|View across Little Zion to Arch|
|Las Vegas from Escarpment Rim|
|Climbing the Wall|
Little Zion (aka The Park) is located just below the Red Rock escarpment rim between Sandstone Peak and Monument Peak. It is unique because the large area consists only of sandstone slab and a few trees. The slab has "hills," washes and dry falls and is bordered by the sandstone bench of Sandstone Peak containing a long arch and another sandstone bench near Monument / Hidden Peaks that creates a beautiful wavy slab wash that sometimes has a trickle of water running down through it. The shortest route to reach the area begins at the Rainbow Springs Trailhead. And, the best way to reach this trailhead is by way of Lovell Canyon Road.
Fifteen hikers with five high clearance vehicles drove over Mountain Springs Pass (behind a very very very slow double trailer construction semi) and turned right onto Lovell Canyon Road at the trail kiosk. Almost 1 mile down the road, there is a gravel road that turns to the right. This road leads to Rainbow Springs in approximately 3 miles.
The gravel road is in good condition but because of the deepish gravel and just a handful of small road obstacles, high clearance is the best way to go. In addition, the end of the road offers a few parking places up on a small embankment that require high clearance to eventually get a vehicle turned around to leave.
|Starting around the Escarpment Rim|
We got all five cars parked at the end of the road in the last three parking options. Then we hiked to the vehicle gate and started hiking up the worn trail. Our usual way of reaching the approach canyon is by way of the spring wash. There is water in the springs. Today, however, the marsh grass was covering the trail and I chose to find a "parallel" way to cross the terrain. I didn't go high enough and ended up having to cross the marsh anyway. It's probably best to either take the exit route to get to the correct canyon or to take one of the overland trails that pass by the furthest agave roasting pit. At any rate, when we found that last agave pit, we knew we had found the correct approach canyon.
|Sandstone Canyon Below - Indecision Peak Across|
The first landmark in the canyon that is very recognizable is the wall scramble as seen in the fourth photo. If you choose to reach the approach canyon via the exit route, you will miss this scramble.
|Climbing the Hills on the Escarpment Rim|
There are two or three scrambles near this wall and then the wash remains fairly flat and wide with a gentle climb. You see the exit route trail (Mountain Springs Trail) crossing the wash just after the scrambles.
|Wind Blown Tree on Rim|
|"The Cairn" before diving into Little Zion|
We settled into a nice pace going up the easy wash. The trail within the small walls was very clear. After about a mile (?), there is a log across the wash that directs you to turn right into a small wash. This is the ascent wash that leads hikers up to the escarpment rim. As you crest the rim, the precipitous Sandstone Canyon drops before you and you see Spring Mountain Ranch between its entrance walls below. Today, we could see that there was almost no water in the state park's lake. To our left, the Indecision Peak bench stretched out toward Cottonwood Valley. To our right, the remaining rim circle above Sandstone Canyon can be seen. Our trail would follow this rim around to Little Zion.
|Starting down the Descent Trail|
The morning had begun cold with a biting wind that settled down to a breeze once we started. The climb had warmed us up but at the escarpment rim, the wind returned and we anxiously finished our small rest and continued. Turning right, we climbed up the first of four hills.
|View back to the Grand Entrance to Little Zion|
Colorful views of the jagged canyon entertained and threatened us at the same time. It's forbidding beauty held our eyes and, at the same time, we hiked only a few feet from the slippery edge filled with scree.
|Entering Little Zion|
The trail to Little Zion is in the best condition that I have ever seen it. We had no problems following it all the way to and from this time. At the crest of the fourth rim hill, the wide sandstone slab of Little Zion came into view. On the rim top, a large cairn has always existed to mark the trail. Today was no different. However, the cairn is not as large as it used to be. We followed the trail over the crest and down the limestone and brush on a diagonal track. At the bottom of the hill, the trail turns down a small wash and ends at a white sandstone dry fall. Taking note of the different twists and turns, we dropped down to the bottom of the falls.
At the bottom of the dry fall, I gave the strong group of hikers about 40 minutes to explore and enjoy "The Park." We had three newbies but the rest of the group had been here before. In retrospect, an hour would have been more realistic.
|Visiting the Arch|
Little Zion is so large that it took almost all of the 40 minutes of time just to hike from the top to one side and back. Most of the hikers chose the arch on the left side. A couple of us visited the wash on the right.
|View up the South Wash|
|View down the South Wash|
The wind had lightened up on this east side of the Sandstone Bluffs. Then, all too soon, it was time to leave ... as indicated by the slow movement of the group climbing up the sandstone in ones, twos and threes. They gathered at the meeting point two minutes early as seen in the third photo down. All of us chose to return up the trail we had come down and we climbed up to "The Cairn." A small rest at the crest and we were ready to go up and over the remaining three rim hills. Next, the trail at the descent wash was clearly marked and down we went. There were a lot of warnings yelled out for head level limbs! And, an occasional "Ouch!" was heard!
|View back toward the Escarpment Rim|
Along the trail above and below the rim, we saw very little bighorn scat but we did see a little bit of elk evidence. We have seen both animals in the past but not today.
|Steve & Laurie|
Hiking down the two washes that we had come up, we stopped a couple of times. The descent was easy and smooth. The tempest of the escarpment rim was replaced by the calm of the foothills.
|Gathering for the Trip Back|
|One Way to Climb the Big Dry Fall|
Down. Down. Down. When we finally reached the Mountain Springs Trail crossing the wash, we stopped for a pause. Phew! The descent had become slightly monotonous. We turned left onto the trail and climbed up and over a small hill. This put us onto Rainbow Springs Road very near a different agave roasting pit. We turned right onto the dirt road at a section where cars are not allowed. This trail led us all the way down to the trailhead with the gate. We noted the other two springs in the area on the left side of the road. There are also a couple more agave roasting pits around. Rainbow Springs must have been a bustling place for the Early Paiutes of the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries.
|Climbing out of Little Zion|
We had a great group of hikers today. I didn't offer Little Zion last year and many hikers were having withdrawals! It happens that way sometimes!
|Climbing back up to "The Cairn"|
Next time, we will spend more time at the park.
|Returning in the Lower Wash|
The post script to this entry is a must. We got all the cars turned around on the loose deep sandy gravel and traveled out the three miles to Lovell Canyon Road. Up and over Mountain Springs Pass without a slow truck in front of us but, OMG! There were two separate very long lines of cars queued up behind two different construction trucks exactly like what we had experienced earlier in the morning. They were coming up the hill from Las Vegas! It'll certainly be nice when the construction is done and there is a four lane separated highway up and over on SR 160.
6 miles; 1550 feet elevation gain; 3.25 hours; average moving speed 1.7 mph
|Mountain Springs Trail Junction|
|Rainbow Springs Area (Center Right)|
|Almost back at the Trailhead|