Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Cave Canyon, Three Amigos Trail, and The Muffins - 12/23/14

Las Vegas Cairn Overlook

View Back Through Cave Canyon

The Muffins and Bridgepoint Peak Beyond

 Seven hikers started out at the Cowboy Horse Trails parking lot off of Highway 159 across from the Red Rock Canyon NCA scenic drive area. We hiked up the short way to the upper horse stables where there were no horses being prepared for the day's ride. Today's horses were being readied at the lower corral so we hiked through the area and dropped down to the trail that leads to Echo and Cave Canyons.

Climbing the Trail into Cave Canyon
 After passing the Echo Canyon Trail that leads off to the right, we started up the formidable hill into Cave Canyon. This is the steepest climb of today's hike and we were happy when we reached the first cave on the right.

The Trail into Cave Canyon
 This is not a deep cave and, right now, it has been painted with graffiti almost completely. We caught our breath then crossed through the wash and found ourselves at the first of two large dry falls for the day.

The Toughest Dry Fall Climb

The rocks beneath the short 3rd class climb are not as built up as last time we were here but the first step up is still doable. One by one, we climbed up the sturdy rock then continued up to the next level. It wasn't long before we reached the main cave of two that hikers enjoy exploring. This cave was newly decorated with blue graffiti that was removed in the photograph below.

Exiting the Main Cave
 A few of our hikers went up to the entrance without needed flashlights and peeked in. This cave is also "decorated" inside.

Hiking Up the Canyon
 We continued our gentle climb through the canyon while staying in the wash as much as we could. Now and then, a trail would take us up on the left side to easily bypass a few wash obstacles.

Having a Little Fun with Two Foot Exposure

 The scrambling in Cave Canyon is fun. It isn't terribly difficult and it gives the arms a little workout with the legs. The trail is in decent condition but it still gives the impression that it doesn't see much foot traffic. We saw several piles of bighorn scat throughout the upper elevations of the canyon but did not see any of the large wildlife.

Hiking Up the Left Fork of Cave Canyon
 When we reached the fork in the wash, we took the left fork. This trail continues the hike and scramble out to a "dead end" dry fall.

Climbing Out of Cave Canyon's Left Fork
 There are three ways to climb out at this point. Most of us took the challenge and tried the one straight ahead of us that is deemed to be the most difficult. ... No problem!

Trail Between Cave Canyon and Boneshaker Hill Trail

 Not long after the dry fall, we junctioned with a trail that crosses the upper elevations of the North Blue Diamond Hills. We took a left and junctioned with the Boneshaker Trail where there are the remnants of a sign as seen in the photo to the left. We continued hiking straight (not right or left) and found the Three Amigos Trail that travels on the rim above Mystery Woman Canyon. This trail was previously called the Middle Rim Trail on this website. Wishing to stay consistent with the bikers, it will now be referred to as the Three Amigos Trail.

Hiking the Three Amigos Trail
 We hiked up the canyon rim until the trail began a few long skinny switchbacks on a fairly gentle slope. Here, we bushwhacked up the slope to the tall cairn marking the high point of the North Blue Diamond Hills, as seen in the first photo.

Walking the Conglomerate Limestone Spine During Break
 We took our break here as we overlooked Las Vegas on a wonderfully clear day. Sylvie and Janet decided to explore a nearby conglomerate limestone spine during the respite.

Heading Back on the Continuance of Three Amigos Trail

 After the break, we dropped back down off of the hill and returned to the Three Amigos Trail at the wooden trail marker. Continuing out this faint trail brought us over to and above the Old Las Vegas Overlook area. In the photo to the left, you can see the overlook from our trail with Gass Peak in the background. We dropped down and crossed this trail on the saddle to begin hiking the Muffins Trail.

Starting Out the Muffins Trail
 This trail circles around a small hill up to your right. It also becomes faint at times but does eventually reach the rim of the hill and leads down to the Muffins.

Taking in the View at the Muffins
 We stopped at the Muffins for a couple of minutes and two hikers climbed up on top of one of the conglomerate outcroppings.

Enjoying a Beautiful Day at the Muffins

 Nearby, there was a small joshua tree that someone had hung candy canes on. There were no papers on the candy canes so we guessed it was okay. Hmmm. Anyway, from there, we took the Muffins trail down to the Skull Canyon junction and on out through the desert back to the cars to complete a large partial loop. Great day for hiking!

7.5 miles; 1500 feet elevation gain; 4 hours

Someone's in the Christmas spirit!

Descending on the Muffins Trail to Skull Canyon

Crossing the Desert back to the Cars

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