Thursday, April 27, 2017

Boneshaker Hill / Three Amigos Trail / Skull Canyon - 4/27/17

Cholla on Side of Boneshaker Hill

Cliffrose on Wall of Skull Canyon

Calico Hills from the North Blue Diamond Hills

Colorado Four O'Clock with Wilson Peak
 The North Blue Diamond Hills are located within the Red Rock Canyon NCA across Highway 159 from the Scenic Loop. Parking for any hiking done in the hills is right off the road in a small lot before you pass underneath the ranch gate. The hills offer miles of hiking trails in canyons and on ridges that are filled with Precambrian fossils and small wildlife. Today, nine hikers started at the trailhead parking lot, hiked up past the horse corral, and arrived at the base of Boneshaker Hill. On the way, we saw that the Colorado Four O'Clock flowers were still in their prime. Without much ado, we started climbing the hill and conversation began to subside. This hill gets your attention very quickly! We took a few "view checks" on the way up and took a bit longer to recover when we got to the top of the first section. Skull Canyon dropped deeply on the left side and Cave Canyon was on the right side of the narrowed ridge.

Climbing Boneshaker Hill
 The temperature was perfect today with gentle wind here and there to stave off the sun's rays.

The Red Rock Canyon Escarpment from Boneshaker Hill
 We could see the trail in Skull Canyon that we would be on near the end of the hike.

Skull Canyon from Boneshaker Hill

Still Climbing Boneshaker
 Even though the steepest part of Boneshaker Hill was behind us, we still had a long section of hill in front of us. We tackled the hill strongly while we took a few more "view checks." After all, the views seen on the North Blue Diamond Hills are some of the best in Red Rock. When we got to a long flat section of trail, we passed one trail that forked off to the left. This is the SARS Trail. At the next left fork, we turned. (... before reaching the Boneshaker sign.) We were then on the Three Amigos Trail.

Winterfat (White Tufts) on Boneshaker Hill
 The Three Amigos Trail travels on a contour above Mystery Woman Canyon, a canyon tributary of Skull Canyon. Our trail continued climbing up the hill.

Three Amigos Trail above Mystery Woman Canyon
 At the next fork, we turned to the right leaving the Three Amigos Trail to climb switchbacks up to the High Point Cairn Overlook where we took our snack break.

Cairn Overlook (High Point)

Calico Hills from Three Amigos Trail
 Someone had taken down the tall cairn that was built there. We built another shorter one. We sat looking at the gorgeous view of Las Vegas with the two tall rock outcroppings in front of us. The day was pretty clear. At the end of our break, we went back down the switchbacks that we came up and continued out that fork of the Three Amigos Trail. This put us on a shorter route down to the Muffins junction than the Rim Trail which is on the other side of the canyon that we passed.

Cliffrose at top of Skull Canyon
 At the Muffins Trail area, we continued down the SARS Trail until we reached the top of Skull Canyon. Here, we turned to the right and started our canyon descent.

Descending Skull Canyon Trail
 Again, we hiked through a myriad display of blooming flowers. We tried to name them as we passed.

Limestone Bed in Skull Canyon

Crossing the Canyon on Trail
 Skull Canyon is interesting due to its bed of limestone, likening to a bumpy road. The trail that travels down its sides can be slippery at several different places but no one fell today! We took in the overlook as we neared the bottom of the canyon then followed the Skull Canyon Trail all the way out. We passed the Muffins Trail junction and the Boneshaker Trail junction then finished the hike past the horse corral and back to the cars. We thought we might have located that big white horse that used to be at Mountain Springs Pass! It was a fantastic morning!

7 miles; 1300 feet elevation gain; 3.5 hours

Returning down Overlook Trail

Below the Walls of the Mouth of Skull Canyon

Desert Sage blooming on the Floor of the Hills

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