (view W)
Arizona Hot Spring
Hikers continuing down the trail (view SW)
Arizona Hot Springs
Hikers starting into passage along the cliffs; Trail Sign #8 (view S)
Arizona Hot Springs
Hiker on passage along cliffs heading to rocky promontory (view S)
Arizona Hot Springs
Hiker on rocky promontory (view SW)
Arizona Hot Springs
Hiker on rocky promontory (view SW)
Arizona Hot Springs
Trail beyond promontory winds into back of cove (view SE)
Arizona Hot Springs
Hiker exiting the back of the cove (view S)
Arizona Hot Springs
Note trail sign up in the rocks (view E)
Arizona Hot Springs
Hikers passing Trail Sign #9 and climbing to notch (view S)
Arizona Hot Springs
Hikers at next rocky promontory; note sign beyond hiker (view S)
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Beyond hiker, route climbs to a chute (view S)
Arizona Hot Springs
Route climbs chute over rocky ridge (view SE from promontory)
Arizona Hot Springs
Hikers passing Trail Sign #10 just past promontory (view E)
Arizona Hot Springs
Hikers climbing chute; Trail Sign #11 is missing (view SE)
Arizona Hot Springs
Hikers atop chute; it is easier than it looks (view SE)
Arizona Hot Springs
Beyond chute, use-trail runs towards final ridgeline (view SE)
Arizona Hot Springs
Trail Sign #12 and hiker passing over saddle on ridgeline (view SE)
Arizona Hot Springs
Use-trail drops towards Hot Spring Canyon (view S)
Arizona Hot Springs
Use-trail drops towards Hot Spring Canyon (view S)
Arizona Hot Springs
Use-trail approaching bottom of Hot Spring Canyon (view S)
Arizona Hot Springs
Use-trail at bottom of Hot Spring Canyon (view S)
Arizona Hot Springs
Hot Spring Creek; left to hot spring, right to beach (view SE)
Arizona Hot Springs
Hiker starting up Hot Spring Canyon (view N)
Arizona Hot Spring
Trail sign in the canyon (view NE)
Arizona Hot Spring
Hiker in Hot Spring Canyon (view E)
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Arizona Hot Spring
Hiker in Hot Spring Canyon (view E)
Arizona Hot Spring
Notice warning sign in Hot Spring Canyon (view E)
Arizona Hot Spring
Warning sign on rock wall (view S)
Arizona Hot Spring
Hikers climbing waterfalls (view E)
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Arizona Hot Spring
Hikers arriving at the ladder (view E)
Arizona Hot Spring
Hikers climbing the ladder (view E)
Arizona Hot Spring
Bird-and-Hike guy at the ladder (view E)
Arizona Hot Spring
Bird-and-Hike guy atop the ladder (view E)
Arizona Hot Spring
Hikers in the canyon (view E)
Arizona Hot Spring
Hiker entering a lower pool (view E)
Arizona Hot Springs
Hiker approaching the middle pool (view E)
Arizona Hot Springs
Stepping into the middle hot pool (view NE)
Arizona Hot Springs
Hiker in the upper hot pool
Arizona Hot Springs
Friends of Nevada Wilderness in the upper hot pool
Arizona Hot Springs
Hiker at upper hot pool
Arizona Hot Springs
Upper hot pool (view E)
Arizona Hot Spring
Sometimes the hot pools are full of storm debris
Arizona Hot Spring
View up from upper pool
Arizona Hot Springs
White Rock Canyon Beach (view E from canoe)
Arizona Hot Springs
White Rock Canyon Beach (view E from canoe)
Arizona Hot Springs
Toilets on rocks just downstream from the beach
Arizona Hot Springs
Pair of outhouses

Table 1. Hiking Coordinates and Distances based on GPS Data (NAD27; UTM Zone 11S). Download Hiking GPS Waypoints (gpx) file.

Wpt Location Easting Northing Elevation (ft) Point-to-Point Distance Cumulative Distance
01 Trailhead 707677 3983997 1,536 0.00 0.00
02 Old Trailhead Signs 707597 3983597 1,492 . .
03 Alternate Route 707139 3983515 1,393 0.51 0.51
04 Enter Narrows 706559 3983340 1,290 0.39 0.90
05 Getting into volcanics 706459 3983352 1,272 0.09 0.99
06 Enormous boulder 706150 3983220 1,171 0.26 1.25
07 Below narrows 705572 3982929 956 0.63 1.88
08 Mouth of the canyon 704865 3982063 661 0.81 2.69
09 Turn Away from River 704925 3981848 697 0.20 2.89
10 Crossing ridge 705009 3981817 768 0.12 3.01
11 Hot Spring Canyon 705061 3981744 653 0.08 3.09
12 Hot Springs 705156 3981760 757 0.15 3.24

Happy Hiking! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 170809

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