Trip Number: 13060A
Staff: Steve Carriger
- Hike among stunning red rock formations and desert wildflowers
- Bike part of the River Mountains Loop Trail and the Historic Railroad
Trail to Hoover Dam
- Float through Black Canyon on the Colorado River
- One-day bicycle rental, one-day river rafting ticket
- All breakfasts and lunches
- All lodging, park admissions, parking fees, and commissary
Please note that the trip dates have changed from what was originally published. If you
have questions, please
Spring is the perfect time to visit the Mojave Desert (also known as High Desert),
which covers portions of southeastern and central California, southern Nevada,
southwestern Utah, and northwestern Arizona. Named after the Mojave tribe of
Native Americans, its boundaries are generally defined by the presence of Yucca
brevifolia (Joshua trees). During the spring season, depending on rainfall,
we can expect to witness a variety of desert wildflowers like desert marigold,
indigo bush, and desert mallow coming to life.
Photo: Steve Carriger
While most visitors come to this region to enjoy the glitter, gold, and bright
lights of Las Vegas, this trip offers an opportunity to take the road less travelled
and experience the stark beauty of the Mojave Desert, Lake Mead, and the Colorado
River in early spring, when the temperatures range from the low 50s to the low
This trip reveals a fairly well-kept secret to participants -- southern Nevada
features some of the West's most dazzling red rock country. Everyone thinks
of Utah as the home of gorgeous red sandstone, but Nevada has it too -- and
practically on the outskirts of Las Vegas. Just west of the city we'll visit
the magnificent Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area -- no gambling needed
to marvel at its beauty. To the east are some astounding pockets of scintillating
red sandstone formations, such as the delightful "Bowl of Fire" tucked
in a hidden corner of the National Park Service's expansive Lake Mead National
Recreation Area, and -- beyond that area -- the justly named Valley of Fire
State Park, offering us numerous short but dazzling walks.
We will river raft one day, bike the River Mountains Loop and Historic Railroad
Trails another day, and enjoy three days of hiking around 5-7 miles over undulating
terrain. Options for longer hikes will be offered on a couple of days.
Day 1: Our trip begins Sunday, April 7, at the Boulder Dam
Hotel in Boulder City, Nevada, where we will stay for the duration of the trip.
We will meet at 5:00 p.m. for a social, introductions, and orientation.
This trip covers a mix of fantastic scenery, whether exploring Valley of Fire
State Park to see red sandstone formations, petroglyphs, and ancient trees;
rafting the Colorado River in the Black Canyon Wilderness, where we'll relax,
snap photos, and enjoy scenic vistas; or bicycling easy trails to Hoover Dam.
Each day will be filled with activity, and evenings will be free for relaxing
or exploring historic Boulder City.
Photo: Steve Carriger
Day 2: We'll hike in the scenic Red Rock National Conservation
Day 3: We'll hike in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area.
Day 4: We'll bike part of the River Mountains Loop Trail and
the Historic Railroad Trail to Hoover Dam.
Day 5: We'll hike in Valley of Fire State Park and Lake Mead
National Recreation Area.
Day 6: Dramatic Black Canyon on the Colorado River is our
highly scenic destination for a guided rafting trip. (This is NOT whitewater
rafting, but the high-walled, beautiful canyon is quite a treat in its own right.)
Day 7: On the last day -- Saturday, April 13 -- we’ll
eat breakfast, say our farewells, and check out of the hotel. Full details will
be given in pre-trip correspondence. All hikes and programs are subject to change
depending on a variety of factors, including trail conditions, permits, and
Travel to and from the hotel and trailheads is the responsibility of each
participant. The nearest airport is McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas,
Nevada. Ride sharing from the airport to Boulder City is encouraged. To facilitate
this, the leader will provide a participant roster. Additional information regarding
travel options will be provided. Do not make any transportation reservations
until the leader approves you for the trip.
Due to insurance regulations, all transportation to Boulder City, trailheads,
or other activities is the responsibility of each trip member. Leaders are not
permitted to arrange carpools for participants.
Accommodations and Food
Photo: Steve Carriger
Each trip participant will have a private standard room and bath at the historic
Boulder Dam Hotel. Couples will share a queen room.
The first trip meal will be dinner on Sunday evening and the last meal will
be breakfast on Saturday morning. Participants will pay for their own dinners
at Boulder City restaurants. Hot breakfasts will be served each morning in the
dining room at the Boulder City Hotel. Participants will prepare their own sack
lunches each morning. Lunches will consist of chips, fruit, cookies, and a variety
of sandwich breads, meats, cheeses, and spreads. There will be plenty of food;
however, persons with dietary restrictions or personal preferences may provide
some food items of their own. While meals will include vegetarian options, we
cannot promise that local restaurants will be able to accommodate strict vegans.
This is a good trip for seniors or those who would like to experience a variety
of outdoor activities in a wilderness setting, but return to a hot shower and
a comfortable bed at the end of the day. The minimum age for trip participants
is 18 years. We’ll be staying and hiking at elevations from 300' to 3,000'
so we won't have to be concerned about acclimatization. Hikes will be easy to
moderate, 5-7 miles in length, and only a few hundred feet in elevation changes.
Our pace will generally be leisurely, with plenty of time for photography,
admiring views, and identifying flora and fauna. Our bike excursion will be
on a mostly level or downhill 10- to 13-mile section of the River Mountains
Loop Trail and the Historic Railroad Trail, which terminates at the Hoover Dam.
