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McCullough Hills Trail
Hiking Around Las Vegas, Sloan Canyon NCA
McCullough Hills Trail
McCullough Hills Trail Anthem Hills Trailhead (view E)

Overview

The McCullough Hills Trail is a long (8-1/2 miles), but generally gentle hike in the Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area that runs between the Anthem Hills Trailhead and the McCullough Hills Trailhead. The trail can be hiked in either direction, but here it is described west to east. As such, the trail starts climbing gradually through rolling hills sparsely covered with creosote bush and white bursage. By the time the trail starts descending, the vegetation fairly robust and diverse, more typical of Mojave Desert Scrub vegetation, and the geology is more striking. Views from along the trail, and especially from the two main view points, are grand and sweeping.

Link to map.

McCullough Hills Trail
Horses use dirt road (left), hikers use trail (right)

This trail is designed to accommodate hikers, bikers, and horse riders, and in places three trails run parallel, one trail for each group. However, the instruction signs can be confusing, especially when people change the direction arrows.

It is nice that the three groups are separated in some areas. In particular, horses tend to tear up trails, so hiking on trails without horses can be much more pleasant. Also, hikers need not watch for bicycles careening down the trail, and bike riders need not worry that hikers will jump in the wrong direction at the last minute.

McCullough Hills Trail
Trail sign just beyond the trailhead (view E)

Watch Out

Other than the standard warnings about hiking in the desert, ...this hike is fairly safe with no unusual hazards. Hikers should keep an eye out for bikers careening down the trail, and always give the right-of-way to horses.

While hiking, please respect the land and the other people out there, and try to Leave No Trace of your passage. Also, even this hike is long, be sure to bring what you need of the 10 Essentials. Cell phones work from much of the trail.

McCullough Hills Trail
Switchbacking (view W to town and the mountains

Getting to the Trailhead

This hike is located in Sloan Canyon NCA and is accessed from urban neighborhoods in the Anthem and Horizon Ridge areas of Henderson. The west end of the trail is accessed from the Anthem Hills Trailhead, and the east end of the trail is accessed from the McCullough Hills Trailhead.

Described as a through-hike, this hike required a vehicle shuttle, which takes a surprisingly long 25-30 minutes or so.

Technically, the west end of the trail seems to start at the end of McCullough Hills Parkway, adjacent to Del Webb Middle School, but is appears that school officials would rather have hikers use the Anthem Hills Trailhead. Using the official trailhead adds only a few minutes of walking to the hike.

McCullough Hills Trail
Hikers arrive at powerline road

The Hike

From the Anthem Hills Trailhead (Table 1, Waypoint 01), the paved Anthem East Trail runs east into the desert. The trail quickly passes a junction on the left to the Poppy Trail (Wpt. 02), then switchbacks gradually up the hill, alternately giving nice views of desert hillsides to the east and urban areas to the west (also the Red Rock cliffs and the Spring Mountains in the distance).

After passing four switchbacks, the trail forks at a T-intersection (Wpt. 03). Staying right, the paved trail runs south. The pavement ends (Wpt. 04) at the edge of a dirt powerline road. Across the road is the first of the McCullough Hills Trail signs (Wpt. 05). Hikers could have arrived at this point directly by starting the hike at the end of McCullough Hill Parkway (Wpt. 01A), but this option involves parking issues.

McCullough Hills Trail
Typical trail sign

Turning east on the powerline road, it soon becomes apparent that a narrow foot-trail parallels the road. It seems that the foot-trail is intended for hikers and bikers, while the powerline road should be used by horse-back riders.

Vegetation in this area is sparse and stunted Mojave Desert Scrub, represented by creosote bush, white bursage, littleleaf ratany and little else, interspersed densely with gramma-type bunchgrass. There are also a few silver cholla and beavertail cactus. In general however, the vegetation shows poor diversity and is sparse and stunted, indicating that this area gets relatively little rain.

McCullough Hills Trail
Horses and hikers are separated (view E)

Running parallel to the powerline road, the trail passes two paved trails to the left (Wpt. 06; Wpt. 07) that tie back into the paved trail system originating from the trailhead, and hikers could have used these longer trails to arrive at the powerline road.

