Location: Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area
Length: Two miles roundtrip
Difficulty: Easy, with a couple of moderate rock scrambling
Directions: From Las Vegas take I-15 south to exit 25 (Sloan exit). Drive under the highway and turn left on Las Vegas Blvd., go 0.1 miles and turn right onto an unpaved road. Follow this road for a little less than a mile to the Magnolia substation, (an electrical power facility). Follow the paved road around to the right of the substation and pick up the gravel powerline road on the east side. Continue to power pole #X12084. Take the road to your right and follow for about a 1/2 mile to a dry wash. Turn right and drive another 1/2 mile up the wash to the trailhead, marked by a sign.
*Off road vehicles is recommended for the unpaved power line road.
Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area offers plenty of solitude and diverse desert scenery, in easy reach of Las Vegas. But the prized jewel of this hike is the Sloan Canyon Petroglyph site. few petroglyph sites are so rich.
Petroglyphs are symbols engraved or pecked into the desert varnish or patina of rock surfaces, which exposes the light color underneath. Here are more than 1,700 designs on about 300 panels. Experts believe the earliest of these were made by Ancestral Puebloans in the archaic period, but other tribes may have continued to add petroglyphs into the historic period after contact with European cultures.
Some of this rock art depicts recognizable forms such as bighorn sheep, lizards, and human forms, while others remain a mystery. A couple of human figures appear to wear broad brimmed hats, leading to speculation they depict travelers or settlers of European cultures.
The hike to the prime viewing area is about one mile from the trailhead, with an elevation gain of about 200 feet. It is mostly an easy walk, along a gravel and sandy wash, but in a few sections you will have to do some rock scrambling.
The first 3/4 miles, is just walking up a wide gravel wash with sparse vegetation, mostly creosote bushes. Over the next quarter mile, canyon walls begin to rise along the edges of the wash. As the canyon heads southwest, you will come to a series of obstacles. The first three are small and can be climbed without much trouble. The forth is a ten foot high chockstone wedged between the canyon walls. However this is the most challenging of the rock scrambles my dog goes through these obstacles as if it is a stroll in the park.
As the canyon bears left, the majority of the rock art is along the right side over the 100 yards or so.
Given this hike is an exposed hike with very little shade plan your hike out of the summer heat, the best time for hiking here is after October and before April.
- Fletcher Canyon (hikercarl.wordpress.com)