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Hamblin Mountain Route
Hiking Around Las Vegas, Lake Mead National Recreation Area
Hamblin Mountain
Hamblin Mountain
Mile 18.2 Trailhead (view S)


This is a moderately strenuous route that runs up washes, through canyons, and up ridges to the summit of a volcanic peak. The route passes red sandstone crags, layered limestone mountains, conglomerate cliffs, and multi-colored mudstones that record ancient lakebeds with myriad Cenozoic fossils and ripple marks. This is a great hike to a spectacular place, and it is a surprisingly easy hike for a desert summit. Views from the summit are surprisingly good for such a low peak, as views stretch out across Nevada into Utah, Arizona, and California.

Hamblin Mountain is also interesting because it is half of a volcano that was split by an earthquake fault. Cleopatra Mountain, which lies about a dozen miles east of Hamblin Mountain, is the other half of the volcano.

Link to map.

Hamblin Mountain
Cottonwood Spring (view S)

Watch Out

Other than the standard warnings about hiking in the desert, ...except for crossing the highway, this route is pretty safe. There are a couple of low and easy 3rd-class pour-overs, but always be careful when you are high enough to fall and get hurt. The summit is a narrow ridge, so be careful there too.

While hiking, please respect the land and the other people out there, and try to Leave No Trace of your passage. This route runs up into the Pinto Valley Wilderness Area, so pay extra attention to respecting the land. Also, this is a moderately long hike in a remote area, so be sure to bring the 10 Essentials. Cell phones might work from the summit, but don't count on them.

Hamblin Mountain
Landmark Ridge: stay right (view S)

In places in Cottonwood Canyon, there are signs of an old road that once ran into Pinto Valley. The area is now the federally designated Pinto Valley Wilderness Area, so vehicles are prohibited. Also, Silverleaf Sunray and California Bearpaw Poppies, species restricted to soils with high levels of gypsum that are considered species of concern in Nevada, grow thickly in the red-and-white mud hills along Cottonwood Canyon. Please help protect these plants by staying off the mud hills.

Getting to the Trailhead

This hike is located along Northshore Road in Lake Mead National Recreation Area, about 45 minutes northeast of Las Vegas.

Hamblin Mountain
Narrows (view S; White Mud Ridge in background)

From town, drive out to Lake Mead, then drive north on Northshore Road for about 18.2 miles to the Mile 18.2 Trailhead. Park here; this is the trailhead.

The summit is not visible from the trailhead, but it can be seen from back down the highway. When driving north on Northshore Road, at about Mile Marker 15, the road crests a low saddle with a paved pullout on the right side of the road. The pullout provides a good view of the Hamblin Mountain complex, which is ahead to the southeast (see banner photo), although it is hard to determine which peak is the summit.

Hamblin Mountain
Turn towards Hamblin Peak (view SW)

The Hike

From the trailhead (Table 1, Waypoint 01), the route runs south from the west end of the parking area on a use-trail. Visibility is reduced, so cross the highway carefully.

About 0.2 miles out, the use-trail drops into Cottonwood Wash (Wpt. 02). From there, the route runs upstream for about 1.0 miles to Cottonwood Spring (Wpt. 03), which is marked by two cottonwood trees against a cliff. From the spring, the route continues up the main wash. The pour-over behind the cottonwood trees is fairly easy Class-3, but it can by bypassed far to the right on the old Arrowhead Highway road.

Hamblin Mountain

Hiking up Cottonwood Canyon, several minor washes merge, but the main canyon always is obvious. About 1/2-miles above the spring, Razorback Wash North (Wpt. 04) merges from the east. The route stays right.

Continuing south in Cottonwood Wash, the canyon narrows to a few feet wide as it cuts through a ridge. Just beyond the narrows, the wash hits a white mudstone wall (Wpt. 05). The wash splits to the northeast (East Fork of Cottonwood Wash) and southwest (West Fork of Cottonwood Wash), as if it were a T-intersection. The fork to the left follows the Arrowhead Highway over the ridge into Pinto Valley, while the fork to the right is the route to Hamblin Mountain.

