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Rocky Gap Road
Backroads Around Las Vegas, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
Rocky Gap Road
Rocky Gap Road
End of pavement; start of Rocky Gap Rd (view NW)

Overview

Rocky Gap Road is an extremely rugged backcountry road that runs from Willow Springs Picnic Area in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area (BLM land) to Lovell Canyon Road in the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area (USFS land), threading a narrow gap between the Rainbow Mountain Wilderness Area and La Madre Mountain Wilderness Area the entire way.

Link to Overview Map, Western Section Map, or Eastern Section Map.

Rocky Gap Road
Sign: Not A Maintained Road, Travel at Own Risk

The road is rough on the east side of the mountains, but it usually is passable in not-so-high-clearance 4WD vehicles, such as a Chevy Suburban.

The road is more washed out on the west side of the mountains, but it is passable in 4WD vehicles such as a stock Jeep Rubicon, a 1995 Tacoma with 1.5 lift, and a stock Ford Raptor. Some spots are tight for the Raptor, but the washed out area is passable to semi skilled drivers and spotters with stock 4x4s. There no longer is need for tricked-out rock crawler jeeps, but bring a high-lift jack, a shovel, a tow rope, and a buddy if you want to drive the entire road.

Rocky Gap Road

The road provides access to hikes on the north side of the White Rock Hills (e.g., La Madre Spring, La Madre Miner's Cabin), hikes in Red Rock Canyon (e.g., Waterfall Canyon), and hikes on the backside of the Red Rocks Escarpment (e.g., North Peak and Bridge Mountain).

Rocky Gap Road is 8.9 miles long. For hikers on the Red Rock side of the mountain, the road is reasonable for any 4WD vehicle for the first 1.7 miles (to the base of Waterfall Canyon). Beyond there, the road is quite rugged in places, but passable over the summit and down through the washout (at about 6.7 miles out) to Lovell Canyon Road (8.9 miles out). I expect that over time, off-road clubs will fix the worst of the road.

Rocky Gap Road
0.17 miles out

Watch Out

Other than the standard warnings about driving in the desert, ...this is an extreme drive. Under normal conditions, driving the entire road is suitable only for skilled drivers. From the west, driving the first 2 miles requires only regular 4WD, and from the east, driving the first 1.7 miles requires only regular 4WD.

While out, please respect the land and the other people out there, and try to Leave No Trace of your passage. Also, even though this road is short, be sure to bring what you need of the 10 Hiking Essentials plus vehicle repair and rescue gear.

Rocky Gap Road
Crossing Red Rock Wash; 0.52 miles out

Getting to the Roadhead

This road runs between Willow Springs Road on the east side and Lovell Canyon Road on the west side.

From Las Vegas, drive out to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, pay the fee, and then drive about half-way around the Scenic Loop Road to Willow Spring Road. Turn right and drive north 0.6 miles to the end of the pavement (Site 0181). Rocky Gap Road continues straight ahead as a dirt road.

From Lovell Canyon Road, drive out Highway 160 towards Pahrump. About 3 miles west of Mountain Spring Summit, turn north onto Lovell Canyon Road and drive north on the pavement for 7.5 miles to a dirt road on the right (Site 1077), which is Rocky Gap Road (Forest Road #549).

Rocky Gap Road
0.63 miles out

The Road

From the Willow Springs Picnic Area (Site 0181), Rocky Gap Road continues northwest and up the canyon past the pavement. The rocky road runs up Red Rock Canyon between Red Rock Wash and the towering sandstone cliffs of White Rock Mountain. This is a good area to see bighorn sheep, so keep an eye out. There are also some Native American agave roasting pits along the road, evidence that people have been using this area for thousands of years.

At about 0.55 miles out, the road crosses Red Rock Wash. There are several parking areas along the road just before the wash, a clue about what is to come. Most hikers in trucks, and everyone in sedans, will park in this area.

Rocky Gap Road
Red dirt; 0.77 miles out

At about 0.64 miles out, the road passes the La Madre Trailhead. It sometimes takes 4WD to get past the wash, but once in a while maintenance is done along this section, making it passable for high-clearance, 2WD vehicles. Just beyond the trailhead, a patch of road is quite rough.

The road bends to the west and climbs across a red hillside as it runs up the west fork of Red Rock Wash. From here and for most of the next mile, the road is rocky, but not bad.

At about 1.25 miles out, a large parking area is passed on the left. This is a good place to stop and enjoy the scenery. There is a similar place about 1/4 miles farther up the road. These pull-outs are referred to as the "pink-jeep turn-around" spots.

Rocky Gap Road
1st scenic pullout; 1.26 miles out

From the second pink-jeep turn-around, the road continues another 0.2 miles to where the creek from Waterfall Canyon crosses the road. Water often flows across the road here, and as a result, it can be a bit washed out. This is a good place for drivers in regular 4WD vehicles to stop, as the road deteriorates considerably beyond this point.

