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Moenkopi Loop Trail
Hiking Around Las Vegas, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
Moenkopi Hill
Moenkopi Loop Trail
Moenkopi trailhead (view W; Wpt. 01)

Overview

This pleasant 2.0-mile trail makes a loop from the Visitor Center out to the summit of Moenkopi Hill and back, traversing a variety of habitat types and never going straight when it has the opportunity to wind around. The scenery is spectacular in all directions, and signs along the trail explain the geologic history of the area. Some older guide books suggest that this is a good place to find fossils, but I found few.

Link to map or elevation profile.

Moenkopi Loop

Watch Out

Other than the standard warnings about hiking in the desert, ...this is a safe hike, even for kids. There are some places along the edge of the summit where you could jump off if you tried, but the trail is safe. Most of the trail is well groomed, relatively free of rocks, and makes for easy walking.

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.

Moenkopi Loop
Trail junction (Wpt. 01a; view W)

Getting to the Trailhead

This hike is located along the Scenic Loop Road in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, about 30 minutes west of Las Vegas. Drive out to Red Rocks, pay the fee, then drive up to the Visitor Center Trailhead. Park here; this is the trailhead.

The Grand Circle and Moenkopi trails start at the northwest corner of the parking area near the Visitor Center building.

Moenkopi Loop
Trail junction (Wpt. 02; view N)

The Hike

From the trailhead (Table 2, Waypoint 01), the trail runs southwest past several picnic tables, a memorial, and information signs to the first trail junction at an old road (Wpt. 01a). The trail then runs northwest along the old road for several yards to a second trail junction (Wpt. 02).

At the second trail junction (Wpt. 02), the Moenkopi and Grand Circle trails both turn right and run north out around the west edge of the Visitor Center complex. The vegetation along here is dominated by low-growing, widely spaced creosote bush, red brome grass, and few other species.

The trail runs north past the Visitor Center, then drops into a wash. In the wash, notice the difference that a little extra water makes in the desert. Here the creosote and grass are fairly dense and robust compared to those growing on the flats above.
Moenkopi Loop

Just across the wash (Wpt. 03), the Grand Circle Trail branches off from the Moenkopi Trail to connect with the Calico Hills Trail and other short, Visitor Center Area Trails. Stay to the left at the junction (on the constructed trail, not in the wash). The trail runs up the bajada staying on a low ridge to the east of Moenkopi Hill. On this part of the trail, the shrubby vegetation is diverse and dominated by creosote bush, Mojave yucca, and blackbrush. Other common species include composite shrubs, four-wing saltbush, Nevada ephedra, strawberry hedgehog cactus, spiny menodora, desert trumpet, white bursage, and more red brome grass.

Moenkopi Loop
View of trail junction (Wpt. 03) from Visitor Center
The trail winds along with grand views in all directions. About 5 to 10 minutes past the wash, there is a sign about the formation for the Calico Hills, explaining that they were sand dunes some 180 million years ago. From the sign, the trail generally runs north-northwest until it is well past (north of) the summit of Moenkopi Hill. The trail then begins a big arc to the west. The trail eventually reaches another trail junction (Wpt. 04) where the Moenkopi Trail goes straight and the trail to the right leads to the Calico 1 parking area (an old trail goes left and down the hillside). A sign says that it is 0.25 miles to Calico 1, but they must have rerouted the trail after the sign was made because the parking area is actually 0.45 miles away.
Moenkopi Loop
Trail junction sign (Wpt. 03)

From the junction, the Moenkopi Trail runs southwest and then south, climbing onto the ridge leading to the summit of Moenkopi Hill. Part of the trail runs on a limestone outcrop that makes for a smooth trail with interesting patterns. There is a sign along the ridge that explains that the limestone was formed in a shallow sea some 230 million years ago. Outcrops like this are where I look for fossils, but I saw very little fossiliferous material here. Look for white inclusions in the gray limestone. The vegetation on the summit is largely blackbrush, but there are some nice California barrel cactus and strawberry hedgehog cactus along the rocky outcrop.

Just before the summit (Wpt. 05), a trail cuts to the right and down the west side of the ridge. This trail makes a shortcut that bypasses the summit. Continue south, staying on the ridgeline, for about 2 more minutes to the summit (Wpt. 06).

Moenkopi Hill
Calico Hills (red) and La Madre Range (gray) (view N)
On the summit, there is a park bench where you can sit, relax, and enjoy the great views in all directions. To the south lies Blue Diamond Hill with its short, deep limestone canyons and a plethora of trails. To the west is the towering red and white sandstone escarpment, and to the east are the brilliantly red and white Calico Hills. To the north is the La Madre Range with imposing gray limestone cliffs. Interestingly, the sandstone is about 180 million years old (Age of Dinosaurs) while the limestone is about 230 million years old; yet the older limestone sits atop the younger sandstone. A sign on the summit explains this odd positioning, and there are nice exhibits on the local geology in the Visitor Center. With knowledge of the geology, the Keystone Trail makes for an interesting hike.
Moenkopi Loop
Nearing Moenkopi summit (view S)

From the summit, the trail continues south down the ridge, eventually circling down and around the hillside to the northwest. At a trail junction (Wpt. 07), the other end of the shortcut trail, the Moenkopi Trail bends south and runs down into the wash at the bottom of the hill. Overall, the trail is well groomed and easy to walk on everywhere except the west side of the hill, where it is rocky and steep.

In the broad, shallow wash at the bottom of the hill, the vegetation changes again, now more diverse, more dense, and more robust. Here, the shrubby vegetation includes the species seen elsewhere, but also includes desert almond, honey mesquite with mistletoe, and desert willow, species that indicate the presence of underground water.

Moenkopi Loop
230 million-year-old limestone sidewalk (view S)

The trail runs down the gravel wash to another trail junction where it meets up with the other end of the Grand Circle trail (Wpt. 08), which is running on an old road here. There is a sign at the junction with information about desert washes, flash floods, and erosion. The Moenkopi Trail turns southeast, out of the wash, and follows the old road back towards the Visitor Center and the trailhead (Wpt. 01). Alternatively, continue straight to the pavement at the Visitor Center Exit Road (Wpt. 09), and back to the parking area from there.

Moenkopi Hill
Blue Diamond Hill and Visitor Center (view SE from summit; Wpt. 06)
Moenkopi Loop
A well-vegetated wash (view SE)
Moenkopi Hill
Wash on the SW side of Moenkopi Hill (view SE)
Moenkopi Loop
Old road, nearing the Visitor Center (view E)

Table 2. 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 (mi) Cumulative Distance (mi) Verified
01 Moenkopi Trailhead 641502 3999883 3,780 0.00 0.00 GPS
01a First Trail Junction 641375 3999812 3,773 0.11 0.11 GPS
02 Second Trail Junction 641321 3999828 3,743 0.04 0.15 GPS
03 Trail Junction, Grand Circle 641403 3999990 3,732 0.14 0.29 GPS
04 Trail Junction, Calico 1 640896 4000740 3,910 0.62 0.91 GPS
05 Trail Junction, shortcut down 640834 4000454 3,942 0.20 1.11 GPS
06 Summit 640815 4000336 3,956 0.08 1.19 GPS
07 Trail Junction, shortcut up 640653 4000285 3,858 0.16 1.35 GPS
08 Trail Junction, Grand Circle 640865 3999968 3,780 0.28 1.63 GPS
09 Trail End at Exit Road 641501 3999763 3,717 0.42 2.05 GPS

Happy Hiking! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 120411

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