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Gold Butte Region


Located at the northeast end of Lake Mead. To get to the Gold Butte region from Las Vegas, drive east on Interstate-15 for about 70 miles to Highway 170 take Exit-112 towards Bunkerville, which is about 5 miles before the town of Mesquite. Turn right onto Highway 170 and drive south for about 3 miles to the Virgin River Bridge. Cross the bridge and immediately take a hard right turn onto the paved Gold Butte Road. Watch for a sign to Meadowland Farm. The slope of the road makes the turn look like a pullout rather than an intersection. Follow the paved Gold Butte Road southwest along the river until it abruptly turns southeast and leaves the river just past the Meadowland Farm. Stay on the rough paved road for another 14 miles and follow it until the pavement ends just before Whitney Pocket. At Whitney Pocket, the dirt road forks; continue straight on the graded-dirt unpaved Gold Butte Road or turn left onto Arizona Road. The Gold Butte Region is open year-round. There are no services or fees in the Gold Butte Region.

Three major ecosystems (Mojave Desert, Great Basin Desert, and the Colorado Plateau) meet here, providing for a varied and diverse flora and fauna. Much of the Gold Butte Region is relatively low desert and temperatures often are about 10 degrees higher at the lake than they are in Las Vegas. In these areas, dry-land activities generally are restricted to the cooler months. There are, however, higher mountains that provide a respite from the heat. The Gold Butte Region includes two designated wilderness areas: the Lime Canyon Wilderness Area (23,233 acres) and the Jumbo Springs Wilderness Area (4,631 acres) that were designated in 2002 under the Clark County Conservation of Public Land and Natural Resources Act of 2002. Several other parts of the Gold Butte Region were considered for inclusion in wilderness areas, but opposition by Republican house members in congress has blocked conservation efforts

Billy Goat Peak

2.4 Miles RT
Billy Goat Peak
Turn left onto the Arizona Road and drive east for 4.25 miles to Whitney Pass. About 0.25 miles beyond the pass, turn right onto an old road and drive south on Billy Goat Road. Without a high-clearance vehicle, park on the side of the road, only a few yards down Billy Goat Road. In a suitable vehicle, Billy Goat Road ends in about 0.25 miles. Park at the campsite on the left just before the end of the road, or park at the end of the road where it is a little harder to turn around. The route runs south from the end of this road through a 2005 burn area around a forested knob and drops into a saddle on the north side of Billy Goat Peak. From the saddle, the route climbs the north ridge until cliffs force the route onto brushy sideslopes. At that point, it probably is preferable to ascend the north gully or even climb onto the northeast ridge to reach the summit.

Black Butte Dam

Black Butte Dam Black Butte Dam Black Butte Dam
From Whitney Pocket, turn around and drive back north for 1.4 miles to a dirt road to the west, which is just past a large sandstone crag with campsites around the base. Turn left and drive west on Black Butte Road. A number of side roads branch off from Black Butte Road, but most are obviously not the main road. However, at 1.2 miles from the pavement, take the left fork in the road. At 1.9 miles from the pavement, pole fencing on the south side of the road delineates a parking area and trailhead. The reservoir is filling in with sediment, but it still holds back a fair bit of water. The hike to Black Butte Dam starts at the Falling Man Rock Art Site. From the far end of the rock art area, the route continues south following use-trails and washes to the dam. The walking is fairly easy, but parts of the route cross rocky areas where the use-trail is faint. After seeing so many petroglyphs at the Falling Man Site, your eyes will be trained to see others along the route.

Cottonwood Canyon

Cottonwood Canyon Cottonwood Canyon Cottonwood Canyon Cottonwood Canyon
From Whitney Pockets, drive south on Gold Butte Road for 16.2 miles to a fork in the road. Stay left onto Devils Cove Road and drive southeast for an additional 11.6 miles to a nondescript sandy spur road to the west. Turn right and drive a few yards northwest to a post and cable fence strung across Cottonwood Wash. Cottonwood Canyon makes for a nice route that leads to near the east edge of the Jumbo Springs Wilderness Area. The canyon starts narrow and rocky, then gets narrower with several little water-polished pour-overs to climb, and finally opens into a wider desert canyon. From high in the canyon, hikers can turn northeast, pick up an old road, and follow it back to the trailhead. There are no trails.