A bit farther along, the trail passes a spur trail to the right (Wpt. 08) that runs about 220 feet to a scenic overlook with a picnic table or something. A tad farther yet, the trail passes a trail junction (Wpt. 09) where the East Anthem Trail turns off to the right and runs some 5.4 miles south to the Shadow Canyon Trailhead.

McCullough Hills Trail
East Anthem Trail turns to the right (view SE)

Shortly, the trail leaves the road and turns left (Wpt. 10) at a trail sign and a yellow caution sign just before the powerline road ends. The trails here are quite confusing.

For hikers, use the south-most trail: from the trail sign, walk north a few yards to a trail junction (Wpt. 11), stay right, and in a few more yards, stay straight at at another trail junction (Wpt. 12). This trail is more direct and a bit steeper than the other two trails.

For equestrians, use the left-most trail (stay left at Wpt. 11). For bike riders, use the middle trail (stay right at Wpt. 11 and left at Wpt. 12).

Ultimately, all of these trail will come together again.

McCullough Hills Trail
End of the road (view E)

For hikers, the trail runs generally southeast, passing Mile Marker 7 (Wpt. 13) along the way. Not long thereafter, the trail curves to the north and arrives at a very confusing set of trail intersections (Wpt. 14; Wpt. 15) with very confusing trail signs.

As the hiking trail curves left, it passes an unsigned trail junction (Wpt. 14) on the right only a few steps before reaching a signed trail junction (Wpt. 15) where two trails appear to cross. For hikers, the simple answer is to turn right at the signpost and head east on the broad, new trail.

Reviewing aerial photos, it is apparent that the first trail to the right runs southeast about 0.35 miles to a dirt road; it seems that equestrians use this trail. The other two trails (left and straight on arriving at the sign post) are the bike trail and horse trail, respectively. These both connect back to the previous confusing intersection.

McCullough Hills Trail
Hikers on foot-trail (view E)

Continuing, the trail is wide, clear, and easy all the way to the far end. The trail generally climbs into the hills on a gradual incline, then crosses a low ridge and drops to cross a wash (Wpt. 16). Beyond the wash, the trail switchbacks onto the next ridge, crosses a dirt road (Wpt. 17), and passes Mile Marker 6 (Wpt. 18).

Continuing on a gentle grade, the trail crosses another wash (Wpt. 19) and climbs more steeply towards the next ridgeline. The trail passes 5-6 switchbacks (depending on what, exactly, you count) and arrives on the ridgeline where a nice shade structure with park benches beckons the tired hiker (this point is 3 miles out and mostly uphill). There is even a hitching rail for saddle-sore equestrians.

McCullough Hills Trail
Hikers on foot-trail (view E)

Beyond the reststop, the trail continues gently northeastward, passing Mile Marker 5 (Wpt. 21) and shortly arriving at a trail junction (Wpt. 22). Here, a sign post with the elevation marks the West Overlook Spur Trail to the left that runs northwest about 0.25 miles to the West Overlook (Wpt. 23) with great views to the west. Click the link for West Overlook photos.

Back at the main trail (Wpt. 22), notice that the trail sign reads: Highest trail elevation 3,120 feet, then continue eastward hiking UP the hill for about 200 yards. From there, the trail descends at moderate grades turning 5-6 switchbacks, again, depending on what is counted.

The trail winds down to cross a wash, then passes Mile Marker 5 (Wpt. 25) and begins climbing gradually towards the next ridgeline.

McCullough Hills Trail
Mile Marker 7

In this area, and for the duration of the hike, the vegetation becomes more robust and diverse. In addition to creosote bush and white bursage, there are tall mojave yucca and dense stands of buckhorn cholla. Indigo bush is common, and there are a few pineapple cactus, silver cholla, and barrel cactus.

Just shy of the ridgeline, the East Overlook Spur Trail (Wpt. 26) turns to the left. As before, this spur runs north about 0.17 miles to the East Overlook (Wpt. 27) with great view to the east and west, but especially towards mountains to the east. Click the link for East Overlook photos.

Back at the main trail (Wpt. 26), the trail runs east and descends the steep hillsides at a moderate grade. The east side of the mountains is more rugged, the rocks are more colorful, and the vegetation is even more diverse and robust.

