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Pine Creek Loop Trail
Hiking Around Las Vegas, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
Pine Creek Trail
Pine Creek Trail
Pine Creek Canyon Trailhead parking (view WSW)

Overview

This fairly easy hike makes a lollipop loop up into Pine Creek Canyon. The trail runs up the north side of Pine Creek to the first fork in Pine Creek Canyon. The trail then crosses the seasonal stream and runs back down the south side of the canyon until rejoining the original route near the remains of the Wilson homestead.

This area is interesting because it harbors a great botanical diversity of Mojave Desert Scrub vegetation with a relict population of ponderosa pines that normally are found at higher elevations. The canyon gets some full sun, especially early in the day, but generally it is a nice cool place to hike. The round-trip is about 2.5 miles, but from the top of the loop, hikers can scramble and boulder hop up the canyons into the Rainbow Mountain Wilderness Area for as far as they want.

Link to map.

Pine Creek Trail
Pine Creek Canyon Trailhead

Watch Out

Other than the standard warnings about hiking in the desert, ... this is a rocky trail where hikers have to keep watching their feet, but other than that, it is pretty safe on the trail. Up the canyons past the end of the loop, the route requires 2nd-class scrambling over and around boulders and up slick-rock terraces. Be careful when high enough to fall and hurt yourself, and watch for wet or icy rocks in the canyon and around the stream. Treat or filter the water before drinking (there are a lots of bighorn sheep in the 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 is a short hike, be sure to bring what you need of the 10 Essentials.

Pine Creek TrailPine Creek Canyon Trailhead Sign

Getting to the Trailhead

This hike is located along the Scenic Loop Road in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, about 1 hour west of Las Vegas. Drive out to Red Rocks, pay the fee, and then drive about 2/3rds of the way around the Scenic Loop Road to the Pine Creek Canyon Trailhead. Park here; this is the trailhead.

The Hike

From the Pine Creek trailhead (Table 1, Waypoint 01), which sits atop a bench overlooking Pine Creek Wash, the well-worn trail runs south, cutting down and across a steep sidehill. Near the trailhead, the vegetation is fairly sparse and dominated by only a few species, including blackbrush, Mojave yucca, banana yucca, and Utah juniper.

After dropping across the hillside, the trail turns right (Wpt. 02) onto the broad flats along Pine Creek Wash. Here, the soil moisture is higher, and the vegetation abruptly changes to include shrub live oak, big sagebrush, Utah juniper, desert willow, and buckhorn cholla.

Pine Creek Trail
Start of Pine Creek Canyon Trail (view WSW)

The trail runs west and shortly intersects the start of the Fire Ecology Trail (Wpt. 03). After only 45 yards, the main trail intersects the end of the Fire Ecology Trail (Wpt. 04). The Fire Ecology Trail makes a figure-8 loop over to Pine Creek where signs discuss efforts to control wildfire risk in the canyon.

Continuing, the trail passes historic concrete and stone structures that used to mark the entrance to the Wilson Ranch. This is also the junction with Dale's Trail (Wpt. 05). The vegetation here is much thicker and diverse; manzanita and yerba santa join the species mix, and ponderosa pines are nearby, however, a fire burned the north side of the trail a few years ago.

The trail continues west towards a grove of ponderosa pine, a seasonal stream, and the remains of Horace Wilson's old homestead (Wpt. 06), which is just off the left side of the main trail. Old-man Wilson built his home in the early 1920s. He lived here for about 10 years and planted a big garden and orchard. Only the foundation of the house and some fruit trees remain. He left the canyon in 1933 and moved to Las Vegas where life was easier.

Pine Creek Trail
Warning sign near trailhead

Continuing, the main trail forks (Wpt. 07) just past old-man Wilson's home, a total of 0.80 miles out. The fork is the start and end of a loop that runs up into the mouth of Pine Creek Canyon. In here, singleleaf pinyon pine, ashy silktassel, and many other species of shrubs join the species mix.

Continuing up the right fork of the trail (heading west, not south), the trail starts into Pine Creek Canyon, proper. The trail runs along the north side of the canyon, beneath towering sandstone cliffs, nearly to the head of the canyon. Here, atop a high bench, the trails descends steeply onto sandy flats where rocks outline a large, triangular trail intersection (Wpt. 08). Here, the Pine Creek Trail turns left, while a use-trail goes right and up into Fern Canyon. A connector trail links these two to form the triangle.

