Thursday, October 30, 2014

Little Zion - 10/30/14

Arriving at Little Zion (aka The Park)

Sandstone Bow

The Trailhead Parking
 A large group of twenty hikers came out early for a hike to Little Zion (aka The Park). The early hour was called for due to the longish drive to the trailhead. We drove out Highway 160 over the Mountain Springs pass and turned right onto Lovell Canyon Road. At one mile down the road, we turned right into a small, deep gravel road. This is Rainbow Springs Road that heads into the Rainbow Wilderness behind the Red Rock Canyon escarpment.

Hiking Past the Marshy Springs
 The road is in pretty good shape but, still, high clearance vehicles are recommended. The tight turnaround at the trailhead parking could get you into trouble if you aren't prepared.

The Wall

Agave Roasting Pit
 We parked at the springs where the road becomes impassable by large vehicles and began the hike. Hoping to find an illusive trail, we hiked up the road to the agave roasting pit. Running into the marshy spring area, we decided to reverse our steps back to the wash below the marsh. We followed the wash up while continuing to choose the right fork of every wash presented. Soon, we came to the wall climb and knew we had chosen correctly.

The Main Wash Up
 From there, the right hand wash led us up toward the escarpment and curved around to the left. As we neared the top, we came to a blocked and cairned turn into a wash on the right.

Arriving at the Rim of the Escarpment

The Trail Around the Escarpment Rim
 This smaller wash continued up to the rim of the escarpment with a well used trail. And, tah-dah, the overlook of Sandstone Canyon and Spring Mountain Ranch State Park came into view below. A short break ensured us that all twenty hikers were together, then we turned to our right and began following the trail that circumvented the escarpment rim. This trail involved three short but steep ascents. The last ascent brought us to The Large Cairn.

Landmark Tree on Escarpment Rim
 Our views of the escarpment and Calico Hills of Red Rock Canyon during the circling of the rim were colorful. It was a cool and beautiful day. Bad weather would be coming in soon.

The Large Cairn Marking the Descent into Little Zion

The Trail Down to the Front Door of Little Zion
 We passed The Large Cairn and took the trail that bears around to the right for our descent to the sandstone. This trail continues until it hits a small wash. We used the wash for the rest of the descent navigating around a dry fall at the end. The dry fall might as well be the front door to Little Zion since the next part of the hike was pure sandstone. The first photo of this entry shows the front door entrance.

Expanse of Sandstone at Little Zion
 We had just come in the front door when we noticed two bighorn sheep leaving the area going in the direction of the closed arch up to the left.

Two Bighorns Leaving the Scene

Enjoying the View
 After watching the bighorns climb all the way up to the rim, the big group scattered into three or four smaller groups. Little Zion is a great place to forget the snack and just go explore. One group sat on the expanse of sandstone and enjoyed a nice view of the Strip. Another group climbed to the top of the arch. Single explorers went in a few other directions. It was a great day to enjoy The Park!

Some Hikers taking a Break on the Closed Arch
 For the trip back up to the limestone, we took the shorter but steeper route up the wash at the side door to The Large Cairn.

View Toward Monument Peak

Climbing Up to The Large Cairn
 Once we got up to the rim of the escarpment, we simply followed the trail back around to the small wash approach. We descended the small wash and larger main wash back to the springs area. Finding the trail that cuts across to the trailhead on the left side of the wash, we took this route back, past the agave roasting pit and down the road. A great hike, a great day!

5.5 miles; 1550 feet elevation gain; 3.25 hours

Returning Around the Escarpment Rim

Hiking Back Down the Main Wash

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