Devils Finger

Devils Finger Devils Finger Devils Finger
From Whitney Pockets, drive south on Gold Butte Road for 16.2 miles to a fork in the road. Stay left onto Devils Cove Road and drive southeast for an additional 14.5 miles to the end of the road, and the trailhead. Devils Finger is a ridge of rock that juts out into Lake Mead or the Colorado River, depending on water levels. Regardless, this is the bottom end of the Grand Canyon where the river flows out of deep canyons and into the open desert. The watery cove formed by the rocky ridge is Devils Cove. From the end of the road (depends on water levels), the route follows the side of the ridge out to the river, then loops back staying on the highest ridges until dropping back into the Devils Cove parking area.

Devil's Throat

Devil's Throat Devil's Throat Devil's Throat Devil's Throat Devil's Throat
From Whitney Pockets, drive south on Gold Butte Road for 7.25 miles to a signed turnoff to Devils Throat and the Red Bluff Byway. You can see the chain-link fence that surrounds the sink hole from the main road. Turn right onto the side road and drive southwest for an additional 0.4 miles to Devil's Throat parking area. Devil's Throat is a geological feature where the roof of a large limestone cave collapsed, leaving a huge sink hole in the middle of the open desert.

Falling Man Rock Art Site

Falling Man Rock Art Site Falling Man Rock Art Site
From Whitney Pocket, turn around and drive back north for 1.4 miles to a dirt road to the west, which is just past a large sandstone crag with campsites around the base. Turn left and drive west on Black Butte Road. A number of side roads branch off from Black Butte Road, but most are obviously not the main road. However, at 1.2 miles from the pavement, take the left fork in the road. At 1.9 miles from the pavement, a pole fencing on the south side of the road is where you can park. The Falling Man Rock Art Site is a fascinating petroglyph gallery that has seen many visitors over the years. From the trailhead, people now walk a few minutes where drivers once unknowingly damaged archeological features such as agave roasting pits and a prehistoric campsite. Walking into the Falling Man panel, people might now notice rock art on the crags along the trail. The trail is only about 0.3 miles, but the last bit of the route requires an easy scramble among the rocky sandstone crags. Off the beaten path, the farther you go and the more you look, the more rock art you find.

Gentry Ranch Area

Gentry Ranch Area Gentry Ranch Area
On the paved Gold Butte Road, the road follows the Virgin River downstream, then turns into the desert and climbs for several miles to cross a saddle between Virgin Peak and Little Virgin Peak. Shortly after the road starts down the other side of the saddle, a well-used dirt road forks off to the right at a curve. This point is about 14.2 miles from the start of the Gold Butte Road and about 6.5 miles before Whitney Pockets. From the turnoff, drive southwest and downhill for about 7 miles to a fork in the road, bear to the right as the road starts to climb towards Black Ridge. The road eventually turns and heads back towards the river. The road ends at the parking area and trailhead.

Gold Butte Townsite

Gold Butte Townsite Gold Butte Townsite Gold Butte Townsite Gold Butte Townsite Gold Butte Townsite
From Whitney Pocket, continue south on the unpaved Gold Butte Road for 20 miles on to the Gold Butte Townsite area, which is on the right side of the road. There are some corrals, and shortly after that is the main townsite. It is across the road from the signed turnoff to Red Bluff Spring. Drive through the old gates and park near the big trees in the center of the large cleared area, which is the old townsite. The townsite is the location of the historic mining town of Gold Butte, which was established in 1908. There evidence of mining, including a deep near-vertical shaft, old equipment, remains of old mills, and cement foundations, but all of the buildings are gone.

Little Finland

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From Whitney Pocket at the end of the paved Gold Butte Road. Continue south on the unpaved Gold Butte Road for 3.9 miles to Mud Wash North Road. Turn right onto Mud Wash North Road and drive southwest and downstream for 3.2 miles to Mud Wash Road. Stay right onto Mud Wash Road, continuing downstream for another 4.0 miles to Little Finland Road. Turn right onto Little Finland Road and drive northeast for 1.0 miles to a fork. Stay to the right and continue another 300 yards. At this point, a wide spot in the road, the road turns hard to the right and enters a narrow canyon. Without a good, high-clearance vehicle and sturdy tires, stop in the wide spot before entering the narrow canyon. Continuing into the canyon, the road climbs over a high and rocky step that is barely passable in 2WD. Beyond the step, the road runs easily for another 0.7 miles to a fenced parking area and trailhead at the end of the road. Little Finland (aka Hobgoblin's Playground and Devil's Fire) is a fascinating area where wind and water have sculpted red sandstone rock into fantastical shapes that rival the best of other areas in the southwestern deserts. From the trailhead, a short scramble leads up into Little Finland, which stretches out for about 0.4 miles to the north. Exploration is easy because the area is fairly level. The farther you go and the more you look, the more you find, but this is more of an elfin wonderland than an area of towering pillars.