Hikers can continue up Fern Canyon on the north side of Mescalito Wall, the tall buttress that seems to block the head of the canyon. Following use-trails and scrambling over and around boulders, hikers can go as far as is desired. Higher up, the canyon is deep and narrow.

Pine Creek Trail
Trail descends across hillside (view SW)

Staying left at the triangle-intersection (Wpt. 08), Pine Creek Trail turns south to cross the canyon just downstream from Mescalito Wall. The trail becomes somewhat difficult to follow in the bottom of the wash because of the many use-trails, dense shrubs and tree, and flashflood damage to the main trail.

In this area, hikers can turn upstream and hike into the canyon on the south side of Mescalito (Pine Creek Canyon). Following use-trails and scrambling over and around boulders, hikers can go as far as is desired. Higher up, the canyon is deep and narrow, and it forks a couple of times. Given that hikers are boulder hopping up the canyon, they can go anywhere they want, but staying to the south (left) at the first fork and staying to the north (right) at the second fork is said to make for a good hike.

Meanwhile, the Pine Creek Trail crosses the wash (Wpt. 09) and continues south and up the far hillside to a hard left turn (Wpt. 10) where the trail turns east and starts heading back down the canyon.

Pine Creek Trail
Trail continues to descend across hillside (view SW)

The trail runs back down along the south side of the canyon through some very pretty country (e.g., Overlook; Wpt. 11) with lots of ponderosa pines. Erosion forces some rerouting of the trail, but it is fairly easy to follow. The trail eventually passes an intersection with the Arnight Trail (Wpt. 12). The Arnight trail forks off to the right (almost straight) and starts up the hillside, while the Pine Creek Trail turns left and descends towards Pine Creek. The trail cross the creek (Wpt. 13), which usually has running water, and is full of cattail, desert willow, and rabbitbrush in addition to the ponderosa pine and shrub live oak overhead.

The trail climbs out the other side of the creek and into the site of Mr. Wilson's old garden, then heads towards the homesite. Except for yerba santa, the garden is still mostly clear of shrubs after all these years. In the "meadow" area, the trail forks. The main fork runs across the meadow to reconnect directly with the Pine Creek Trail (Wpt. 07) to close the loop. The other trail runs directly towards the old homestead (Wpt. 06). On either trail, notice the old fruit trees along the trail to the homestead.

When ready to head back, pick up the main trail by the homesite and walk 0.80 miles back to the trailhead (Wpt. 01).

