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North McCullough Wilderness Area
Sloan Canyon Loop
Hiking Around Las Vegas, Sloan Canyon NCA
Sloan Canyon Loop
Sloan Canyon Loop
Sloan Canyon Trailhead parking (view NE)

Overview

This Sloan Canyon Loop Route is a nice 7-mile off-trail loop in the North McCullough Wilderness Area., which is located in the Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area. The route starts at the Sloan Canyon Trailhead and winds up washes past scramble-ups, pour-overs, and an amazing petroglyph gallery (Petroglyph Canyon) to a saddle on the crest of the range. From the saddle, the route traverses east under the north face of volcanic cliffs to the next saddle, then turns back to the north and follows an old road and washes downhill until reconnecting with the original route and closing the loop near the petroglyph gallery. From there, the original wash is followed downhill to the trailhead. Just hiking to the Petroglyph Canyon is about 3.7 miles, round-trip.

Link to map.

Sloan Canyon Loop
Hikers at BLM100-BLM101 trail junction (view SE)

Watch Out

Other than the standard warnings about hiking in the desert, there are no particular dangers on this route. There is one, non-trivial (3rd-class) water-polished 10-foot pour-over to climb (about 1.8 miles out), but it isn't bad if you are willing to climb on the most exposed part. If you slip, you land in the sandy wash.

Getting to the Trailhead

This hike is located in the Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area, on the north side of the North McCullough Wilderness Area. From town, drive south about 45 minutes to the Sloan Canyon Trailhead.

Sloan Canyon Loop
Hikers at forward trail sign and sign-in register (view W)

The Hike

From the trailhead (Table 1, Waypoint 01), The trail runs down the hillside into Sloan Wash, which is then followed uphill for a total of 1.84 miles to Petroglyph Canyon (Wpt. 09). For details of this section of the hike, see the BLM 100 (Petroglyph Canyon) Trail.

Note that getting to Petroglyph Canyon requires climbing a 10-foot pour-over where the canyon is blocked by a large chockstone. In all cases, the rock is smooth and slippery. The pour-over is fairly easy to climb on the exposed corner where the rock sticks out into the wash. Hikers could use the BLM 200 (Horseman's) Trail as an alternative that reconnects with Sloan Wash (Wpt. 11) above the petroglyph gallery.

Sloan Canyon Loop
Approaching BLM100-BLM200 trail junction (view SW)

In the petroglyph gallery (Wpt. 09), there are amazing petroglyphs on both sides of the canyon, and in places, almost every boulder is marked. Petroglyph Canyon is a special place. For the ancient people who created the artwork, this probably was a spiritual place as there are no signs of habitation in the area. For the rest of us, this is a glimpse into the lives of those who lived on this land before we got here. Please respect the spirituality and history of this place. Take only photographs, leave only footprints, and don't touch the artwork.

Continuing the loop route, the route runs up the wide, sandy wash past the petroglyph gallery. Sloan Wash bends to the southwest at a point where another fairly large wash comes in from the south (Wpt. 10). This fork in the canyon is about 1.98 miles from the trailhead, and this side canyon is the one that the loop route comes back down to close the loop.

About 10 minutes past the side wash, a trail marker in the middle of the wash (Wpt. 11) announces the end of the BLM 100 Trail at a junction with the BLM 200 Trail and the BLM 300 Trail. Watch for petroglyphs along the sides of the wash in this area.

Sloan Canyon Loop
Hikers at BLM100-BLM200 trail junction (view SW)

At this point in the hike, the canyon is quite open, seeming more like a shallow valley with mountains rather than a canyon, with a towering rock spire just ahead on the right.

From the trail junction (Wpt. 11), the route continues up the main wash following the BLM 300 Trail. In about 50 yards, the wash forks and the BLM 300 Trail is followed up the main left fork.

The wash bends right, then bends left, and again the wash forks (Wpt. 12). Here the route stays right on the BLM 300 Trail following the main wash. As an alternative, hikers can turn left into the narrower wash and rejoin the regular route in about 0.5 miles.

