Sunday, March 12, 2017

Mountain Springs Peak Loop - 3/12/17

Spring Mountains from Mountain Springs Peak Trail

Calico Hills from Escarpment Cliffs

Mountain Springs Trail

Passing the Communications Tower
 Mountain Springs Pass on Highway 160 holds a trailhead that is useful for many hikes on top of the southern portion of the Red Rock Canyon escarpment, aka the Wilson Cliffs, aka the Keystone Thrust. One hike the club does from this trailhead is Mountain Springs Peak, a limestone peak located behind the sandstone Black Velvet Peak. It is a high point of this area. The hike can be done as an out and back on a Class 2 trail but, today, ten hikers opted for the loop route that includes trail, bushwhacking, and light scrambling in a wash.

Spring Mountains & Rainbow Springs Road from Heartbreak Hill
 We started up Heartbreak Hill right out of the cars. It was 57 degrees on a day when the valley would reach into the low 80's.

After the Fork
 The climb to the ridge, aka The Saddle, is likely the most challenging part of this hike with 600 feet of gain in the first mile.

Still Climbing

Mountain Springs, NV from Trail
 The climbing doesn't take a break until the route reaches the Windy Peak fork. We took the left fork and circled around near the edge of the escarpment rim where we could see Black Velvet Peak in front of the distant view of Las Vegas. The climbing starts again but it is a little more gentle. Finally, we made our approach to Mountain Springs Peak, a round-topped peak lying directly behind Black Velvet. We all wrote in the log book at the peak then started down the trail that goes along the rim.

Las Vegas beyond Trail
 This section of the hike is the most photogenic section with the Calico Hills lending color in the background and the cliffs presenting intrigue in the foreground.

Approaching Mountain Springs Peak
 We stopped at the Snack Cliff and took a break. It was a beautiful morning and we were very happy to be out having a picnic in such a beautiful place.

Calico Hills from Peak

Snack on the Cliffs
 After our break, we began the next section of the hike. We followed the trail to the next ridge leading down to the left and turned. This ridge took us down to a small wash located on the left side of it. This wash is navigable from beginning to end but there is still a lot of brush. Avoiding the brush was considered our agility course for the morning. It provided a full body workout as we bent, swooped and twisted. There was a slight amount of actual scrambling as well. We followed the wash down almost to where it junctioned with a larger wash coming in from the right side.

Starting down Descent Ridge
 As we learned, be careful not to escape the wash until the brush on the left side ridge lightens up. Once on the ridge, we walked down between the bushes until we found the Mountain Springs Trail crossing our path.

Scramble in Descent Wash
 This trail runs along the foothills from Mountain Springs to Rainbow Springs then continues up to the escarpment rim. It is used often by horse and riders.

Lower Descent Wash

Hiking across Mountain Springs Trail
 We followed the trail all the way back to the springs for which Mountain Springs is named. From there, we made our way over to the agave roasting pits and used road/trails back to the ranch with the two miniature horses. (Didn't see the big white horse today.) It was a great hike on a beautiful day with perfect temperatures on the escarpment.

6.5 miles; 1400 feet elevation gain; 3.5 hours

Mountain Springs from Trail

Nicely Preserved Agave Roasting Pit

Home Stretch

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