For details on this part of the hike, see Cottonwood Wash route.

Hamblin Mountain
Use-trail begins to show clearly (view SW)

Standing at the confluence (Wpt. 05) and facing southwest, the left side of the canyon is the white mudstone ridge, and the right side of the canyon is a narrow ridge of chocolate-brown conglomerate rock. At the head of the canyon, about 1/2 air-miles out, there is a low saddle on the skyline: this is the next goal.

The route runs up the canyon staying close under the chocolate-brown conglomerate ridge (stay to the right at forks). The bottom of the canyon is an erosion ditch as much as 5-feet deep through here, making the route easy to follow.

Hamblin Mountain
Saddle (view W from saddle)

A few minutes out, the route passes through a group of chocolate-brown conglomerate boulders that rolled down from the ridge to the right. Beyond them, the wash opens up into a funny bowl where it looks like miners bulldozed out the red dirt.

The route continues up the main wash, staying left at the funny bowl and right at a fork just beyond there (stay right at a low red bluff). By this point, a well used use-trail becomes apparent, which can be followed all the way to the summit. The use-trail runs up the canyon and eventually climbs steeply onto a saddle (Wpt. 06).

Hamblin Mountain
Ridge (view SW into deep wash)

Atop the saddle (Wpt. 06), the use-trail turns hard to the left and detours around the head of a deep, steep-sided gully, then circles back around to the right onto another low ridge (Wpt. 07) overlooking a broad, deep wash. The use-trail drops into the big wash, passing a large, greenish knob of rock, and turns upstream.

The deep wash is broad and flat with low cliffs on the sides, and the firm gravel makes for easy walking. Creosote bush, white bursage, and Nevada jointfir (mormon tea) are the dominant species of vegetation, and the rock has changed from mudstones and odd conglomerates to a fine-grained volcanic.

Hamblin Mountain
Greenish knob (view NE, looking back)

The well-used use-trail runs up the wash. After about 0.32 miles in the wash, the canyon narrows and runs up into a shallow box canyon (Wpt. 08). The use-trail climbs the 3rd-class, 5-ft pour-over on the right side of the box. Watch for bighorn in this area, they like to rest in the shade here. Just above the pour-over, there are some interesting conglomerate rocks in the wash where dark volcanic cobbles are set in a matrix of red sandstone.

Continuing up the canyon, the wash gets narrower, steeper, and rockier, but the use-trail becomes even better defined and easier to follow. At a point (Wpt. 09) about 80 yards below the summit ridge, the use-trail divides into about three forks, each fork leaves the bottom of the wash, and all head upward in the same general direction. What seems to be the main use-trail is the lower of the three; please use this main trail.

Hamblin Mountain
Box canyon with 3rd-class, 5-ft pour-over exit

The use-trail runs up to the saddle on the summit ridge (Wpt. 10) that provides great views out over Lake Mead. From the saddle, the use-trail continues up the summit ridge, then swings across a south-facing slope to avoid climbing over a knob. Regaining the summit ridge, the route provides great views north and south.

Running up to a cliff, the route turns left and climbs side-slopes to regain the summit ridge again, this time at a point only a few yards from the summit. The hiking is fairly steep along some parts of the ridge, but the use-trail always is easy to follow.

The summit (Wpt. 11) is a narrow, southwest-northeast trending ridge with a bunch of jagged volcanic rocks sticking up. To move along the crest, hikers have to wind back and forth among the rocks, taking care along the steep cliffs on both sides of the crest.

Hamblin Mountain
Approaching the summit ridge; multiple trails

The summit is unmarked, but just off the far side of the summit there is a USGS benchmark (Pinto, set in 1948) and two reference marks (also some wooden posts). On USGS maps, this peak is marked "Pinto," which normally would be the name of the mountain, but who knows how these things work out.

