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Rock Spring Loop Trail
Hiking Around Las Vegas, Mojave National Preserve
Rock Spring Loop Trail
Rock Spring Loop Trail
Sign along Cedar Canyon Road (view E)

Overview

The Rock Spring Loop Trail provides a 1.2-mile hike through high-elevation desert that runs past The Rock House (a home build from local stones) and associated mill site, past an historic water hole (Rock Spring) that was in important stop for historic and prehistoric travelers in this region, and past the site of an 1860s army post established to guard the US mail and travelers on the historic Mojave Road. For information about the area, see the Mojave National Preserve website.

Hikers with limited mobility might find one spot on the trail a bit difficult, so for those wishing to only visit the spring and army camp, consider walking the loop "backwards" and returning over the same trail.

Link to map.

Rock Spring Loop Trail
Trailhead parking, toilets, and gate (view SE)

Watch Out

Other than the standard warnings about hiking in the desert, ... this trail is about as safe and easy as it gets, but the trail descends a few unusually high stairs going down a canyon.

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, be sure to bring what you need of the 10 Essentials. Please help reserve this historic area: take nothing by photographs, leave nothing but footprints, and try to limit the number of those you leave behind.

Rock Spring Loop Trail
Trailhead (view SE)

Getting to the Trailhead

This hike is located in Mojave National Preserve, about 2 hours south of Las Vegas.

From town, drive out to Mojave National Preserve. From the Hole-in-the-Wall Visitor Center, drive north on Black Canyon Road to the T-intersection with Cedar Canyon Road. Turn right and drive east 4.8 miles to Rock Spring Road (Site 1448). Watch for a trail sign on the right.

Turn right onto Rock Spring Road and drive southeast (straight) for 0.25 miles to the end of the road and restrooms (Site 1449). Note that the cross-road is the historic Mojave Road. Park by the gate; this is the trailhead.

Rock Spring Loop Trail
Approaching the Rock House (view SE)

The Hike

From the parking area, the trail runs through a gate (Table 2; Waypoint 01) and continues up the road towards the Rock House. Near the gate, an old goat corral sits on the left, and a bit farther along, juniper trees shade a picnic table.

At the rock house (Wpt. 02), an information sign provides historic details about the site. Bert Smith built this house in 1929 to take advantage of healthy western air during his recovery from gas attacks during WWI. The house was later used by landscape artist Carl Faber.

Signs on the west side of the Rock House announce the start of the loop trail, which runs south past the signs. The trail heads south as if to drop into the wash, but about about 150 yards out, the trail takes a hard turn to the left and angles down across the hillside, staying high above the wash.

Rock Spring Loop Trail
Approaching the Rock House (view SE)

This is high country, near to 4,800 ft elevation, and the plant species here are typical for this elevation in the Mojave Desert: including juniper trees, banana yucca, big sagebrush, buckhorn cholla, Mojave sage, cliffrose, big galleta grass, also some kind of needlegrass.

The trail passes an old mill site that dates from the 1930s. Mr. Smith and his partners extracted copper ore from a nearby mine (down in the wash) and milled it at this site. Apparently the mining operation was not profitable, and all that remains are the cement foundations and a few pieces of junk. They probably sold the mill, and what was worthless remains on the ground.

Rock Spring Loop Trail
Information sign at the Rock House

Past the mill site, the trail runs generally northeast, through a gate (Wpt. 03) in a barbed-wire fence, and turns southeast through an area that burned some years ago. The shrubs are growing back, but the trees have a long ways to go.

The trail turns to runs southeast down a narrow, rocky canyon. Stairs along the trail facilitate passage through the canyon, but a few of the steps at the bottom of the canyon are unusually high and may not be suitable for all hikers. As the trail exits the canyon, check the granite walls carefully for faint etching of the ancients.

Just beyond the mouth of the canyon, the trail forks (Wpt. 04). Watch for an information sign off the trail to the right. The sign overlooks Rock Spring, an important water source for travelers in this region since ancient times. This was a stop along the historic Mojave Road.

Rock Spring Loop Trail
Rock House, front (view S)

The spring (Wpt. 05) lies about 150 yards southwest of the sign where polished granite forces water to the surface. Watch for birds and other wildlife, and listen for the trills of male Red-spotted Toads during springtime. A lone cottonwood tree grows in the canyon above the spring.

Continuing east (left) at the fork (Wpt. 04) on the main trail, the trail shortly arrives at another information sign about Camp Rock Spring, an army outpost active during the 1860s. Soldiers based here protected the US mail and travelers using the Mojave Road.

A short ways farther along the trail, a bronze plaque set in a boulder commemorates the site (Wpt. 06). On the far side of the boulder, the trail forks. The main trail turns left and heads up the hill, while a spur trail (straight) runs about 50 yards to overlook Watson Wash and the Mojave Road.