Continuing southwest, the wash winds through a rocky canyon as it threads between two isolated peaks. Emerging from the canyon, the wash opens into a broad flat basin sprinkled with eroded rock outcrops. The peaks on the north side generally are low and rounded, but the peaks to the south are steep, craggy, volcanic peaks.

Sloan Canyon Loop
Hikers at 10-ft pour-over (view W)

As the wash enters the open basin, it bends hard to the left to run almost due south. Shortly, a side wash merges from the left that can be seen to stay against the base of the mountain on the left. At this point, a cairn (Wpt. 13) marks the point where the BLM 300 Trail exits the wash and begins heading south towards the high peaks in the distance.

Here, the route stays left into the wash and follows along the base of the mountain heading generally south-southeast. The wash runs up between the mountain on the left and a rocky ridge on the left. Past the first rocky ridge, and before another rocky crag (separate, but a continuation of the rocky ridge), notice ahead on the left an old road that leaves the wash and cuts up across the hillside, eventually going over a low saddle just left of the rocky crag.

The route follows the old road onto the low saddle (Wpt. 13a). From the saddle, the old road continues southeast across the hillside, crosses the wash below, and climbs up over the next low saddle heading east. For hikers who don't want to do the entire route, the old road can be followed over that next saddle and down into the next drainage to the east.

Sloan Canyon Loop
Hikers entering Petroglyph Canyon (view S)

Continuing the regular route, the old road is followed over the saddle, down into the wash below (Wpt.14). The wash is then followed upstream all the way to a saddle on the crest of the mountain range (Wpt. 15). Along the way, hikers need to scramble under boulders and find an easy way to head uphill. The crest of the range is broad and open, with some well-used bighorn sheep trails. Rocky peaks flank the saddle, especially to the west.

After enjoying the view south towards Primm and the New York Mountains, the route heads east on sheep trails cutting across the north-facing slope while staying fairly high under the cliffs. It takes about 10 minutes to cross the slope and drop into the next saddle on the main ridge (Wpt. 16). The old road, seen before, crosses this saddle and continues downhill to the south.

In contrast to the lower hillsides, the hillsides at this elevation are covered with fairly dense and diverse, if low-growing, vegetation. There are lots of shrubs, plus a few silver cholla, pencil cholla, California barrel cactus, and Mojave yucca. These higher slopes catch and retain more precipitation than the lower slopes, which allows more species to survive here.

Sloan Canyon Loop
Petroglyph Canyon (view S)

From the saddle (Wpt. 16), the route turns north and runs down the slope and wash following the old road. After about 15 minutes on the old road, hikers will have passed around the east side of a small peak and arrived in a broad, open area (Wpt. 17). The old road turns and runs northwest from here back towards the saddle hikers crossed previously (Wpt. 13a). Here (Wpt. 17), the route leaves the old road, angles northeast, drops into the wash, and follows the wash northward.

The wash runs along the east edge of Peak 3623. The top of the canyon is fairly broad, but soon the wash runs in a fairly narrow channel. The canyon gradually narrows and gets rocky. The hiking is easy, but there is one pour-over to scramble around (Wpt. 18) and there are several easy scramble-downs in the narrow part.

The canyon finally begins to widen as hikers pass Peak 3623 and the wash merges with a large wash coming from the left (Wpt. 10). This larger wash is Sloan Wash, and the loop is finished. From here, the route descends through Petroglyph Canyon, drops over the four pour-overs, and continues down the Sloan Wash to the trailhead (Wpt. 01)