McCullough Hills Trail
Hikers on foot-trail (view E)

Descending, the trail passes Mile Marker 3 (Wpt. 28) and continues to another shade structure (Wpt. 29) with benches and a hitching rail more or less at the bottom of the hillside.

From there, the trail resumes typical gentle grades as it runs down into the valley. The trail passes Mile Marker 2 (Wpt. 30) and crosses the broad, sandy wash in the bottom of the valley twice (Wpt. 31; Wpt. 32). After crossing a side wash (Wpt 33), the trail climbs out of the wash onto a colorful hillside and begins running more to the northeast.

The trail passes Mile Marker 1 (Wpt. 34), and then contours around the edge of a ridge, crossing a powerline road twice (Wpt. 35; Wpt. 36), once on each side of the ridge.

McCullough Hills Trail
A most-confusing trail junction

Past the ridge, the trail turns northwest and descends into the next canyon. The trail crosses another wash (Wpt. 37), this one with an old road, and runs up along the side of another colorful ridge as it climbs towards the final saddle and highpoint (Wpt. 38).

From the highpoint, the trail descends to the trailhead, which is visible ahead. While crossing the sandy wash, notice the desert senna, which has nice, pea-flowers during spring. This might be the northern-most population of this species, which is common in the California deserts.

The trail eventually arrives at the trailhead (Wpt. 39) on the edge of the urban area. Signs provide maps of the area and information about the area.

McCullough Hills Trail
Hikers on nice, new trail (view E)
McCullough Hills Trail
Hikers on nice, new trail (view E)
McCullough Hills Trail
Hikers on nice, new trail (view E)
McCullough Hills Trail
Trail climbs hillside (view E)
McCullough Hills Trail
Hikers crossing old road (view E)
McCullough Hills Trail
Mile Marker 6 (view E)
McCullough Hills Trail
Mile Marker 6 (view N)
McCullough Hills Trail
Trail climbs at gentle grades (view E)
McCullough Hills Trail
Hikers across wash (view NE)
McCullough Hills Trail
Trail marker and switchbacks up hillside (view NE)
McCullough Hills Trail
Hikers arriving at shade structure (view NE)
McCullough Hills Trail
Shade structure (view W to Red Rocks Cliffs)
McCullough Hills Trail
Shade structure (view E towards McCullough Hills)
McCullough Hills Trail
Hikers on trail (view N)
McCullough Hills Trail
Hikers at Mile Marker 5 (view NE)
McCullough Hills Trail
Mile Marker 5 (view N)
McCullough Hills Trail
Tall mojave yucca along trail
McCullough Hills Trail
Hiker at trail junction to West Overlook (view E)
McCullough Hills Trail
Sign at to West Overlook trail junction (view S)
McCullough Hills Trail
Hikers on main trail (view NE)
McCullough Hills Trail
Scenery (view N down hillside)
McCullough Hills Trail
Hikers on main trail (view E)
McCullough Hills Trail
Hikers at Mile Marker 4 (view NE)
McCullough Hills Trail
Mile Marker 4 (view SE)
McCullough Hills Trail
Hikers climbing towards ridgeline (view E)
McCullough Hills Trail
Hikers at East Overlook trail junction (view E; no sign)
McCullough Hills Trail
Hikers descending rocky hillside beyond ridgeline (view E)
McCullough Hills Trail
Trail descends rocky hillside (view E)
McCullough Hills Trail
Hikers passing Mile Marker 3 (view NE)
McCullough Hills Trail
Mile Marker 3 (view NE)
McCullough Hills Trail
Hikers descending across hillsides (view E)
McCullough Hills Trail
Hikers descending across hillsides (view NE)
McCullough Hills Trail
Hikers arriving at shade structure (view E)
McCullough Hills Trail
Hikers at shade structure (view E)
McCullough Hills Trail
Hikers descending gentle hillsides (view NE)
McCullough Hills Trail
Hikers passing trail marker (view NE)
McCullough Hills Trail
Hikers passing Mile Marker 2 (view E)
McCullough Hills Trail
Mile Marker 2 (view S)
McCullough Hills Trail
Hikers crossing broad, sandy wash (view NE)
McCullough Hills Trail
Hikers crossing broad, sandy wash again (view N)
McCullough Hills Trail
Hikers on gentle trail (view NE)
McCullough Hills Trail
Hikers crossing narrow wash (view NW)
McCullough Hills Trail
Hikers on gentle trail (view N)
McCullough Hills Trail
Hikers on gentle trail (view NE)
McCullough Hills Trail
Hikers beyond Mile Marker 1 (view NE)
McCullough Hills Trail
Mile Marker 1 (view SE)
McCullough Hills Trail
Hikers crossing powerline road at end of ridge (view E)
McCullough Hills Trail
Hikers turning into final canyon (view NW)
McCullough Hills Trail
Hikers climbing gently towards final highpoint (view NW)
McCullough Hills Trail
Hikers descending from highpoint (view NE)
McCullough Hills Trail
Hikers arriving at McCullough Hills Trailhead (view NE)
more to come ...

