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Ridgeline Loop Trail
Hiking Around Las Vegas, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
Ridgeline Loop Trail
Ridgeline Loop TrailNegotiating the Access Point (view W)

Overview

This moderate 4.7-mile loop trail climbs onto ridges that lie between Highway 160 and Blue Diamond town, runs westward to a rocky promontory overlooking Cottonwood Valley and the Red Rock Escarpment, loops back towards Blue Diamond (close enough to stop for a soda), and then runs back through a gap in the ridge to the trailhead. Because a plethora of mountain bike trails criss-cross the area, various longer looping options are possible.

Also because of the plethora of mountain bike trails, getting started on the right trail is a bit confusing. Using GPS waypoints will help, but hikers should be able to "feel their way along" and get there soon enough.

Link to trail map.

Ridgeline Loop Trail

Watch Out

Other than the standard warnings about hiking in the desert, ... this hike is fairly safe with no unusual hazards. Pulling in and out of the trailhead parking is another matter. Watch the highway traffic carefully as most vehicles going downhill will be traveling in excess of 70 mph. When ready to leave, chill-out for a moment, let the traffic clear, and then pull out safely. This trail is accessed from the "White Cross" trailhead; consider carefully what that means.

While hiking, please respect the land and the other people out there, and try to Leave No Trace of your passage. Also, be sure to bring what you need of the 10 Essentials.

Ridgeline Loop TrailLeaving the main wash (view W)

Getting to the Trailhead

This hike is located in Red Rock Canyon NCA, but not in the Scenic Loop fee area.

From the Red Rock Visitor Center area, drive west then south on West Charleston Blvd. (Hwy 159) past Blue Diamond Town to Highway 160. Turn right onto Highway 160 and drive west for 2.3 miles to the unpaved White Cross Trailhead on the right. Be sure to pull off and back onto the highway very carefully. Park anywhere, but eventually get to the end of the short spur road, which is a bit west of the pullout; this is the trailhead.

Ridgeline Loop Trail
Stay left on faint trail, not on "old road" (view N)

The Hike

From the trailhead (Table 1, Waypoint 01) at the end of the short spur road, multiple trails run down into the wash and converge at the Access Point (Wpt. 02), a gap in the highway fence, about 50-ft out, where hikers can duck through the un-barbed wires. From what I've seen, mountain bikers just lift their bikes over the fence and skip the Access Point.

Past the Access Point, the poorly defined trail crosses Cottonwood Wash and intersects a well-defined trail running along the far side of the wash (this trail is clearly visible from the parking area). Although confused by multiple trailing, the first goal is to cross the wash, skirt around the end of the cliff to the left, and hike up along a side wash running northwest.

Ridgeline Loop Trail
Stay left on the faint trail (view NW)

Heading left on the trail across Cottonwood Wash, the trail runs along the base of a low cliff for a few yards and then turns right up a side wash to the west. At this point, trails seem to be going in all directions, but the loop trail runs west and away from the main wash at this point. Shortly, the trail forks (Wpt. 03) and the loop route continues northwest along, then crossing, the side wash (this is only about 100 yards from the trailhead).

About 150 yards farther, the loop trail passes a trail junction (Wpt. 04) on the right. A few steps farther yet, the loop trail turns right at another trail junction (Wpt. 05) and runs due north. After only 25 yards, there is another fork in the trail (Wpt. 06). The obvious trail, which almost looks like an old road starting up and right across the hillside, is the wrong way. Staying to the left on the narrower trail, the loop trail runs across flat-ish country along the base of the hills.

After all of this confusion, we are only 300 yards from the trailhead!

Ridgeline Loop Trail
On the ridge, multiple-trail problems are left behind

The trail eventually begins to climb the hillside, and from here on, the problem of multiple-trailing is left behind. As with most bike trails, the grade is gentle as the trail climbs to hear the ridgeline (Wpt. 07). In what might seem unusual to hikers, bike trails often skip high points, and this trail never quite gets to the top of the ridge, but it does provide tantalizing views of the tops of the Red Rock Escarpment far to the west.

Running near the top of the ridge and heading west, the trail drops into and cross a gully, which from the perspective on the ridge (Wpt. 07), is ahead and down to the left.

Crossing the gully (Wpt. 08), the trail switchbacks up the far side and eventually touches the next ridgeline (Wpt. 09), providing great views back down to Highway 160 and point southeast.

Ridgeline Loop Trail
Trail never quite climbs to the ridgeline (view NW)

Continuing westward, the trail eventually climbs high and provides great views of the Red Rock Escarpment, with nice views of Blue Diamond and the gypsum quarry in a few places, and even the Las Vegas urban area in the distance.