Optional hikes may be added on a couple of days to increase the mileage for
those seeking a more strenuous day.
Equipment and Clothing
Photo: Steve Carriger
You will need to supply your own personal hydration system; a small, basic
personal first-aid kit; and any prescription and over-the-counter medications
you may need. Bring well worn-in hiking boots, a day pack, clothing that can
accommodate a range of weather, camera, and field glasses. Bicycles and helmets
will be provided by a local outfitter.
As soon as you are approved for this trip, the leader will send you a more
detailed list of items to bring.
- Beffort, Brian, Afoot & Afield: Las Vegas & Southern Nevada.
- Reisner, Marc, Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing
- Abbey, Edward, Desert Solitaire.
- Stewart, Jon Mark, Mojave Desert Wildflowers.
- Clinesmith, Larry, and Elsie Sellars, Plants of Red Rock Canyon.
- Welsh, Liz & Peter, Rock Art of the Southwest: A Traveler’s
- Larson, Lane, and Peggy Pickering Larson, The Desert Southwest: A Sierra
Club Naturalist’s Guides.
- Roszak, Theodore, Ecopsychology: Restoring the Earth, Healing the Mind.
There are many books available on the history of the building of Hoover Dam.
Check out this link to Amazon books: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=History+of+Hoover+Dam&x=0&y=0
Also, you can find several desert wildflower books available on Amazon:
- Lake Mead National Recreation Area: http://www.nps.gov/lake
- Valley of Fire State Park: http://parks.nv.gov/vf.htm
- Geology: http://www.nature.nps.gov/geology/usgsnps/lmnra/lmnra1.html
- History: http://www.nevada-history.org/main.html
- Lake Mead National Recreation Area: http://www.nps.gov/lake/planyourvisit/directions.htm
- Black Canyon Wilderness: http://www.birdandhike.com/Wilderness/BlackCyn/Black_Map.htm
- www.store.usgs.gov 7.5 minute maps: LaMadre Mountains, Calville Bay, Boulder
Canyon, Boulder City, Ringbolt Rapids
Photo: Steve Carriger
The Mojave Desert is home to Lake Mead, located on the Colorado River about
30 miles southeast of Las Vegas. It is the largest reservoir in the United States,
formed by water impounded by Hoover Dam. As this urban region has grown, the
Mojave Desert has suffered. Lake Mead supplies 90% of Las Vegas water. A 12-year
drought and increasing demand has caused the water level to drop at a fairly
steady rate, threatening both wildlife and commerce.
Lake Mead was last full in the year 2000. Since then, the lake’s surface
level has dropped about 100 feet. Today, it is about half-full -- displaying
a distinctive white mineral "bathtub ring" between the low and high
The Sierra Club’s outings program provides high-quality outdoor adventures
led by volunteer Sierra Club Members. The Outings objectives are to encourage
members to see firsthand the land the Club seeks to preserve and protect, enjoy
the fruits of past conservation victories, and support and champion conservation
Sierra Club founder John Muir discovered an essential truth: If you want people
to go to bat for the environment, he realized, you've got to get them out into
the wilderness. "If people in general could be got into the woods, even
for once, to hear the trees speak for themselves, all difficulties in the way
of forest preservation would vanish." While water, or the lack thereof,
is the main conservation issue in this region, urban sprawl, mining, dam construction,
and wilderness preservation are other issues to consider.
We'll have a participatory environmental/conservation session during our trip,
when we will share environmental issues (both challenges and successes) in our
hometowns/regions and discuss environmental issues in this ecosystem.
We will learn and practice the seven principles of Leave No Trace to minimize
our impact whenever we choose to explore nature. At the hotel we will model
recycling, conservation, and minimal use of disposable products.
Since any traveling leaves a carbon footprint, check out the information the
Sierra Club offers about carbon offsets at:
This trip will operate under a permit from the Red Rock/Sloan Bureau of Land
Management and the Lake Mead National Recreation Area.
See the How to Apply for an Outing section for more details on registering for this trip and details
about our Reservation and Cancellation Policy.
The payment of a deposit does not confirm you as a member on the trip. Participants must be approved by the trip leader. After signing up for this trip, you will be sent a confirmation packet containing approval materials (Participant Approval Questionnaire, Medical Form, Liability Release Form). Each applicant (including those on the waitlist) must fill out these forms and promptly mail them to the trip leader. The leader will review the approval materials and notify you of your acceptance in a timely manner.
Steve Carriger has had a life-long love of the outdoors. Steve has hiked in several national parks including Glacier, Haleakala, Olympic, Shenandoah, and Yosemite. He is an active volunteer at the Indian Creek Nature Center near his home, and he is a volunteer firefighter with both Firefighter 1 and First Responder certifications. Steve currently lives in Walford, Iowa, where he is a member of the Cedar-Wapsie Sierra Club Group.
Sheri Albrecht remembers taking her first hike in the forest behind her home in Illinois when she was a child. Since then, she has hiked and backpacked in many U.S. states and national parks including Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, and Washington. Sheri has been a Sierra Club member since 1990 and served on the ExCom of the Iowa-Illinois Eagle View Group for several years. Now a resident of Walford, Iowa, she enjoys hiking with her husband, Steve, and volunteering as a teacher/naturalist at the local nature center.
General Notes About Sierra Club Trips