Las Vegas visitors who like a challenge will find rejuvenating hot springs, spectacular vistas and, right now, abundant wildflowers on an arduous hiking trail along the banks of the Colorado River that’s about an hour’s drive east of the Strip. Go now if you want to catch spring because the trail closes in mid-May and doesn’t reopen until September.
The Gold Strike Hot Springs Trail near Hoover Dam is a challenging 6-mile out-and-back route that descends nearly 1,500 feet through steep and narrow crevasses. Rated as “difficult” on hiking websites, the trail has fixed ropes in places to help skilled hikers navigate the passages.
Even though thousands of people visit Hoover Dam each day, few are aware of the nearby hiking trail that leads intrepid, experienced hikers to the river.
Travel Nevada’s website describes parts of the route as a Class 3 scramble, meaning climbers may need to use rope, and recommends allowing three to four hours of hiking time each way.
“We’d certainly rank this one as expert adventure level, but the juice is worth the squeeze if you can make it happen,” the website said.
“The hike begins on a relatively flat path but becomes increasingly steep as you work your way down the canyon,” the website said. “Before it gets serious, visitors will find a checkpoint station where they can replenish water supplies and take packets of salt and sugar, if necessary.”
The scenery is stunning. Red and gold wildflowers are picture-perfect in spring, as are the canyon walls, on which colorful algae flourish. (They are a byproduct of the hot spring water that flows over the rock.) Hikers may even spot some of the nimble-footed bighorn sheep that make climbing look easy.
Several pools of warm water beckon along the way with temperatures between 85 degrees and a scalding 105 degrees. Travel Nevada urges hikers to test the water (bring a food thermometer in your pack!) before diving in.
At the base of the trail, hikers are rewarded with a dip in the cool waters of the Colorado River. Cellphones come out of pockets and backpacks to capture memories of the sheer canyon walls carved by the river — and of the towering bridge that traverses the waterway just below Hoover Dam.
Because of extreme temperatures in summer, the trail is closed between May 15 and Sept. 30. Avoid the route if rain is predicted, because it’s prone to flash flooding.
Officials underscore the fact that the trail is for experienced hikers only. Those who go should pack plenty of water; dehydration is a serious threat in the desert, and rescues are necessary several times a year. Also, hikers are discouraged from bringing dogs.
Directions to the trailhead: Take U.S. 93 toward the hotel-casino Hoover Dam Lodge. Just past the lodge, take the first exit on your right, Exit 2. At the end of the offramp, turn right and then an immediate left. Drive down a well-maintained dirt road a few hundred feet and you’ll find a free parking lot and the trailhead.