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Oak Creek Cutoff Trail
Hiking Around Las Vegas, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
Oak Creek Cutoff Route
Oak Creek Cutoff Route
Gate in the highway fence (view west)


This pleasant walk across Red Rock Valley leads into Oak Creek Canyon, connecting to the regular Oak Creek Canyon Trail after 1.5 miles. For people who don't want to drive the entire Scenic Loop Road to get to Oak Creek Road, and for people who just don't want to pay the entrance fee, the Oak Creek Cutoff provides alternate access to hiking and rock climbing areas along the Red Rock Cliffs.

This hike starts in an area burned during the 2007 Bonnie Springs Fire (see map). The contrast between the burned and unburned areas displays dramatically what happens when the Mojave Desert Scrub burns.

Link to map.

Oak Creek Cutoff Route
Hiker in the burned area (view west)

Watch Out

Other than the standard warnings about hiking in the desert, ...this is a safe hike, even for kids.

While hiking, please respect the land and the other people out there, and try to Leave No Trace of your passage. Also, this hike is just a short connector route, so be sure to bring what you need of the 10 Essentials for the entire hike.

Oak Creek Cutoff Route
Unburned desert (view west)

Getting to the Trailhead

This hike is located in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, about 40 minutes from town, but not on the Scenic Loop Road. Drive out West Charleston Blvd, past the Scenic Loop Road entrance and exit, to the Oak Creek Cutoff Trailhead. Park here; this is the trailhead.

Alternatively, hikers may park a few yards farther north at another gate (Wpt. 07), but that parking area is smaller and harder to use. Also, on the way back with tired legs, hikers will have to hike straight up the hill rather than hiking diagonally across the hillside at a more gentle grade.

Oak Creek Cutoff Route
Gnarly old Joshua Tree (view north)

The Hike

From the trailhead (Table 2, Waypoint 06), the route runs through a gate heading northwest and down across a hillside that burned during the 2007 Bonnie Springs Fire (see map).

The use-trail hits an old road (Wpt. 08), turns west, and heads out across the desert flats towards the escarpment. While fighting the fire, firefighters in this area successfully used this old road as a fire break. Here, the north side of old road is unburned and thickly vegetated with shrubs including Blackbrush, Joshua Trees, Mojave Yucca, Mojave Cottonthorn, Indigo Bush, Galleta Grass, Spiny Menodora, and Buckhorn Cholla.

Oak Creek Cutoff Route

On the south side of the old road, the vegetation is growing back, but the dominant species are grasses and early successional subshrubs such as Globemallow, and a few of the burned yucca are resprouting from the burned stumps. Comparing the burned and unburned sides, it is clear that many years will pass before nature reclaims the burn area, and probably many more years after that before Cactus Wrens, which build nests in the cholla, return.

Oak Creek Cutoff Route

Before long, the trail passes out of the burn area, and higher on the bajada, the vegetation becomes more diverse with many more Mojave Yucca and also Desert Almond, which usually is more common in dry washes.

Closer to the cliffs, Utah Juniper begins to appear, and many Narrowleaf Goldenbush (Ericameria linearifolia) and California Buckwheat join the mix.

Oak Creek Cutoff Route
Nearing Oak Creek Canyon Trail (view west)

The Oak Creek Cutoff Trail runs straight west, passing several side trails along the way. At about 0.18 (Wpt. 09) and 0.64 miles out (Wpt. 10), use-trails to the right run north to the parking lot at the exit to the Scenic Loop Road, and at 0.75 miles out (Wpt. 11), a use-trail to the left runs south to join the many use-trails around Wilson's Pimple.

Eventually the Oak Creek Cutoff Trail runs over a low ridge and drops to join the main Oak Creek Canyon Trail (Wpt. 02).

oak creek cutoff
Trail Junction (view east)
Assuming hikers continue west toward Oak Creek Canyon, notice a trail junction (Wpt. 12) to the left shortly after joining the main trail. This use-trail runs south towards Wilson's Pimple, and this spot could be a point of confusion when hiking back to the trailhead. On the way out, recall that the Oak Creek Cutoff Trail runs across a dip and then up onto a low ridge southeast of the main trail, not down into Oak Creek Wash.

Table 2. Hiking Coordinates 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
06 Oak Creek Cutoff Trailhead 639608 3996174 3,834 0.00 0.00 GPS
08 Old Road 639432 3996298 3,797 0.14 0.14 GPS
09 Trail Jct 639372 3996294 3,780 0.04 0.18 GPS
10 Trail Jct 638669 3996325 3,866 0.46 0.64 GPS
11 Trail Jct 638510 3996325 3,881 0.11 0.75 GPS
02 Oak Creek Cutoff Jct 637340 3996372 4,021 0.75 1.50 GPS
12 Trail Jct 637319 3996360 4,025 . . GPS
07 Alternate Trailhead 639597 3996293 3,825 . . GPS

Happy Hiking! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 120427

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