The South McCullough Wilderness encompasses the southern portion of the McCullough Range. This area of the north-south trending range is comprised of ancient metamorphic rock. From a distance, the mountains appear soft, with mellow rounded edges. Upon closer inspection, you will see that the peaks and ridges are rocky and rough, reaching heights over 7,000 feet.
The mountains in the South McCullough Wilderness are comprised of dramatic uplifted fault block of gneiss and granite, with steep slopes, narrow deep canyons to the east and west, and deep sandy washes. There is a wide, deeply cut bajada on the west side of the mountains. The lower slopes are comprised of gently tilted alluvial deposits of unsorted sand, gravel, and cobbles.
Though a short distance from the lights and sounds of Las Vegas, Nevada silence is common in the narrow canyons and sandy washes of South McCullough Wilderness. Infrequent visitor use and the need for route finding skills provide great opportunities for solitude and recreation including hiking, horseback riding, hunting, exploring, and camping.
The mountains are formed of banded and foliated metamorphic rocks, dating back 1.7 million years ago, that have been uplifted and eroded. Bands of quartzite are layered in metamorphic rock, giving the rugged outcrops a striped appearance. The deep north-south oriented canyons were formed by fault activity. The bajada to the west of the range was formed by the convergence of old alluvial deposits left by fast-moving water. In addition to the metamorphic gneiss, granite, and quarzite, igneous lava rocks such as basalt, rhyolite, andesite, and tuffs are also found.
The landscape ranges from approximately 3,000 to 7,000 feet in elevation and displays a thriving Mojave Desert filled with creosote bush, Mojave yucca, banana yucca, buckhorn cholla, catclaw acacia, apache plume, blackbrush and Joshua trees. At the higher elevations, you'll find single-leaf pinyon pine, Utah juniper, various kinds of cholla, prickly pear cactus, hedgehog cactus and California juniper. Desert bighorn sheep, mule deer, antelope ground squirrels, desert woodrats, jackrabbits, desert tortoise, a variety of lizards and snakes, Gambel's quail, chukar, red-tailed hawks, northern flickers, and a variety of sparrows may be glimpsed in this wilderness.
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 South McCullough Wilderness.
The South McCullough Wilderness is located about 45 miles south of Las Vegas near the Nevada/California border. Powerline Road leads north off of State Route 164/Nipton Road, providing access to the eastern border of the wilderness. Just north of the Jean Airport, dirt roads lead southeast from State Highway 164, providing access at the northwestern edge of the wilderness. Road conditions vary, high-clearance and four-wheel drive are encouraged.
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
The South McCullough Wilderness provides a unique and beautiful backdrop for hiking, hunting, horseback riding, wildlife viewing, and camping. Backcountry permits are not required. Camping is limited to a total of 14 days in one location, and no more than 90 days total within any consecutive 12-month period. Hunting and trapping is allowed with proper licensing.
There are three designated trails in the South McCullough Wilderness: 1) McCullough Trail, 8.1 miles (McClanahan Spring to Railroad Spring); 2) Lucy Gray Trail, 6.7 miles (Jean Lake corral to McCullough Trail); and 3) Blackbrush Trail, 4.3 miles (Lucy Gray Trail to McCullough Trail). Note that horse travel is limited to designated trails and washes.
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.