Slot canyons in the state of Nevada are quite rare, so to find three within an hour’s drive of Las Vegas is like hitting the jackpot. When you tire of having your hard-earned cash taken by the slots in Las Vegas, head to the surrounding hills and explore one or all of these unbeatable slot canyons. The only thing they are likely to take away is your breath!
These canyons—Kyle Canyon, Arrow Canyon and the Anniversary Narrows—are in three distinct geological areas and all have historical significance.
Anniversary Narrows and Lovell Wash are east of Las Vegas and just north of Lake Mead National Recreation Area. Anniversary Narrows is a beautiful pale rose slot canyon rivaling some of the more famous slot canyons in neighboring Utah. Tilted sedimentary rock layers produce beautiful lines and fractures all along the canyon walls.
Most of the floor is loose gravel with only a few small step-ups. The area offers easy hiking for all ages. Children will enjoy running ahead, hiding in the many alcoves and surprising unsuspecting adults as they approach. Shutterbugs will enjoy capturing the light, shadows and subtle shades as the sun penetrates the depths of the canyon.
An added bonus of Lovell Wash is the Anniversary Mine and related ruins. Borax was mined at the Anniversary Mine and transported down the wash by ore cars along the south side of the canyon walls. The route of the ore cars penetrated several outcroppings of colorful rock formations, creating additional photo opportunities. An old dam, ore bin and the remains of the mill add interest. Borate crystals, from which borax is made, abound in the wash and make great souvenirs. Desert critters you may encounter include owls, wrens, desert bighorn sheep, lizards and other reptiles.
If the weather in Las Vegas is too hot for comfort, head toward Mount Charleston and Kyle Canyon. At nearly 5,600 feet in elevation, Kyle Canyon will be at least ten degrees cooler than Vegas. The narrows of Kyle Canyon will be encountered at the beginning of your hike. Many, with time to burn, hike the full trail 2.5 miles up the canyon and back, enjoying the Joshua trees and conifers found at these higher elevations. Others, with less time on their hands, will turn around after traversing the short length of narrows. Several geocaches in the area provide additional fun for those who wish to pursue them. You will be hiking on an established trail or in the dry creek bed, allowing easy passage for everyone in your group. If you have your RV with you and enjoy the cooler mountain climate, head on up the road and secure a campsite for the night at the Kyle Creek Campground.
Arrow Canyon is the farthest of the three canyons from Las Vegas and the deepest, at nearly 400 feet. It is also the widest, extending 20 feet in some places, and some might consider it a narrows rather than a true slot. It is worth a visit for its soaring walls and extensive collection of petroglyphs. There are broad petroglyph panels on the rock walls, both upstream and downstream of Pahranagat Wash as you enter Arrow Canyon, and you will find additional petroglyphs as you continue your hike. Other evidence of early Native American habitation includes shelters in rock overhangs, roasting pits, as well as arrowhead and other lithic fragments. The Moapa Tribe of the Paiutes still calls the area just east of Arrow Canyon home.
Hiking in Arrow Canyon is easy, as you will be walking up a dry creek bed of medium-size gravel. There are no step-ups or large stones to deal with. An old masonry dam that was used to water livestock in years past marks the end of your hike up the canyon. In fact, if it was not designated as a wilderness area, you could drive a vehicle up the canyon, as it is so broad and gentle.
There are numerous rock-climbing opportunities in the canyon as well, so you can watch climbers scale the vertical walls, or bring your gear and join in on the fun.
Birdwatchers and lovers of wildlife will want to keep a watchful eye out as they hike the canyon. Wildlife that call the canyon home include the ash-throated flycatcher, rock wren, canyon wren, cactus wren, chuckwalla, desert big horn sheep, desert tortoise, hoary bat, western red bat and yellow bat. Vegetation includes mesquite, salt cedar, acacia, barrel cactus, Mojave yucca, creosote bush and the fairly rare butterfly bush.
Next time you want to play the slots in Las Vegas—head for the canyons, instead of a casino, and you’ll find some family friendly fun.
Dave Helgeson and his wife, Cheri, promote RV and manufactured home shows in Western Washington. They spend their free time traveling and enjoying the RV lifestyle. Follow his blog, “Adventures in RVing,” at rvlife.com.
IF YOU GO:
Best time to visit is fall through spring. Be extra careful when hiking in washes and slot canyons. Sudden rainstorms, even miles upstream, can change a dry streambed into a raging torrent in minutes.
Directions to Lovell Wash: Travel to the Lake Mead National Recreation Area from Las Vegas via Lake Mead Drive (Highway 564) or Lake Mead Boulevard (Highway 147). From the map you will be given upon entering, drive to Northshore Road. Travel east on Northshore Road to mile marker 16, where you will find a brown sign for Callville Wash North Road. You will also find a large pullout that will hold multiple RVs. If you are traveling with your RV this is a good place to drop it and continue in a high clearance dinghy or tow vehicle. Tourists with rental cars typically hike from this location. From the pullout, head northeast on Callville Wash Road for about 350 yards to the first road to the left (north) and follow it to its end. At the end of the road, proceed up Lovell Wash, where you can’t miss the Anniversary Mine or Narrows. Detailed driving and hiking instructions can be found at birdandhike.com/Hike/LAME/LovellWash_Narrows/_Lov_Narrows.htm.
Directions to Kyle Canyon: From Las Vegas, take Highway 95 north toward Reno. Turn left (west) on State Route 157 (Mt. Charleston-Kyle Canyon Road.) drive about 12 miles to Harris Spring Road. (If you are driving your RV, there is ample room to park here and walk to the trailhead.) Drive about 150 yards south on Harris Spring Road and turn right on an unmarked dirt road and travel about 300 yards to the parking area at the end of the road. Walk upstream and you will find the narrows of the canyon almost immediately.
Directions to Arrow Canyon: The quickest route is to drive northeast from Las Vegas on Interstate15 to Glendale at exit 90. After exiting the interstate, drive northwest on Highway 168 for approximately 11 miles to a dirt road on the left covered with a typical western ranch entrance (two poles with a cross bar). This is the Arrow Canyon Access Road. Drive southeast on the access road until you reach a municipal well. From the well, hike or drive (four-wheel drive recommended) the dirt road that exits to the right (west) side of the well to the south and west for about 1.5 miles, where the road will end at a cable barrier. From the barrier, follow the trail west for about a mile to the first petroglyphs and the entrance to Arrow Canyon. Note: There is no suitable RV parking for this destination. Detailed driving and hiking instructions are available at birdandhike.com/Hike/Arrow/Roads_Arrow/ArrowCynRd/_ArrowCynRd.htm.