About half-way out the length of the ridge (Wpt. 10), a faint side trail branches off to the left. This trail becomes more obvious as it gains the top of the ridge and continues west to the far end of the ridge. However, continuing on the obvious "main trail" at this point, the loop trail drops off the ridgeline to the north and crosses the head of a canyon on a side-ridge. At the far end of the side-ridge (Wpt. 11), a short spur ridge (0.1 miles; no trail) leads to a rocky knob and a great lunch break area (Wpt. 12).

Ridgeline Loop Trail
Getting ready to cross to the next ridge (view W)

Back on the loop trail (Wpt. 11), the trail begins winding down the hillside into the canyon that forms the north side of the main Ridgeline ridge. From this view, an obvious trail sweeps down the side of the opposite ridge. This obvious trail is one choice, but at a T-intersection obscured by a rocky outcrop (Wpt. 13), a right turn provides an alternate with a bit of shade, at least during winter.

Staying to the right, the loop trail winds along the rocky hillside, eventually touching limestone cliffs before turning steeply downhill as if to slide into Blue Diamond Town (Wpt. 14). Staying to the right at all trail junctions (back into the multiple-trailing zone), the loop trail eventually bends back to the south and runs through a gap in the hills leading towards Highway 160. On a bluff overlooking Cottonwood Wash (Wpt. 16), the trail turns southwest and the trailhead eventually comes into view. Again, many trails are possible, but hikers can drop into Cottonwood Wash (Wpt. 17) and find their way back to the trailhead (Wpt. 01).

Ridgeline Loop Trail
Dropping into the gully (view W)
Ridgeline Loop Trail
Hiking on the second ridge (view NW)
Ridgeline Loop Trail
View into Blue Diamond Town; Las Vegas in the distance (view NE)
Ridgeline Loop Trail
Starting down off the ridgeline, beginning to loop back (view NW)
Ridgeline Loop Trail
Canyon just north of the main ridge (view E)
Ridgeline Loop Trail
From the trail, look towards lunch-break knob (view NW)
Ridgeline Loop Trail
Starting down and back to the east (view E)
Ridgeline Loop Trail
Trail intersection to the shady-side trail (view E)
Ridgeline Loop Trail
Nearing Blue Diamond Town (view NE)
Ridgeline Loop Trail
Catching some winter shade (view E)
Ridgeline Loop Trail
Hiking south through gap towards Highway 160 (view SE)
Ridgeline Loop Trail
Flats before Cottonwood Wash and Highway 160 (view S)
Ridgeline Loop Trail
Multiple trails all going the same place (view SW)
Ridgeline Loop Trail
Dropping into Cottonwood Wash near the trailhead (view SW)

Table 2. Hiking Coordinates and Distances 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 644288 3988337 3,484 0.00 0.00 GPS
02 Access Point 644277 3988352 3,484 0.01 0.01 GPS
03 Fork in Trail 644189 3988341 3,498 0.06 0.07 GPS
04 Fork in Trail 644077 3988408 3,512 0.09 0.16 GPS
05 Fork in Trail 644059 3988410 3,514 0.01 0.17 GPS
06 Fork in Trail 644061 3988429 3,508 0.02 0.19 GPS
07 Near Ridgetop 644014 3989020 3,755 0.63 0.82 GPS
08 Cross Gully 643851 3989058 3,724 0.11 0.93 GPS
09 Overlook to SW 643749 3988932 3,784 0.19 1.12 GPS
10 Fork in Trail 642668 3989463 4,054 0.95 2.07 GPS
11 Spur to Knob 642708 3989770 4,000 0.27 2.34 GPS
12 Knob 642659 3989921 3,957 0.10 2.44 GPS
11 Spur to Knob 642708 3989770 4,000 0.10 2.54 GPS
13 Fork in Trail 642754 3989646 3,877 0.16 2.70 GPS
14 Fork in Trail 644072 3989354 3,540 1.20 3.90 GPS
15 Fork in Trail 644250 3989246 3,521 0.04 3.94 GPS
16 Fork in Trail 644534 3988734 3,467 0.37 4.31 GPS
17 Fork in Trail 644449 3988638 3,481 0.09 4.40 GPS
18 Fork in Trail 644258 3988431 3,484 0.18 4.58 GPS
19 Fork in Trail 644252 3988403 3,484 0.02 4.60 GPS
02 Access Point 644277 3988352 3,484 0.04 4.64 GPS
01 Trailhead 644288 3988337 3,484 0.01 4.65 GPS

Happy Hiking! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 120203

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