Saturday, April 2, 2016

Little Zion - 4/2/16

Little Zion (aka The Park)

Sandstone & Pines

Drainage Lines

Trailhead Parking for Seven Vehicles Plus
 Thirty hikers in seven high clearance vehicles drove to Rainbow Springs located behind the Red Rock Canyon NCA escarpment this morning. Directions from Las Vegas: drive over the Mountain Springs Summit Pass on Highway 160 and take the first right turn after passing the little town of Mountain Springs; this is Lovell Canyon Road. Next, drive one mile and turn right onto a one lane gravel road. This road has never been really "bad", however, high clearance is recommended due to some rutting and a few rocks. This road is three miles long and the end of the road is the trailhead.

New Fencing to Protect Rainbow Springs
 We piled out of the cars and parked as tight as we could off the road. At the end of the road, we noticed that there is a brand new fence constructed to keep out all motorized vehicles that might destroy the sensitive area of Rainbow Springs.

Starting with a Scramble
 Passing two ancient agave roasting pits, we found a trail that led down into the first wash. If you find yourself in the immediate vicinity of an eight foot dry fall scramble, you have found the correct wash!

Winding Up Wash

Ascent Wash
 This wash leads gently up by winding around to the left. A trail leads you around obstacles. Eventually, the route takes a turn to the right where a log belligerently crosses your path. The trail up continues and the ascent slope becomes a little steeper as you finally reach the escarpment rim from the back side. As you come over the lip of the rim, a surprise awaits! You have arrived at the top of Sandstone Canyon which is the canyon located behind Spring Mountain Ranch State Park.

Topping Out on Escarpment Rim
 Red Rock Rondezvous has begun and we could see its Tent City on the grounds of the ranch below.

Sandstone Canyon - Red Rock Rondezvous Tent City at Spring Mtn. Ranch
 To our left, we could see Peak-ee-Toe and Indecision Peak. To our right, our rim trail circled around at the top of limestone cliffs.

Starting Up Trail Around Rim

Colors and City Beyond
 After a small break, our long line of hikers continued around the rim on the trail. First, we climbed. Then, we dropped a little. Then, we repeated this until we arrived at the Big Cairn landmark. This is an important cairn that marks the spot where everyone needs to pass going to and coming from Little Zion which we could now see far below us. The scenery around the rim trail had been outstanding. But the scenery below us at this point was a whole different ballgame!

Rim Trail
 The white and yellow sandstone laid out in the distance promising beauty in every direction.

The Big Cairn Landmark
 The trail dropped down to the right then today's leader quickly took a left turn into the steep wash to finish the descent.

Dropping Down on Trail to Little Zion

Hitting the Sandstone
 At the bottom of the wash, a little bit of sandstone scrambling was required before we made our grand entrance onto the slab. A few pines surrounded us until we broke through into the open. At this point, the large group of hikers divided into two groups. One group headed over to the closed arch to do a little scramble up to the top. The other group hiked the length of the valley and stopped for a view at the overlook cliff. Next, they crossed over to the waterfall slot.

Thirty Hikers Invade Little Zion
 The slot had a large puddle of water in the first part of it and a few hikers managed to get by it and take a look down into the abyss.

Descending Straight to the Valley
 Hikers dispersed somewhat to visit the different points of interest or to take their snack break up on the sandstone above.

End of the Valley Overlook

Hikers enter Waterfall Slot Below
 The Park (Little Zion) is such a fun place to visit that it is customary for the group to explore the area as they see fit during an extended snack break. After several minutes, the group that explored the arch scrambled back to the main sandstone plateau and a few of the slower hikers expressed interest in getting a head start on climbing back up to the Big Cairn landmark. Yes, this is the most difficult part of the morning. So, a hiker volunteered to lead them up slowly and, eventually, the entire group was following in the distance.

Waterfall Slot
 The volunteer decided to return to the rim the easiest way she knew how which was to catch the trail at a lower point.

Exploring the Closed Arch
 A low fat dry fall on the left side of the ascent starts this route. A couple of very small washes follow then a short steep climb up brings you to the trail.

Some Hikers taking a Break High on the Sandstone

Climbing Back up the Wide Open Sandstone
 From there, it is a matter of slowly and steadily climbing the trail until you reach the Big Cairn. As instructed, the hikers waited here for the last to arrive. One by one, we all made it back up to enjoy the rim view once again. When the leader swept the tail end of the line, he took over and we began retracing our steps around the rim trail. Clouds hung low over the Spring Mountains nearby and the cool light wind made the day perfect.

Almost back to the Big Cairn Landmark on the Trail
 When we reached the descent wash junction, we picked up the one hiker that had decided to stay behind and started down.

Following the Trail Around the Rim
 Leaving any hiker behind is never something we want to do. It worries us to separate from anyone especially when we cannot see them for any distance.

Clouds over the Spring Mountains

Starting Down the Wash Trail
 We descended through the wash, wash junction, and other wash then took a left turn onto the Mountain Springs Trail. A short part of this trail took us back over to the Rainbow Springs area and we dropped back down to the cars. Extricating our cars from the dead ended road was expertly accomplished with a lot of help! Then, we were on our way again. Little Zion is a great hike and will remain in our repertoire for years to come.

6 miles; 1600 feet elevation gain; 4 hours

Artistic Display

Descending through the Wash

The Trail at Rainbow Springs Area

Today's Route in the Park

Today's Route in the Park

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