Just past the water, the road turns a sharp corner and climbs out of the wash on a steep bank with lots of large boulders to negotiate. After four quick switchbacks, the canyon bends to the south.

Much of the road beyond this point is narrow and rocky, runs along the edge of cliffs, climbs steep switchbacks, and hops across boulders in the bottom of the wash. In general however, if you can get past Waterfall Canyon, the road isn't too bad.

Rocky Gap Road
2nd scenic pullout in trees on left; 1.46 miles out

At about 4.6 miles out, the road passes Switchback Spring and finally winds up to Red Rock Summit at 5.8 miles out. This is a great place to stop, stretch the legs, and take a few photos.

Continuing over the summit, the road runs down hillsides into the bottom of the canyon to the west. After the road hits the wash, it gets rougher, and at about 6.7 miles out, it is washed out and difficult in regular 4WD vehicles. For the next 200 yards, the bottom of the canyon is a jumble of huge boulders that is best passed using the assistance of spotters. Past the washout, the road is rough in places, but is again passable in regular 4WD vehicles.

Rocky Gap Road
1.60 miles out

At about 8.5 miles out, the road runs out to the edge of a bluff overlooking the paved Lovell Canyon Road that can be seen below in the bottom of the canyon. The Rocky Gap Road takes a sharp turn to the right (north) and runs down and across the hillside. Before turning right, a lesser, hardly noticed road turns to the left and heads south.

On the main road, most of the way down the hillside, the road passes through a gate that appears never to be locked. Beyond the gate, Rocky Gap Road takes a hairpin turn to the left (and another lesser-used road continues straight.

Continuing down, the main Rocky Gap Road turns back to the right and heads west across Lovell Wash to the paved Lovell Canyon Road. Civilization is downhill to the left.

Rocky Gap Road
End of the easy road; 1.66 miles out
Rocky Gap Road
Approaching Waterfall Creek
Rocky Gap Road
Just past Waterfall Creek; often a difficult spot
Rocky Gap Road
Easy street
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Rocky Gap Road
North Peak Trailhead parking
Rocky Gap Road
Easy street
Rocky Gap Road Rocky Gap Road
Rocky Gap Road
Often a difficult spot in the wash
Rocky Gap Road
Back on easy street
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Rocky Gap Road
Narrow spot
Rocky Gap Road
Approaching Switchback Spring
Rocky Gap Road
Easy street
Rocky Gap Road
Dropping into the wash; often a difficult spot
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Rocky Gap Road Rocky Gap Road
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Rocky Gap Road
Rocky Gap Summit - Highpoint on the road
Rocky Gap Road
Rocky Gap Summit trailhead parking (Bridge Mountain trailhead)
Rocky Gap Road
High in the canyon -- looking back down
Rocky Gap Road
High in the canyon -- looking back down
Rocky Gap Road
High in the canyon -- looking back down
Rocky Gap Road
High in the canyon -- looking back down
Rocky Gap Road
Washout; about 6.65 miles out
Rocky Gap Road
Navigating boulders (June 2011; not so bad now)
Rocky Gap Road
Even seasoned drivers need a spotter
Rocky Gap Road
Even seasoned drivers need a spotter; 6.75 miles out
Rocky Gap Road
Rainbow Mountain Wilderness Area on right (6.9 miles out)
Rocky Gap Road
Checking rocks before driving over (7.2 miles out)
Rocky Gap Road
Easy road (8.3 miles out)
Rocky Gap Road
Easy road (8.4 miles out)
Rocky Gap Road
Open gate before hairpin turn (8.6 miles out)
Rocky Gap Road
Lovell Wash (8.8 miles out)
Rocky Gap Road
Lovell Canyon Road (8.9 miles out)
Rocky Gap Road
Rocky Gap Road (view east from Lovell Canyon Road; 8.9 miles out)

Table 1. Backroad Coordinates (NAD27; UTM Zone 11S). Download Roadway GPS Waypoints (*.gpx) file.

Site # Location UTM Easting UTM Northing Latitude (N) Longitude (W) Elevation (ft) Verified
0181 Willow Spring Picnic Area 635106 4002654 36.16104 115.49798 4,575 Yes
0406 La Madre Spring TH 634311 4003136 36.16549 115.50673 4,849 Yes
0501 Rocky Gap Rd, summit 632064 3999277 36.13102 115.53235 6,457 Yes
0858 Rocky Gap Rd at Red Rock Wash 634411 4003036 36.16457 115.50564 4,741 Yes
1077 Lovell Cyn Rd at Rocky Gap Rd 628556 3997739 36.11763 115.57158 5,331 Yes
Washout-East Washout-East 630944 3998996 36.12864 115.54484 6,135 Map
Washout-West Washout-West 630853 3998920 36.12797 115.54587 6,106 GPS

Happy Hiking! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 140306

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