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Boy Scout Canyon
Hiking Around Las Vegas, Lake Mead National Recreation Area,
Black Canyon Wilderness Area

Boy Scout Canyon
Boy Scout Canyon
Access Road (view east from the "main" dirt road)


Boy Scout Canyon makes for a nice, close-to-town, 4-mile hike down a sandy wash in a beautiful desert canyon until passage is blocked by a 330-foot-high pour-over. The first 2.2 miles of the sandy wash can be driven in a 4WD vehicle, but the remaining 1.8 miles is hike in the Black Canyon Wilderness Area. The canyon is fairly open with little shade, although there are some narrower parts and pour-overs to pass. At the end of the route, the wash enters a deep, narrow gorge that cuts through a ridge with wild pyroclastic and ash-fall rocks. The route ends atop a 20-foot pour-over that overlooks a 330-foot pour-over with a great view down the canyon. An alternate ending is to climb over the ridge that the wash cuts through and hike out to an overlook with great views of the wilderness area, the Colorado River, and water and green vegetation in the bottom of Boy Scout Canyon far below.

Boy Scout Canyon
End of the 4WD road (view N; notice soft sand)

Boy Scout Hot Spring is in the bottom of Boy Scout Canyon, but there is no easy hiking route to the hot spring. From the overlook at the alternate ending, a route to the hot springs heads over the cliffs and drops back into the canyon. The route is not for the faint of heart: it starts over the edge of the cliff with an airy bit of 4th-class climbing and about 500 feet of exposure, and it never really eases up. If you want a nice hike to a hot spring, go to Goldstrike (great spring pools) or Arizona Hot Springs (great hike).

Link to access road map, hiking route map, or route profile.

Boy Scout Canyon
End of the road (view east); now enforced with a cable fence.

Watch Out

Other than the standard warnings about hiking in the desert, ...this is a safe hike down a sandy wash, but sandy washes are harder to walk in than they look. The first 2.2 miles follows a jeep trail, so watch for vehicles. Tires loosen and stir up the sand, so look for better footing along the sides of the canyon. There is one, 3rd-class pour-over to climb along the hiking route, but it is easy and fairly safe.

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 are difficult, so be sure to bring what you need of the 10 Essentials. This hike goes into the Black Canyon Wilderness Area, so pay particular attention to respecting the land.

Boy Scout Canyon
Open wash (view SE)

Getting to the Trailhead

This hike is located in Lake Mead National Recreation Area, just southeast of Boulder City.

From downtown Boulder City, drive southeast on Utah Street out past the cemetery and the edge of town. Utah Street ends at a garbage transfer station. Just before the transfer station (Table 1, Site 1214), turn right onto a paved road and drive south. Watch for and follow signs towards the Boulder Rifle & Pistol Club.

Link to access road map.

Boy Scout Canyon
Sculpted rocks along the wash (view E).

On the paved road, drive southeast for about 0.85 miles to an intersection of dirt roads where the paved road turns hard to the left and runs down a hillside (Site 1215). At the curve, continues straight on a dirt road. Continue east for another 0.45 miles (along a ridgetop overlooking the gun range) until the dirt road curves hard to the right (Site 1216). Continue straight, now heading down a steep road through a gap in the ridge to the valley below.

The road follows the gun club fence for 0.7 miles to the Lake Mead boundary (Site 1217), which is marked with large signs and fencing on both sides of the road to discourage off-road driving.

The boundary is out in the middle of a broad valley, and this is the official trailhead for the Boy Scout Canyon hike. However, in a 2WD vehicle, drivers can safely proceed another 0.3 miles down the road; however, I would not take a 2WD vehicle much beyond the gate (where the fence ends) at a narrow spot in the canyon. With a 4WD vehicle, drive another 2.2 miles down the sandy wash to the end of the road (Site 1218), but that might defeat the idea of taking a nice hike in the desert. In 2012, the road was good, and I drove my jeep in 2WD all the way down and back.

Boy Scout Canyon
Below the first pour-over (view W)

The Hike

From the Lake Mead boundary (Site 1217), the route follows the wash down the canyon, generally trending to the north. Parts of the canyon are narrower and more cliffy than others, but the hills above are fairly low and set back away from the wash, so the feeling generally is fairly open. The hills on both sides of the canyon are in the Black Canyon Wilderness Area, and the road runs down a narrow corridor of non-wilderness. The road ends 2.2 miles down the canyon (Site 1218) where the canyon curves 90-degrees to the east and another canyon comes in from the west. The end of the road is marked with signs and a cable fence.

