Just an hour north of Las Vegas, Nevada lies the Muddy Mountains Wilderness, a place of wonder and mystery, an area of outrageous geology and colorful Mojave Desert habitat. This region of shadowy slot canyon, striking geological formations and expansive views of Lake Mead is jointly managed by the Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service.
The Muddy Mountains tower over the red, magenta, and tan colored sandstone exposed through a limestone "window" at Bowl of Fire, Anniversary Narrows, and Hidden Valley. These folded and faulted lands are dominated by a thrust fault of gray limestone over Aztec sandstone. Purple and white mudstone hills and gypsum bearing soils of brown and red hues are present in the lowest elevations.
Water has carved an extraordinary 600-foot deep slot canyon through upturned multi-colored stone at Anniversary Narrows. Conglomerate rock forms light brown cliffs at the Gale Hills — a great place to find solitude as it requires route-finding skills and receives less use than other locations.
People have lived in and passed through these mountains for thousands of years. They have left behind rock art, artifacts, agave roasting pits, and rock shelters.
Although hundreds of miles inland, the geology of the Muddy Mountains region gives an informative glimpse into geologic time. About 300 million years ago, this area was sediment at the bottom of the sea. Today, that sea floor comprises the limestone peaks that jut 5,400 feet into the sky. Scattered among the peaks are fossilized sand dunes that have eroded into galleries and canyons, intricately carved and painted in shade of red, orange and yellow. The unusual sandstone formations of Hidden Valley were exposed through the limestone by erosion. The conglomerate of the Gale Hills Formation is evident in cliffs, the highest being the 600-foot West End Wash Cliffs.
The landscape, ranging from 1,700 to 5,400 feet in elevation, displays a thriving Mojave Desert filled with waist-high creosote bush, black brush, yucca, beavertail cactus, catclaw acacia and desert willow. Las Vegas buckwheat and Las Vegas bearpoppy are rare plants that occur in the gypsum soils in the area. You may glimpse desert bighorn sheep, kit fox, jack rabbits and coyotes, desert tortoise, chuckwalla, Great Basin whiptails, rock wren, phainopepla and red-tailed hawks.
Leave No Trace
How to follow the seven standard Leave No Trace principles differs in different parts of the country (desert vs. Rocky Mountains). Click on any of the principles listed below to learn more about how they apply in the Muddy Mountains Wilderness.
Hidden Valley may be accessed by driving the Bitter Springs Backcountry Byway approximately three miles east on the Valley of Fire Highway from Interstate 15. About four miles south of the Valley of Fire Highway on this rough dirt road, turn right at the sign for Color Rock Quarry. About three miles further lies the trailhead for Hidden Valley. Four-wheel drive and high clearance vehicles are recommended as road conditions are rough and variable.
The Bowl of Fire and Anniversary Narrows are accessible from the paved Northshore Road. Callville Wash Road/Road 94 turns north off Northshore Road at mile marker 16. Four-wheel drive is recommended. Road 94A turns left off of Callville Wash Road, leading to Anniversary Narrows. From Callville Wash Road/Road 94, each of three main washes that intersect the Northshore Road lead to the Bowl of Fire.
Digital and paper maps are critical tools for wilderness visitors. Online maps can help you plan and prepare for your visit ahead of time. You can also carry digital maps with you on your GPS unit or other handheld GPS device. Having a paper map with you in the backcountry, as well as solid orienteering skills, however, ensures that you can still route-find in the event that your electronic device fails.
Motorized equipment and equipment used for mechanical transport is generally prohibited in all wilderness areas.
This includes the use of motor vehicles, motorboats, motorized equipment, bicycles, hang gliders, wagons, carts, portage wheels, and the landing of aircraft including helicopters.
Clark County Conservation of Public Land and Natural Resources Act of 2002 - Public law 107-282 (11/6/2002) To establish wilderness areas, promote conservation, improve public land, and provide for high quality development in Clark County, Nevada, and for other purposes
Always leave trip information with family or friends. This means your trip length, when you will return, and where you will be departing from in the park.
Take adequate provisions with you including food and water. Remember, you are in a desert and water is scarce. In addition, carry a basic first aid kit.
Before your trip, learn about the hazards you may encounter and take adequate precautions. Select appropriate clothing and equipment. Always hike with a companion.
Know your own limitations and the abilities and weaknesses of your hiking companions. Plan your route and rate of travel around the weakest member. Make sure that each member of your party knows what gear the others have packed.
Have an emergency plan. When journeying into the wilderness if an emergency arises, you may not be able to reach help in a timely manner. This means cell phones and radios may not work in rugged or remote parts of the park.
Know your location using a map, Global Positioning System (GPS) and/or compass. If you encounter trouble, do not be afraid to turn back. Be aware that trails, trail signs, and place signs may be missing due to vandalism or wash outs.
Approximately 7 miles of trail are designated in the Wilderness at Hidden Valley, the Gale Hills, and Anniversary Narrows, though there are other access points where you may find user-created routes to explore the wilderness area. Note that horse travel in the wilderness is limited to designated trails and washes.
The Muddy Mountains Wilderness provides a striking backdrop for hiking, horseback riding, and camping. Rock climbing and scrambling are allowed without the placement of fixed anchors. Hunting is permissible, but because of fragile vegetation and cryptogamic soil crusts, cross-country use of recreational riding or pack stock is not permitted. The only exception is for members of a hunting party in possession of a valid state hunting license and tag, and in pursuit of big game during hunting. Backcountry permits are not required.
Want to Volunteer for Wilderness?
Citizens who volunteer their time to steward our wilderness areas are an essential part of wilderness management. Contact the following groups to inquire about volunteer opportunities.