Thursday, July 2, 2020

Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area, NV, Petroglyph and Cowboy Trails

Hiked Saturday, June 27.
This was actually one of my first hikes upon my "return" to the Las Vegas Valley. I've been back numerous times, since then. My second time there is blogged, here. Looks like a few trips blogged here, too.

Among the things that have changed over the past 10-12 years is that there's a paved road to a small parking lot at the top of Nawghaw Poa Road, in Henderson (south of Democracy Drive). Several alternate ways there now, and you can probably use your gps to find an all-pavement route to the trailhead, now. Also, Executive Airport Drive, which you used to take from St. Rose Parkway, is now Raiders Way, with a lot more development along the way than there used to be. And the length of the hike is shorter, now, because you can drive on pavement closer to the petroglyphs..
The trail itself has also changed. What used to be "Trail 100" is now "Petroglyph Trail." What used to be Trail 200 is now "Cowboy Trail." And the trail to the petroglyphs now starts from the south side of the parking lot. Previously, it went down to the east, into a wash then upstream.

Now, you walk the "high" way, along the crest of a rounded "ridge" for about 1/2 mile, before dropping down into the wash. That's just a rough distance, by the way; I didn't measure.
Once you do drop into the wash (hopefully, following the proper, switch-backy trail), you'll see a wooden barrier "downstream," and a sign that they are doing habitat restoration down there. A connector trail, number 101, used to meet the old Trail 100 further down there, so you could connect to the rest of the Sloan Canyon and Henderson trail system. Now, it looks like 101 continues to the paved Nawghaw Road. There's a paved bike path that parallels the actual road. Didn't notice if the hiking trail just goes up the bikepath or parallels that, too. Regardless, if you found the upper lot closed or full, you'd park "down there" and could walk up towards the parking lot, adding some climbing and another mile and a half or so to your hike, roundtrip. On my first few trips to Petroglyph Canyon, parking "down there" was a requirement, at least for non-high clearance vehicles.

Looking upstream from the wooden barrier, there's a sign that indicates you're on the Petroglyph Trail. It also tells you that dogs are not allowed on this trail.
I was starting relatively late-morning, say around 9:30am. Temperatures were already well above 90. But the lot was pretty empty. I guess most hikers and joggers came earlier, or not at all. During my entire hike, I was passed by exactly one jogger, and that was it. Again, the summer temperatures worked in favor in terms of letting me do a socially distanced hike.
This morning temperature was still cooler than my previous afternoon/evening of hiking, however. This meant more active wildlife. Lots of lizards, and a fair number of small rodents, which I'm pretty sure were white-tailed antelope squirrel. Very distinctly white-tailed, not like the normal brown-tailed ones I have seen elsewhere. There was also a trio of hawks, squawking and apparently challenging each other.

Oh, yes, and while I didn't post any pictures, I saw LOTS of tarantula hawks, visiting a mesquite tree, I think. The night before, I saw a couple of HUGE tarantula hawks, but didn't try for any pictures then, either.
It's kind of interesting that, each time I come here, some petroglyphs I see all the time, and others I seem to discover for the first time. So when I compare pictures from different visits, some images appear repeatedly, while others appear only once.
Part of the variability is due to the time I'm hiking. The angle and direction of light affects which petroglyphs become more prominent, or even visible.
This time, there was a rock I couldn't find. After passing the main gallery, after the trail bends to the right, there used to be a rock on the left side of the canyon with a couple of images. Didn't see it, this time. Again, I don't know if that means the rock's not there any more or I just couldn't find it, but I did not see it.
After about 1/8 mile of heading west, there was signage for the Cowboy Trail, on the right. As I mentioned earlier, it used to be just Trail 200. Also, at that point, if you went further up the existing wash instead of turning on to Trail 200, the signage used to indicate you were now on Trail 300. This time, I did not see any mention of Trail 300. I don't know if that means it's been decommissioned or just isn't signed (at least on this side) any more.
Made my way on up to the pass, with the big volcanic plug on the left. I like the view here. But you can't see the Strip from this pass. You'd have to head a bit higher up on that mountain rise to see that.
However, technically, in this section of the Conservation Area, off-trail travel is not permitted. So I've never made it up any higher.

I did see a drone flying around this area, once. That is also not permitted, possibly to help preserve cultural resources, and possibly because the approach to Henderson Executive Airport is oten right over the conservation area.
I saw this nice big Great Basin Collard Lizard on the way down Trail 200.

After less than a mile, Trail 200 reconnects with Trail 100. I return this way almost every time, because it means less retracing of footsteps, and because it means I don't need to slide down the dry waterfalls I climbed up on the way to the Petroglyphs. Only one of the waterfalls is Class 3 (requiring hands and feet, and the lifting of at least one point of contact of contact to make the scamper up the small drop off), and it's not particularly hard to descend, but I still prefer not to.

Once back on Trail 100, I'd say it's a bit less than 1 1/2 miles back to the parking lot.

All Trails gives the total hike distance as 4.4 miles total, with 564 feet of elevation gain. Not intrinsically difficult, but you will have to make the one scramble. Also, the wash bottom is sandy, and the heat can be significant. But still generally one of my favorite hikes in the area. I think I still prefer Black Mountain, Trail 404, but this one is shorter and easier to fit into a limited time, especially if it's hot.


  1. Greetings!
    I am a budding drone pilot looking for interesting places to document. Sloan Canyon looks appealing to me, so I've been digging into what is and is not permitted. Now the area is classified as a national conservation area, which falls under different rules vs a national park. There are different rules for monuments and forests too, but I digress. To emphasize my point, Lake Mead has chosen to prohibit drone flight, while Red Rock has chosen to allow it outside two wilderness areas, yet red rock is a conservation area and lake Mead is a recreation area.

    My point is that the rules vary, and it is up to the drone pilot to learn the rules where they fly. I am still researching Sloan Canyon, hence my stumbling across your blog, but I haven't found any prohibitions yet. If you can provide any restrictions I'll be grateful, and I'll keep searching for an answer to include calling the ranger station if needed. As is, the area is not listed as prohibited in the national database which you can review on the b4ufly app, but neither is Anza Borrego, but that's also a state park with yet again its own rules.

    1. Sorry, I lost your comment among the spam comments. Sorry to say I do not know if drones are permitted or not permitted in Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area. Generally, the NPS is going to have more limitations than the BLM, despite the title of the land in question. Outside of wilderness or wilderness study areas, they very well may be permitted. But the density of people specifically in the petroglyph area may mean they are prohibited there.

  2. It occurs to me that this is also pretty close to Henderson Executive Airport, so it may be restricted, or at least a pretty low ceiling on operating a drone.