Monday, December 14, 2015

Hikes 2015.088 and 2015.078 -- Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area, NV

Hiked Friday, November 20, and Friday, October 23. It had been about a year since my last trip to Sloan Canyon. On that trip, I had only walked about half way to the petroglyphs. My previous trips, to the petroglyphs, were on September 27 and March 24, 2013. I also failed to find the right canyon back in February of that year. That was trying to follow the BLM's directions.

I later found more reasonable directions, although, again, I improvised some. However, in 2014, I observed that construction had begun, again, at the "Inspirada" development in Henderson. With that, roads and access changed more frequently.
As of November 2015, these are what I would consider to be the "best" directions to the petroglyph trail head:

From Saint Rose Parkway (NV-146), head south on Executive Airport Drive about 2 ½ miles. Along the way, you’ll pass Volunteer Blvd (currently, the only traffic signal between Sloan Canyon and St. Rose Pkwy). The road also renames from Executive Airport Drive to Via Inspirada.

About 2 ½ miles from St. Rose Pkwy, the speed limit drops to 15mph, and the road makes a 90 degree turn to the left, where the street then becomes Bicentennial Pkwy. Proceed down the hill, watching your speed. After about 1/3 of a mile, turn right, on Via Firenze. At this point, Via Firenze is a pair of one-way roads, divided by a median. Further up the hill, the separation increases, and you’ll find a park (Aventura Park, a city of Henderson park) between the two parts of Via Firenze. It’s the last public restroom on the way to your trailhead.
Depending on future develop-ments, this may be the closest you'll be able to drive to the trail head. Or, access from this end may eventually be closed, entirely, and you'll have to access it via a different route. If I become aware of that, I'll post updated directions, again.
Currently (as of November 2015), you can continue north, a block or so beyond the park. There, Via Firenze t-bones into Democracy Drive. West (right) of Via Firenze, Democracy Drive is paved for only 15 or 20 yards. Red reflector signs indicate the end of the pavement.

As of November 2015, you can pass around the reflectors and continue a few hundred yards, to the covered top of the concrete wash that runs down from the large detention basin. If you check some of my earlier posts on Sloan Canyon, you'll note that this is actually the same spot I've been parking pretty much all along.

Passenger cars may likely wish to park just over the wash cover, where the smoothed dirt area is large enough that you could park without obstructing the passage of other vehicles. Some high-clearance vehicles may either be able to cross over the pipe (perhaps with the assistance of 4x4 or 6x6 inch boards), or you may be able to head further west and find a way to pass south of the pipeline.

Either way, once past the pipe, you want to walk south, just past the line of tall, brown, metal towers that bear high tension wires, running east to west. Once past the towers, you'll find the rough dirt road that parallels power lines. After about 1/10th of a mile on this road, a sign on the left indicates the way to Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area.

Previously, if you had a vehicle with off-pavement capabilities, you could drive about 1 1/2 miles or so south, to a parking area, just where the canyon narrows. However, currently, the parking area is only about 1/2 mile north of the power lines, just past the large sign that welcomes you to the Conservation Area.

Just beyond the current parking area, a new trail, designated Trail 101, comes in from the east. I haven't walked that way to see where it ends, but, depending on construction developments along the route I have described so far, I can imagine that this alternate trail may turn out to be the main way to the Petroglyph Canyon.
Until that day, however, you wish to take Trail 100, which heads right from the new parking area. The trail is well-defined as you head towards a the hills to your south. Another 3/4 mile or so and you'll reach the old parking area, and the informational kiosk.

From there, you're surrounded by much closer canyon walls.

Just past the kiosk, there's a canyon that comes in from the right. There is no official trail going up that canyon, and I have never walked that way.

Sticking on the main trail, you'll pass another canyon coming in from the right in about 1/2 mile. As of November 2015, there was a metal sign holder, but the sign that used to indicate that Trail 200 was up that canyon is no longer there.

To reach the petroglyphs, continue up the main canyon, which remains Trail 100.

After a couple of turns left and right, you'll pass several dry waterfalls. In each, you're usually better off sticking to the left side of the canyon. Most of the barriers are can be walked up if you stick to the left. Only the last barrier (3rd or fourth, depending on how large of a barrier it must be to count as a barrier) requires a short climb. By "short," I mean about two steps.

A large flat rock was at the base of this climb. Some petroglyphs were visible on that rock.
Most of the ancient rock art, however, is just past that cliff, and mostly on the right side, for the next 1/4 or 1/3 of a mile.

As previously noted in other Sloan Canyon posts, it's important that you stay off the rocks and avoid touching the petroglyphs. Doing either could damage and degrade the art.
Visiting the canyon at different times naturally leads to different lighting conditions. The angle of the light can very much affect the visibility of the petroglyphs, so definitely look backwards, down the canyon you're walking, as well as up-canyon, or side-canyon. Also, try visiting at different times of the day.

The rock art is concentrated along what seems like a very short segment of canyon--no more than 1/4 mile.

After passing the main area of petroglyphs, the canyon turns to the right (west).
A few hundred yards after the turn, you'll see a trail, heading up the hill, towards an impressive volcanic plug. It should be signed as Trail 200, and it's the other end of the trail you passed about 1/2 mile after entering the narrow section of the canyon.

Returning this way rather than retracing your steps had the advantage of seeing something different, and means you won't have to descend that short, steep barrier you passed on the way up.
If you take Trail 200 back, you climb rather quickly, and approach that large volcanic plug. I have not yet tried climbing up to near the top of that outcropping, and do intend to try, some day.

In the meantime, by staying on the defined trail, you reach a pass in about 1/2 mile. From there, it's another 1/2 mile descent, to get back to trail 100. Then, return the way you came.
I would roughly estimate the entire hike as about 4 miles, roundtrip.

Once back at your car, recall that you had to drive a 1-way road to reach Democracy Drive. On the return trip, from Democracy Drive, you're looking for the south-bound version of Via Firenza. If you succeed, you'll have Aventura Park on your left as you head back towards St. Rose Parkway.
From Via Firenze, head north, then turn left on either Bicentennial Parkway (which will retrace your drive) or Volunteer, to get back to Via Inspirada.

Two important notes: One, with construction on-going, stop signs and possibly traffic lights and traffic patterns may change regularly. People who live in this neighborhood may not always know when those changes have occurred, any may think they have the right of way when they really have a stop sign or a yield sign (or they must might be crappy drivers).
Also, even if they know the area, you, as a visitor, may not. So drive carefully and defensive-ly, and keep an eye out for both vehicles and pedestrians.
Once at St. Rose, turning left would take you to I-15. From there, you could head south, to Los Angeles, or north, to Las Vegas. You could also take I-15 north, to the Beltway. The Beltway west would eventually take you to Summerlin. Turning east would take you to the airport (not the fastest way from where you were) or to Henderson and Boulder City. However, more likely, if that was your destination, you'd have turned right at St. Rose. After 3 miles or so, St. Rose will turn to the left and become Pecos Avenue. It will soon intersect the Beltway this way, too.

I enjoy hiking Sloan Canyon. It's almost always mostly quiet (ignoring the executive planes and helicopters passing nearby) and lightly traveled (although last time there was a group of about 8 high school or college-aged males, and they were obnoxiously loud).


  1. Thete''s now a paved road to the parking area, which puts you about a mile from the petroglyphs:

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