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Carole Lombard Crash Site via Mt. Potosi Road
Hiking Around Las Vegas, Spring Mountains NRA
Carole Lombard Crash Site
Carole Lombard Crash Site
Upper route (telephoto view from Goodsprings)

Overview

In 1942, a plane carrying Carole Lombard (famous movie star and wife of Clark Gable) crashed high on the east face of Mt. Potosi. The site is now a footnote in history, visited occasionally by plane crash buffs, Carole Lombard fans, and strong Las Vegas hikers. The traditional route, the road serving communication towers near the summit, is now gated at the bottom of the mountain. The road makes for a long, extremely steep, and very hot walk, but hikers are free to trudge the 3.4-mile road, then descend 0.5-miles to the crash site. This route is so hot and steep that many hikers prefer the shorter, but much more difficult direct route up the east face of the mountain. Take note: strong hikers have been forced to turn back from this "road."

The crash site has been picked over for decades, but much material remains [photos], including small bits of human remains. Please respect the site and the memory of those who died here. Link to overview map, or hiking map.

Carole Lombard Crash Site
Approaching Mt. Potosi

Watch Out

Other than the standard warnings about hiking in the desert, ... this hike is on the steep and sunny side of the mountain, so bring plenty of water. Off the road, be careful of falls and loose rocks, but there are no unusual hazards. Be careful on the Class-2 scramble through the cliffs too. Some metal shards at the crash site have sharp, rusty edges.

While hiking, please respect the land and the other people out there, and try to Leave No Trace of your passage. This is a tough hike, so be sure to bring the 10 Essentials. Make sure this route of the appropriate difficulty for your skills. Cell phones work from some parts of the route.

Carole Lombard Crash Site
Goodsprings (view SE down the steep hillside)

Getting to the Trailhead

This hike is located on the east side of Mt. Potosi, about 1 hour southwest of Las Vegas.

From Las Vegas, drive south on Interstate-15 to Jean (Table 1, Site 1370). Exit the interstate and turn right onto Highway 161 (signs to Goodsprings and Sandy Valley). Drive northwest for about 6.7 miles to the Pioneer Saloon (Site 1367) in Goodsprings.

Continuing past the Pioneer Saloon, drive west about 0.2 miles to a T-intersection with Esmeralda Street. Turn right and drive north 3 blocks to a T-intersection with West Pacific Avenue. Turn right and drive east two blocks to the end of the pavement, turn left, and drive north on an unpaved road.

Carole Lombard Crash Site
Mt. Potosi Road (view N)

Continue northward 0.35 miles to a paved road that joins from the right (Truck Bypass Road). After about 4.3 miles on the pavement, the road forks (Site 1371). The pavement (right) runs out to a gravel pit, while the dirt road (left) is Mt. Potosi Road.

For drivers not interested in visiting Goodsprings, consider bypassing town using the paved Truck Bypass Road. On Highway 161, at about 1.2 miles before Goodsprings, turn right onto the truck route and follow the pavement around the east side of town. After about 1.9 miles, the unpaved road from town joins the Truck Bypass Road at a hard turn to the right. About 4.3 miles past the right turn, the road forks (Site 1371). Turn left onto the dirt road, which is Mt. Potosi Road.

Mt. Potosi Road is a graded dirt road used by workers servicing communications towers on the mountain, so they have serious incentive to keep the road drivable, but it should be considered a 2WD-HC road. Continue 2.0 miles on the dirt road to a heavy gate (Site 1369). Park here; this is the trailhead.

Carole Lombard Crash Site
Mt. Potosi Road (view NE)

The Hike

From the trailhead gate (Table 2, Waypoint 01), the route follows the steep dirt road up onto the mountain. Parts of the road are extremely steep, so steep that some parts are paved to improve traction for utility trucks servicing communications towers atop the mountain. Most of the hike is in full sun.

At about 2.27 miles out, the road forks (Wpt. 02). The route stays left, while the right fork runs up to a peak on the ridge with communications towers.