Views from the summit are surprisingly grand given that Hamblin is only a 3,010-ft peak, as view extends into Utah, Arizona, and California.

To the north is the Sheep Range, Bowl of Fire area, Muddy Mountains, and Bitter Spring cliffs, and even the Mormon Mountains. Far to the northeast, the Beaver Dam Mountains in Utah (above St. George) can be seen on clear days.

To the east is the Virgin Gorge area, Virgin Mountain, the Gold Butte region, and Grand Wash Cliffs.

Hamblin Mountain
Hiker on summit ridge

To the south are several mountain ranges in Arizona, including the Black Mountains (Mt. Wilson, the White Mountains, and the Cerbat Mountains just north of Kingman in the far distance. Possibly the New York Mountains, the South McCullough Range, the North McCullough Range, and the tops of peaks (Clark Mountain?) far out in California. Closer, Lake Mead spreads out below with views into the Overton Arm, the Virgin Basin, the narrows, and Boulder Basin. Even Boulder City can be seen.

To the west, Las Vegas can be seen, with Mt. Potosi, Red Rocks, and Mt. Charleston standing in the background.

Hamblin Mountain
Hiker bypassing knob on summit ridge

When tired of the scenery and finished with lunch, follow your footprints back to the trailhead.

On the way down, consider using an alternate route to make a partial loop. Follow the regular route back down the ridges, but at the odd, greenish knob, stay in the wash Wpt. A01), initially heading northwest. When the wash bends to the west, watch for use-trails combing north onto a low saddle (Wpt. A02). The use-trails converge and lead over another low saddle (Wpt. A03) and back to Cottonwood Wash (Wpt. A04). The alternate route is shorter and easier than the regular route, but it is not as interesting or scenic, so it makes a good way to head back to the trailhead.

Hamblin Mountain
Hiker approaching cliffs on summit ridge
Hamblin Mountain
Hiker on summit ridge
Hamblin Mountain
Hiker approaching summit
Hamblin Mountain
Hiker near summit
Hamblin Mountain
Hiker on summit signing summit register
Hamblin Mountain
Benchmark Pinto
Hamblin Mountain
Reference Mark No. 1
Hamblin Mountain
Reference Mark No. 1
Hamblin Mountain
Hiker on summit (view SE)
Hamblin Mountain
Summit view (view E)
Hamblin Mountain
Summit view (view N)
Hamblin Mountain
Summit view (view NW)
Hamblin Mountain
Summit view: hiker starting down off the summit ridge (view E)

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) Verified
01 Mile 18.2 Trailhead 710745 4009664 1,965 0.00 0.00 GPS
02 Cottonwood Wash 710787 4009432 1,922 0.17 0.17 GPS
03 Cottonwood Spring 711951 4008808 2,067 0.89 1.06 GPS
04 Cottonwood Wash at Razorback Wash 712435 4008324 2,183 0.50 1.56 GPS
05 Fork in Wash (T-intersection) 712768 4007942 2,282 0.35 1.91 GPS
06 Saddle on the Skyline 712229 4007372 2,529 0.57 2.48 GPS
07 Low Ridge above Deep Wash 712182 4007291 2,563 0.09 2.57 GPS
08 Shallow Box Canyon 712110 4006778 2,701 0.38 2.95 GPS
09 Below Saddle on Summit Ridge 712105 4006417 2,943 0.26 3.21 GPS
10 Summit Ridge 712173 4006405 3,006 0.06 3.27 GPS
11 Hamblin Mountain Summit 711879 4006146 3,291 0.34 3.61 GPS
. . . . . . . .
A01 Alt Route Start 712165 4007255 2,554 0.00 0.00 GPS
A02 Alt Route Saddle 1 711754 4007836 2,383 0.49 0.49 GPS
A03 Alt Route Saddle 2 711886 4008265 2,281 0.31 0.80 GPS
A04 Alt Route End 712021 4008723 2,104 0.48 1.28 GPS

Happy Hiking! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 130211

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