Table 1. 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 Anthem Hills Trailhead Trailhead 672853 3983550 2,587 0.00 0.00 Yes
01A Trailhead Alternate 672848 3983413 2,591 . . GPS
02 Poppy Trail Junction 672859 3983562 2,587 0.01 0.01 GPS
03 T-intersection 672959 3983495 2,617 0.17 0.18 GPS
04 Paved Trail Ends 672930 3983392 2,616 0.08 0.26 GPS
05 McCullough Hills Trail Sign 672921 3983376 2,615 0.01 0.27 GPS
06 Paved Trail Junction 673138 3983327 2,674 0.14 0.41 GPS
07 Paved Trail Junction 673322 3983276 2,732 0.12 0.53 GPS
08 Spur Trail 673663 3983159 2,781 0.23 0.76 GPS
09 Anthem East Trail Junction 673697 3983129 2,796 0.03 0.79 GPS
10 Depart Powerline Road 673735 3983104 2,811 0.03 0.82 GPS
11 Trail Forks 673741 3983118 2,795 0.01 0.83 GPS
12 Trail Forks 673766 3983126 2,830 0.02 0.85 GPS
13 Mile Marker 7 674229 3982905 2,897 0.38 1.23 GPS
14 Trail Forks 674377 3982791 2,917 0.13 1.36 GPS
15 Trail Forks 674378 3982803 2,938 0.01 1.37 GPS
16 Wash Crossing 675247 3982557 2,916 0.62 1.99 GPS
17 Powerline Road 675504 3982578 2,968 0.21 2.20 GPS
18 Mile Marker 6 675594 3982538 2,969 0.06 2.26 GPS
19 Wash Crossing with Road 676227 3982400 3,024 0.45 2.71 GPS
20 Highpoint with Shade 676371 3982522 3,117 0.30 3.01 GPS
21 Mile Marker 5 676499 3982778 3,084 0.32 3.33 GPS
22 Trail Junction 676835 3982903 3,124 0.30 3.63 GPS
23 West Overlook 676630 3983073 3,167 . . GPS
24 Highpoint on Trail 677003 3982866 3,131 0.12 3.75 GPS
25 Mile Marker 4 677085 3983224 3,023 0.61 4.36 GPS
26 Trail Junction 677873 3983227 3,098 0.62 4.98 GPS
27 East Overlook 677980 3983305 3,155 . . GPS
28 Mile Marker 3 678430 3983219 2,976 0.53 5.51 GPS
29 Shade Structure 678888 3983289 2,852 0.40 5.91 GPS
30 Mile Marker 2 679469 3983519 2,762 0.50 6.41 GPS
31 Crossing Broad Wash 679633 3983569 2,725 0.13 6.54 GPS
32 Crossing Broad Wash 680073 3983735 2,672 0.32 6.86 GPS
33 Crossing Narrow Wash 680173 3983815 2,659 0.10 6.96 GPS
34 Mile Marker 1 680497 3984207 2,613 0.46 7.42 GPS
35 Powerline Road 680605 3984281 2,595 0.09 7.51 GPS
36 Powerline Road 680614 3984304 2,612 0.02 7.53 GPS
37 Wash Crossing 680439 3984504 2,613 0.19 7.72 GPS
38 Highpoint 680257 3984913 2,615 0.34 8.06 Map
39 McCullough Hills Trailhead Trailhead 680514 3985381 2,513 0.38 8.44 Yes
  * Note: don't input waypoints by hand; rather, download the file and upload it to a handheld GPS unit.

Happy Hiking! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 130310

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