By 3.36 miles out (Wpt. 03), the road has been running at a gentle grade high on the west side of the summit ridge (near the ridgeline). As the road approaches the next peak, the road leaves the ridgeline and contours off across west-facing slopes. At a wide spot in the road (Wpt. 03), a wide and well-worn path leads a few feet onto the crest of the ridge.

Carole Lombard Crash Site
Mt. Potosi Road (view NE)

What had appeared as a well worn path was a mirage: there is no path to the crash site, not even a use-trail.

From the crest of the ridge (a few steps east of Wpt. 03), the route runs east a few more yards to the edge of a cliff, then turns north into a gully that permits Class-2 scrambling down through the cliffs. Before dropping off the cliff, look ahead to the east-northeast about 150 yards and notice a limestone outcrop (Wpt. 04) a bit below eye-level. The route passes just below the toe of the outcrop.

From below the limestone outcrop (Wpt. 04), the route climbs towards the ridgeline to the northwest. The hillside is steep with some large, loose rocks. This area burned in a forest fire, and there are many dead and blackened trees on the hillside.

Carole Lombard Crash Site
Route departs road (view N from comm. towers)

Climbing onto the ridgeline (Wpt. 05), the route turns northwest along the top edge of a cliff. The aircraft impacted the cliff below, and most of the debris field spreads out down the slope below, but some was thrown to this point above the cliff.

Turning northwest, the route angles down through a broken area in the cliffs (Wpt. 06) to a broad gully, then descends the steep gully. In the gully, hikers should be careful and avoid dislodging rocks that might fall on hikers below. At the bottom of the cliff, the steep gully opens onto the crash site (Wpt. 07).

From the base of the gully, the impact site is a few yards southeast along the cliff, not far up the cliff face. Follow the broad gully downhill to see the remaining debris. The larger parts are in the gully stretching out below the impact site.

Carole Lombard Crash Site
Apparent wide and well-worn path (view E from road)
Carole Lombard Crash Site
Looking ahead to limestone outcrop (view NE from atop cliffs)
Carole Lombard Crash Site
Descending the first cliffs (view down and NE)
Carole Lombard Crash Site
Climbing through burn area towards ridgeline (view NE)
Carole Lombard Crash Site
Starting down through second cliffs (view down and NE)
Carole Lombard Crash Site
Hiker arriving at the base of the crash-site cliffs
Carole Lombard Crash Site
Crash site debris - engine [more debris photos]
Carole Lombard Crash Site
Crash site debris - landing gear [more debris photos]
Carole Lombard Crash Site
Steep gully - starting out from the crash site (view NW)
Carole Lombard Crash Site
Route back up through the first cliffs to the road (view SW)

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

Site Location UTM Easting UTM Northing Latitude (N) Longitude (W) Elevation (ft) Verified
1367 Goodsprings 641672 3966291 35.83237 115.43150 3,686 GPS
1369 Potosi Mtn Rd at Gate 636411 3975668 35.91763 115.48813 5,437 GPS
1370 Hwy I-15 at Hwy 161 (Jean) 651168 3960722 35.78076 115.32747 2,881 GPS
1371 Truck Route at Potosi Mtn Rd 638383 3973298 35.89599 115.46669 4,573 GPS

Table 2. Hillside Route 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 Trailhead 636409 3975671 5,460 0.00 0.00 GPS
02 Fork in the Road 635726 3977982 7,592 2.27 2.27 GPS
03 Depart Road 635816 3979094 7,925 1.15 3.42 GPS
04 Below Limestone Crag 635970 3979136 7,847 0.14 3.56 GPS
05 Top of Ridge 636161 3979272 8,037 0.20 3.76 GPS
06 Top of Gully 636105 3979320 8,023 0.07 3.83 GPS
07 Crash Site 636153 3979371 7,825 0.10 3.93 GPS
03 Depart Road 635816 3979094 7,925 0.51 4.44 GPS
01 Trailhead 636409 3975671 5,460 3.42 7.86 GPS

Happy Hiking! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 140916

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