Little Virgin Peak

Little Virgin Peak Little Virgin Peak Little Virgin Peak
From Highway 170 at the start of Gold Butte Road, drive south for 13.8 miles. As the road crosses the saddle between Big and Little Virgin peaks, watch for a wide spot on the right shoulder of the road adjacent to the toe of Little Virgin Ridge. Park here at the trailhead. Little Virgin Peak (3,514 ft) is a nice little peak that stands in the morning shadow of "big" Virgin Peak. This peak makes a nice add-on hike for visitors to the Gold Butte region, and even though the peak is low, easy, and only 2-miles round-trip, the 360-degree views from the summit are surprisingly grand. The hike also runs through a rocky cactus garden in the Mojave Desert Scrub, with nice examples of several southern Nevada cactus species.

Scanlon Dugway

4 Miles RT
Scanlon Dugway Scanlon Dugway Scanlon Dugway
Drive south on the paved Gold Butte Road to Whitney Pocket, then continue south on the unpaved Gold Butte Road to Gold Butte Townsite. In total, it is 44.9 miles from Interstate-15 to Gold Butte Townsite. From the Townsite, it is another 14 miles to the trailhead. Scanlon Dugway is the steep portion of an historic wagon road that connected northern Arizona with southern Nevada, crossing the Colorado River at Scanlon Ferry. The "dugway" is a section of road dug out of the cliffs where it climbs up Gregg Canyon to the high country between Bonelli and Jumbo peaks. The road is narrow, old, and rocky -- these days better left to hikers, although at the end of 2009, it was passable in a jeep. The steep part of the dugway drops 1,040 ft in 1.3 miles.

Virgin Peak Southeast Ridge

10.2 Miles RT
Virgin Peak Southeast Ridge
From town, drive out to Gold Butte and Whitney Pocket. The pavement ends just before Whitney Pocket, but the unpaved Gold Butte Road continues straight ahead as a broad, graded dirt road. About 120 yards past the end of the pavement, the narrower Arizona Road forks off to the left. This is a nice, but long 5.1-mile hike to the summit of Virgin Peak. The first 2.2 miles are on a road that washed during the spring of 2005, and the remaining 2.9 miles run off-trail up a long, brushy ridge with spectacular views in all directions. There no use-trails, few cairns, and lots of shrubs and trees, so although the route finding is easy, there is a lot of weaving around to find the way through the brush. The access road is washed out at the narrows and is unlikely to be reopened to trucks (ATVs can get through), so the round trip hike is now about 4.5 miles longer than it used to be. Adding interest to the hike, there are many fossils along the ridge and the vegetation in the Virgin Mountains is unique in Nevada. The sunny south-facing slopes support Singleleaf Pinyon and Utah Juniper all the way to the summit, but from the summit, you can look down the shady north and east-facing slopes to see tall conifer trees, including White Fir, Douglas Fir, Rocky Mountain Juniper, and Arizona Cypress. The Douglas Fir, Rocky Mountain Juniper, and Arizona Cypress are Pleistocene relics here, species left over from the last ice age. There might also be California Juniper along the ridge, a species not otherwise known from this mountain range.

Whitney Pockets

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From I-15 near Mesquite take Highway 170. Exit towards Bunkerville, cross the Virgin River, turn right onto the paved Gold Butte Road, and follow it for about 18 miles to Whitney Pockets. The Whitney Pocket is a popular undeveloped camping and picnic area way out in the desert nestled up against sculpted red-and-white sandstone crags at the foot of Virgin Peak. Humans have a long history here, evidenced by rock art left by the ancients, and cement dams and other structures left by ranchers. This is a great location to trailer to and unload your toys for unlimited miles of fun.