Saturday, March 20, 2010

Keystone Thrust - 3/20/10

The Keystone Thrust hike is normally 2 miles in length. However, today we made the hike a 3.4 mile loop and began the hike at the Red Rock Scenic Loop at mile marker six (White Rock Springs Road). After hiking up the road, thirty-two hikers took to the trail and hung a right at the hill of wooden steps. Reaching the saddle, we hung another right and climbed Cactus Hill as a bonus for the day.

Cactus Hill is a great overlook for the Red Rock Canyon floor. We could see where we would be hiking this morning as seen in the photo below. There was also a good overhead view of part of the Keystone Thrust. The latter is seen in the photo at the top. We took a small break here because the climb was tough and this was the highest point of the morning.

We hiked back down the hill the same way we came up and continued to the colorful Keystone Thrust area below. We sat among the sandstone rocks for a nice snack break.

The U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Manage- ment website ( gives us the following information on Red Rock's Keystone Thrust. "The most significant geologic feature of Red Rock Canyon NCA is the Keystone Thrust Fault. The Keystone Thrust is part of a large system of thrust faults that extends north, into Canada and began to develop approximately 65 million years ago. A thrust fault is a fracture in the earth's crust that is the result of compressional forces that drive one crustal plate over the top of another."

"This results in the oldest rocks on the bottom of the upper plate resting directly above the youngest rocks of the lower plate. At Red Rock Canyon NCA, the gray carbonate rocks of the ancient ocean have been thrust over the tan and red sandstone in one of the most dramatic and easily identified thrust faults to be found. The Keystone Thrust Fault extends from the Cottonwood Fault along State Route 160 north for 13 miles along the crest of the Red Rock escarpment. It then curves east along the base of La Madre Mountain before it is obscured by very complex faulting north of the Calico Hills."

Another interesting tidbit about the Keystone Thrust is the succulent which grows beneath the rock overhang. It is possible that it is of the dudleya family of succulents. If you have any information on this plant seen two photos above, please comment below. Later into the hike, we came upon this caterpillar tent seen to the left. This is another sure sign of spring.

After our break, we dropped down into the wash below which begins at the bottom of a dry waterfall about thirty to forty feet high. The wash travels over the red and white sandstone making pools and potholes and creating miniature slot canyons. In the distant background, you could see the escarpment peeking out from behind the adjacent Cactus Hill.

Abruptly exiting the beautiful sandstone, the wash continues down through limestone and brush. There was a trail that lead around some of the more brushy spots. Another ten foot dry waterfall provided some excitement and soon, we came to the wash's intersection with the scenic loop.

We ducked our heads and hiked through the culvert built under the road and continued until the wash intersected with the Grand Circle Trail. The Grand Circle Trail is a twelve mile trail which encircles the Red Rock Canyon floor. After making one last turn to the right, we hiked on this trail for only around half of a mile. This final half mile brought us back up to the road where we had parked our cars earlier. Even though this hike was only 3.4 miles, it was enjoyed by all who participated.

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