A 30-minute drive from the Las Vegas Strip followed by a 2.5-mile trail run will net you an entirely different perspective of Las Vegas. Not only will it get you a great view of the city sparkling from afar but you will also be rewarded as Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the United States in maximum water capacity, reveals to you its shimmering beauty when you near the turnaround point.
This out and back trail is short, approximately 5 miles round trip, but it packs in the cardio with a nice climb up the canyon between Red Mountain and Black Mountain while Boulder City quickly falls away below. The scenery en route and views from the turnaround point are your sweet reward.
To get there:
If traveling from the north end of the Strip, take 95 south following the signs to Henderson/Boulder City.
If traveling from the south end of the Strip, take the 215 east, then take 95 south, following the signs to Henderson/Boulder City.
Once in Boulder City, you'll take the 93 toward Lake Mead/Hoover Dam but soon after you've started the downhill on 93 you will see a signed parking area for the River Mountain Trail on the left. This will be just before St. Jude's.
Unless it's been corrected since my last visit to this parking area, the kiosk sign at the trailhead says this trail is 3 miles one-way and 5 miles round trip. Perhaps it just seems farther one way with the all the climbing on the switchbacks.
The trail varies from soft sand to hard packed dirt and rocks, is signed and easy to follow.
You'll start out on a trail with housing on your left and a drainage ditch on your right but will soon find yourself winding through sandy washes, crossing beautiful desert areas, climbing gradually. You'll be lead into a scenic canyon with Red Mountain rising sharply to your left and Black Mountain to your right.
Multiple switchbacks take you up the canyon to the saddle. At the saddle, you have the option of going left up the hill or to the right. For this trail run you'll head to your right. Almost immediately there will be another junction with a trail leading off to the right signed for hikers only, take this trail. You’ll climb a few stairs and head out approximately .6 miles to a scenic viewpoint with a bench and some informative geological signage. This is the obvious turnaround point.
Views from this overlook are spectacular with Lake Mead expanding oasis-like below, a beautiful contrast of the dark blue water and white-rimmed waterline mark against the reddish-brown hues of the lake’s desert boundaries. Across Lake Mead you can see a large, dark-colored, oblong rock formation. This is Fortification Hill, an extinct volcano on the Arizona side of Lake Mead.
What you can expect to see:
This is a great trail for spotting bighorn sheep, lizards, hawks, and the occasional rattlesnake. You also might see a few bats at dusk. There are beautiful cacti along the route and gorgeous wildflowers in the springtime.
What you might also be lucky enough to see:
Tarantulas, desert tortoises, scorpions, and chuckwallas. An old timer who hikes the trail daily told me he once saw a Gila monster along the way.
Words of warning:
Bring plenty of hydration; there is no water available along the trail. Also, the rocks at the overlook are crumbly so exert caution if exploring around the overlook area.
If you Google Black Mountain in Las Vegas, you'll wind up with various results. There are at least 3 peaks around the valley that are referred to as Black Mountain. It's a bit confusing for those not in the know. Also there is another nearby paved trail similarly named, the River Mountains Loop Trail. If searching online, don't get the two mixed up. Both are fun but they are totally different beasts.