Rock Spring Loop Trail
Rock House, back (view N)

The main trail runs up a shallow side canyon that remains well vegetated after the fire, then switchbacks onto the ridge on the right. The trail runs up the ridgeline (Wpt. 07), providing grand views over the landscape: the broad Watson Wash below, the New York Mountains to the north, and the Hackberry Mountains to the south.

Leaving the ridgeline, the trail runs generally northwest across rolling country where shrubs are growing back after the fire. Eventually the trail turns southwest (Wpt. 08) and starts back towards the Rock House. Fortunately, a few juniper trees survived the fire and provide shade along the way. The trail returns to the Rock House (Wpt. 02) and then back down the driveway to the trailhead (Wpt. 01).

Rock Spring Loop Trail
Signs: Rock Spring Loop Trail (view S)
Rock Spring Loop Trail
Signs: Rock Spring Loop Trail (view S)
Rock Spring Loop Trail
Signs: Rock Spring Loop Trail (view S)
Rock Spring Loop Trail
Trail turns northeast
Rock Spring Loop Trail
Trail runs past mill tailings (view NE)
Rock Spring Loop Trail
Water catch-basin for the mill (view N)
Rock Spring Loop Trail
Trail passes through barbed-wire fence
Rock Spring Loop Trail
Flowers along the trail
Rock Spring Loop Trail
Trail starts into rocky canyon (view SE)
Rock Spring Loop Trail
Trail in rocky canyon (view SE)
Rock Spring Loop Trail
Inspect the rock walls carefully!
Rock Spring Loop Trail
Note: this ancient etching was marked up in Photoshop
Rock Spring Loop Trail
Information sign about historic activities at Rock Spring
Rock Spring Loop Trail
Rock Spring (view SW)
Rock Spring Loop Trail
Rock Spring (view S)
Rock Spring Loop Trail
Rock Spring (view SW)
Rock Spring Loop Trail
Rock Spring (view NE)
Rock Spring Loop Trail
Rock Spring (view NE)
Rock Spring Loop Trail
Rock Spring above cottonwood tree (view NE)
Rock Spring Loop Trail
Information sign: Camp Rock Spring (view N)
Rock Spring Loop Trail
Information sign: Camp Rock Spring
Rock Spring Loop Trail
Trail through Camp Rock Spring site
Rock Spring Loop Trail
Commemorative bronze plaque: Camp Rock Spring

Camp Rock Spring

To the United States Soldiers of Camp
Rock Spring --- who guarded the U.S. Mail
No glory there, nor much chance for
military fame, but true patriots and heroes
were they, to submit to such privations--
yet these are the nurseries of the army,
and from such hard schools we graduated
a Grant and Sherman, Sheridan and Thomas
.
General James. F. Rusling USA

Bill Holcomb Chapter
E Clampus Vitus

Rock Spring Loop Trail
Trail sign just beyond the plaque (view N)
Rock Spring Loop Trail
Trail runs up side wash (view N)
Rock Spring Loop Trail
Ridgeline (view SE along the Mojave Road)
Rock Spring Loop Trail
Ridgeline (view N to New York Mountains)
Rock Spring Loop Trail
Trail on rolling terrain (view NW)
Rock Spring Loop Trail
Trail on rolling terrain (view SW)
Rock Spring Loop Trail
Trees provide a bit of shade along the trail (view SW)
Rock Spring Loop Trail
Arriving back at the Rock House (view S)

Table 1. 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
833 Cedar Cyn Rd at Black Cyn Rd 644718 3893322 35.17422 115.41081 5,007 Yes
1448 Cedar Cyn Rd at Rock Spring Rd 651435 3891403 35.15594 115.33743 4,880 Yes
1449 Rock Spring Trailhead Parking 651737 3891314 35.15509 115.33413 4,869 Yes

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 Trailhead 651755 3891315 4,869 0.00 0.00 GPS
02 Rock House 651823 3891218 4,877 0.08 0.08 GPS
03 Gate 651945 3891134 4,829 0.19 0.27 GPS
04 Spur to Spring 652236 3891097 4,749 0.20 0.47 GPS
05 Rock Spring 652150 3891065 4,757 . . GPS
06 Monument 652327 3891126 4,755 0.07 0.54 GPS
07 Ridgeline 652311 3891239 4,830 0.13 0.67 GPS
08 North-most Point 651995 3891399 4,875 0.25 0.92 GPS
02 Rock House 651823 3891218 4,877 0.18 1.10 GPS
01 Trailhead 651755 3891315 4,869 0.07 1.17 GPS

Happy Hiking! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 130524

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