Pine Creek Trail
Unsigned fork, stay right (view SW)
Pine Creek Trail
Trail turns up towards Pine Creek Canyon (view W)
Pine Creek Trail
Entrance to Fire Ecology Trail (view W)
Pine Creek Trail
Sign: Entrance to Fire Ecology Trail (view W)
Pine Creek Trail
Exit from Fire Ecology Trail (view W)
Pine Creek Trail
Approaching Dale's Trail junction (view W)
Pine Creek Trail
Dale's Trail junction, notice old concrete structures (view W)
Pine Creek Trail
Sign: Dale's Trail (view W)
Pine Creek Trail
Dale's Trail departing Pine Creek Trail (view N)
Pine Creek Trail
Burn area on north side of trail (view W)
Pine Creek Trail
Burn area on north side of trail (view NE)
Pine Creek Trail
Ponderosa Pine along trail (view W)
Pine Creek Trail
Trail junction to shady tree picnic spot (view W)
Pine Creek Trail
Shade tree picnic spot (view W)
Pine Creek Trail
Burn area on north side of trail (view N)
Pine Creek Trail
Burn area on north side of trail (view NE)
Pine Creek Trail
Mescalito Peak looming ahead (view W)
Pine Creek Trail
Pine Creek Trail
Pine Creek Trail
Pine Creek Trail
Pine Creek Trail
Unmarked trail junction to Wilson Homesite (view W)
Pine Creek Trail
Wilson Homesite (view W)
Pine Creek Trail
Start of Pine Creek Loop (view W)
Pine Creek Trail
Looking down the exit trail (view SW)
Pine Creek Trail
Trail sign at Pine Creek Loop (view W)
Pine Creek Trail
Sign: Pine Creek Loop (view W)
Pine Creek Trail
Pine Creek Loop (view NW)
Pine Creek Trail Pine Creek Trail
Pine Creek Trail Pine Creek Trail
Pine Creek Trail
Nearing the head of the canyon (view W)
Pine Creek Trail
Triangular trail junction: stay left on Pine Creek Trail (view SW)
Pine Creek Trail
Hiker staying left on Pine Creek Trail (view SW)
Pine Creek Trail
Trail winds through thickets to Pine Creek (view SW)
Pine Creek Trail
Crossing Pine Creek Wash isn't obvious (view S)
Pine Creek TrailStay left at unmarked forks (view S) ...
Pine Creek Trail
... the right forks go up Pine Canyon (view SW)
Pine Creek Trail
Trail across the wash becomes more obvious (view SE)
Pine Creek Trail
Trail turning back down along Pine Creek (view E)
Pine Creek Trail
Trail turning back down along Pine Creek (view E)
Pine Creek Trail
Old trail fell away, but now turns right staying on bench (view E)
Pine Creek Trail
Pine Creek Overlook (view E)
Pine Creek Trail Pine Creek Trail
Pine Creek Trail
Hiker on trail following bench ...
Pine Creek Trail
... but trail drops into wash ...
Pine Creek Trail
... then climbs back out ...
Pine Creek Trail
... and follows along bench again (view E)
Pine Creek Trail
Hiker at Arnight trail junction (view E)
Pine Creek Trail
Hiker on trail (view NE)
Pine Creek Trail
Junction with old trail (now closed due to washouts) (view N)
Pine Creek Trail
Sign at junction with old trail (view W)
Pine Creek Trail
Hiker approaching Pine Creek (view E)
Pine Creek Trail
Hiker at Pine Creek (view NE)
Pine Creek TrailHiker crossing Pine Creek (view NE) Pine Creek Trail
Pine Creek (view W)
Pine Creek Trail
Pine Creek (view E)
Pine Creek Trail
Hiker along edge of Mr. Wilson's garden plot (view E)
Pine Creek Trail
Trail crossing Mr. Wilson's garden plot (view NE)
Pine Creek Trail
End of Pine Creek Loop (view NE)
Pine Creek Trail
Cutoff to Wilson Homesite (view SE)
Pine Creek Trail
Trail to Wilson Homesite (view SE)
Pine Creek Trail Pine Creek Trail
Pine Creek Trail Pine Creek Trail
Pine Creek Trail
Pine Creek Trail (view E)
Pine Creek Trail
Hiker passing Dale's Trail junction (view E)
Pine Creek Trail
Hiker passing exit from Fire Ecology Trail (view E)
Pine Creek Trail
Hiker looking down start of Fire Ecology Trail (view E)
Pine Creek Trail
Hiker approaching the final hill (view E)
Pine Creek Trail
Crowd of hikers on the final hill (view E)
Pine Creek Trail
Hikers at base of final hill (view E)
Pine Creek Trail
Final hill (view N)
Pine Creek Trail
Final hill (view N)
Pine Creek Trail
Hiker returning to the trailhead (view NE)

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 Pine Creek Trailhead 637417 3999122 3,988 0.00 0.00 GPS
02 Pine Creek Wash 637357 3998843 3,923 0.20 0.20 GPS
03 Fire Ecology Start 637185 3998820 3,962 0.11 0.31 GPS
04 Fire Ecology End 637139 3998808 3,976 0.03 0.34 GPS
05 Dale's Trail Jct 636965 3998718 3,980 0.13 0.47 GPS
06 Wilson Home Site 636507 3998532 4,030 0.33 0.80 GPS
07 Trail Forks 636477 3998548 4,030 0.02 0.82 GPS
08 Trail junction 635984 3998560 5,880 0.34 1.16 GPS
09 Wash Crossing 635946 3998508 4,134 0.05 1.21 GPS
10 Turn 635968 3998457 4,147 0.04 1.25 GPS
11 Pine Creek Overlook 636080 3998466 5,307 0.07 1.32 GPS
12 Arnight Trail Jct 636346 3998456 4,067 0.20 1.52 GPS
13 Creek Crossing 636397 3998489 4,052 0.05 1.57 GPS
07 Trail Forks 636477 3998548 4,030 0.08 1.65 GPS
05 Dale's Trail Jct 636965 3998718 3,980 0.35 2.00 GPS
04 Fire Ecology End 637139 3998808 3,976 0.13 2.13 GPS
03 Fire Ecology Start 637185 3998820 3,962 0.03 2.16 GPS
02 Pine Creek Wash 637357 3998843 3,923 0.11 2.27 GPS
01 Pine Creek Trailhead 637417 3999122 3,988 0.18 2.45 GPS

Happy Hiking! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 140425

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