Sloan Canyon Loop
From Petroglyph Canyon, the loop follows the arrows (view S)
Sloan Canyon Loop
At first fork in the canyon, outbound route stays right (view SW)
Sloan Canyon Loop
Route continues up Sloan Wash (view W)
Sloan Canyon Loop
Approaching the broad, flat basin (view SW)
Sloan Canyon Loop
Petroglyphs at edge of wash (view SW)
Sloan Canyon Loop
Petroglyphs
Sloan Canyon Loop
BLM100-BLM200-BLM300 Trail Junction (view SW)
Sloan Canyon Loop
Trail sign at BLM100-BLM200-BLM300 Trail Junction (view SW)
Sloan Canyon Loop
Route follows Sloan Wash (view SW)
Sloan Canyon Loop
Canyon opens into broad valley (view SW)
Sloan Canyon Loop
BLM 300 and route exit Sloan Wash (view S)
Sloan Canyon
Broad flat valley with eroded rocky outcrops (view SW)
Sloan Canyon Loop
Route runs up wash (view S)
Sloan Canyon
Rocky outcrops near the first saddle (view W)
Sloan Canyon Loop
Interesting geology (view S)
Sloan Canyon Loop
Route runs up wash (view S)
Sloan Canyon Loop
High saddle on the crest of the range (view S)
Sloan Canyon
Traversing hillsides and dropping towards low saddle (view NE)
Sloan Canyon
Wash beyond the old road (view N)
Sloan Canyon Loop
Atop pour-over (view N down the canyon)
Sloan Canyon Loop
Looking back, hiker atop pour-over (view S up the canyon)
Sloan Canyon Loop
Returning to Petroglyph Canyon (view N)
Sloan Canyon Loop
Petroglyph Canyon (view W)
Sloan Canyon Loop
Stone tortoises: guardians of Petroglyph Canyon (view SE)
Sloan Canyon Loop
Top of 10-ft pour-over (view down from atop stone ladder)
Sloan Canyon Loop
Passing BLM100-BLM200 Trail junction (view N)
Sloan Canyon Loop
Passing trail information sign and sign-in register (view N)
Sloan Canyon Loop
Hikers returning to the trailhead (view W)

Table 1. Hiking Coordinates Based on GPS Data (NAD27; UTM Zone 11S). Download Highway GPS Waypoints (*.gpx) file.

Wpt. Location UTM Easting UTM Northing Elevation (ft) Point-to-Point Distance (mi) Cumulative Distance (mi)
01 Petroglyph Canyon Trailhead 669171 3976082 2,954 0.00 0.00
02 Petroglyph Canyon Trail Sign 669373 3976109 2,814 0.18 0.18
03 BLM 100 Trail at BLM 101 Trail 669442 3976067 2,861 0.06 0.24
04 Sloan Canyon Trail Register 669331 3975256 2,921 0.53 0.77
05 Canyon Narrows 669327 3974673 2,995 0.43 1.20
06 BLM100 Trail at BLM200 Trail 669282 3974452 2,990 0.17 1.37
07 First Pour-Overs 669437 3974282 3,043 0.16 1.53
08 Canyon Narrows 669457 3974023 3,086 0.23 1.76
09 Petroglyph Gallery 669398 3973973 3,162 0.08 1.84
10 Wash Forks 669389 3973770 3,169 0.14 1.98
11 BLM100-BLM200-BLM300 Trail Junction 669059 3973636 3,225 0.26 2.24
12 Wash Forks 668846 3973453 3,284 0.23 2.47
13 BLM 300 Trail Departs Wash 668577 3973290 3,370 0.27 2.74
14 Low Saddle 668669 3972972 3,481 0.22 2.96
15 Enter Wash 668829 3972812 3,484 0.13 3.09
16 High Saddle on Crest of Range 668695 3972306 3,665 0.50 3.59
17 Low Saddle on Crest of Range 669036 3972267 3,609 0.24 3.83
18 Leave Old Road 669182 3972820 3,483 0.42 4.25
19 Pour-Over 669366 3973116 3,407 0.28 4.53
10 Washes Fork 669389 3973770 3,169 0.52 5.05
09 Petroglyph Gallery 669398 3973973 3,162 0.14 5.19
01 Petroglyph Canyon Trailhead 669171 3976082 2,954 1.84 7.03

Happy Hiking! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 160926

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