From the end of the road (Table 2, Waypoint 01), the route follows the wash downhill to the east and enters the wilderness area. The route down the wash starts by passing through a narrow gap between low the cliffs.

Boy Scout Canyon
Lower Wash (view SE)

The gravel wash runs east down an open canyon. The surrounding mountains are formed of reddish brown and black volcanic rocks that are polished to a gray-green color along the edge of the wash. The sparse vegetation is dominated by creosote bush on the hillsides and catclaw acacia along the edges of the wash. There are many other species scattered about, including desert fir, chuckwalla delight, brittlebush, and Mormon tea, plus wildflowers in the springtime.

About 0.34 miles past the end of the road (Wpt. 02), the wash jogs north at a narrow rocky spot.

After another 0.44 miles, the route arrives at a 15-ft pour-over (Wpt. 03) that is easily passed by an easy 3rd-class scramble.

Boy Scout Canyon
Top of the narrows (view NE). Use-trail to Overlook goes over ridge at right.

The route continues down the wash for another 0.71 miles to a place where the wide canyon abruptly turns north and runs over flat, water-polished rocks (Wpt. 04). This wide spot in the canyon is where the route down the narrows to the pour-over and the route to the Colorado River overlook diverge.

Just below the water-polished rocks (Wpt 04), the wash curves to the north and goes into the narrows, a deep narrow canyon that is 20-25 ft wide at the bottom and 200-300 ft deep. The rock in the canyon is a wild mix of pyroclastic conglomerate rock and ash fall volcanic rock.

The canyon route ends another 0.31 miles down at the top of a 20-ft pour-over (Wpt. 05) with a view down Boy Scout Canyon towards the Colorado River. Just below the 20-ft pour-over, there is a sandy platform, then a 330-ft pour-over that drops off into the bottom of Boy Scout Canyon.

Boy Scout Canyon
Entering narrows (view N)

The 20-ft pour-over can be passed with a bit of dicey 4th-class climbing on slick, water-polished rock with few good handholds, but the view from the absolute edge is little better than the view from atop the 20-ft pour-over. The top of the 20-ft pour-over is a great place to sit in the shade, gaze out through the slot, and contemplate the mysteries of life, geology, and erosion.

On the way out, take the short side-trip over to a grand view of the Colorado River. Just above the narrow canyon (Wpt. 04), cut out of the wash to the east to pick up a use-trail (Wpt. 06) that leads out to an overlook atop a 500-ft cliff (Wpt. 07) with a view of the Colorado River and out into mountains in Arizona.

This overlook (Wpt. 07) is the end of the official trail. To get to the hot springs, the route goes over the edge and winds down among the cliffs. If you can get over the edge, you can find your way to the bottom of the canyon, but be very careful (especially on the first step off the edge).

Boy Scout Canyon
Narrows with different kinds of rock (view north)
Boy Scout Canyon
End of the route (view E into Lower Boy Scout Canyon)
Boy Scout Canyon
Colorado River and Lower Boy Scout Canyon (view NE from overlook)
Boy Scout Canyon
Route to the spring starts by down-climbing this cliff (view NW)

Table 2. Highway Coordinates based on GPS data (NAD27; UTM Zone 11S). Download Highway GPS Waypoints (*.gpx) file.

Site # Location UTM Easting UTM Northing Latitude (N) Longitude (W) Elevation (ft) Verified
1214 Utah Street at dirt 697391 3982008 35.96434 114.81108 2,371 GPS
1215 Boy Scout Rd @ Last Powerlines 697890 3980735 35.95277 114.80586 2,304 GPS
1216 Turn down through gap 698434 3980455 35.95014 114.79991 2,262 GPS
1217 Lake Mead Boundary 699621 3980492 35.95023 114.78674 2,092 GPS
1218 Boy Scout Road End 701197 3983039 35.97285 114.76864 1,705 GPS

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) Verified
01 Boy Scout Canyon Trailhead 701197 3983039 1,705 0.00 0.00 GPS
02 Wash too narrow for trucks 701717 3983036 1,636 0.34 0.34 GPS
03 15-ft Pour-over 702071 3983527 1,536 0.43 0.77 GPS
04 Wash curves north 702819 3983672 1,410 0.71 1.48 GPS
05 330-ft Pour-over 702746 3983970 1,376 0.31 1.79 GPS
. . . . . . . .
04 Wash curves north 702819 3983672 1,410 1.48 1.48 GPS
06 Found a trail 702847 3983629 1,409 0.03 1.51 GPS
07 Edge of Cliffs 703100 3983803 1,469 0.25 1.76 GPS

Happy Hiking! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 120421

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