Updated: Dec 13, 2020
Nestled between Las Vegas and Saint George lies one of the Unites States' newest national monuments, Gold Butte. With its red rocks and numerous historical and archeological sites, this hidden gem is quickly becoming noticed by more adventurers and outdoor enthusiasts every year. The proximity to Las Vegas makes Gold Butte a great day trip, or multi-night adventure.
Adventure Rating: Epic
Trip Length: 319 miles, 3-6 days
Season: Recommended October - May. The route can be driven anytime of year, but summer temperatures regularly exceed 100 F during the day. If you're running the route in winter, check with BLM regarding potential snow on Black Rock Mountain (it is possible to bypass Black Rock Mtn).
Technical Rating: Green, you may encounter a few minor blue sections. Terrain: 70% dirt / 30% pavement.
Recommended Vehicle: 4x4 truck or SUV with all terrain tires.
Adventure Vans: Sprinter 4x4s should be able to manage the entire route.
Alternative Routes: n/a
Permits: There is an entrance fee to enter Valley of Fire State Park. Check the park's website for current fee info.
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Topo Terra (San Diego)
Gold Butte National Monument was officially established by President Obama in 2016. At first, locals voiced their concern that the new designation would limit off road access for OHV crowd. Luckily, BLM has indicted they have no plans to change the current road management plan, which provides access to hundreds of miles of dirt and jeep roads within the national monument. The route begins on the western edge of greater Las Vegas, in Henderson. As the route heads east, it circumvents Lake Mead on the paved North Shore Road. The route turns left onto a dirt road, that happens to be Bitter Springs Scenic Byway. The monotonous brown and beige mountains begin to shows hints of blazing red and orange, a precursor of what lies ahead. A few short miles from Interstate 15, the byway intersects with Valley of Fire Highway (paved). You'll need to pay the nominal fee at the ranger kiosk to enter Valley of Fire State Park, but the fee is well worth the scenery. The hills give way to massive rocks of reddish orange that seem to come in all shapes and sizes. Some of the rocks and formations worth visiting include Seven Sisters, the Beehives, Atlatl rock (petroglyphs), silica domes, and white domes. If you're seeking out more civilized camping options, the park provides one campground next to Atlatl Rock.
From Valley of Fire State Park, the route heads north on pavement, and then onto I-15 for a short distance before reaching Gold Butte National Monument. If your rig isn't equipped with an oversize fuel tank or extra fuel sources, it would be a good idea to refill in Moapa Valley or Meqsuite before entering Gold Butte National Monument. From I-15, head south on Riverside Road. Not far from the interstate, you'll be back on dirt as you make a hard left onto Gold Butte Road. The vast majority of the route within Gold Butte National Monument are wide and well kept dirt roads. However, there are numerous roads and jeep trails in the surrounding hills, canyons, and mountains that afford access to more technical terrain. Gold Butte Road also happens to be designed as scenic byway by BLM. Some of the more interesting geological formations to check out along the way include Whitney Pocket, Little Finland (a great place to camp), and the Devil's threat sinkhole. As you head south, you'll pass through the former townsite of Gold Butte. The hills surrounding the former townsite are littered with dozens of mines. One of the cooler and more accessible mines is Radio Crystal Mine, which is definitely worth checking out. The route snakes its way east to the Colorado River and Grand Wash Bay. Not far downstream, the once mighty Colorado feeds into Lake Mead. Another historic site worth visiting is Tassi Ranch, where numerous old adobe ranch houses and buildings still remain. The final stretch of the route heads north towards the final destination of Saint George, Utah. Rising above the surrounding hills and mesas stands Black Rock Mountain (elev. 7,364). As you gain elevation, the desert shrub and cacti give way give way to mountainsides filled with green pine trees. The route tops out at about 6,800 feet, so snowpack can become an issue. We recommend checking with BLM, but there is a southern bypass at lower elevation via County Highway 101, which is actually a wide dirt road. From Black Rock Mountain, the route gradually loses elevation as you make your way towards the interstate once again. Once you reach I-15, the route heads north across the Arizona-Utah border, before concluding in the bustling city of Saint George.
Camping Recommendations Dispersed camping is permitted on BLM managed land, including Gold Butte National Monument and Lake Mead. With so many roads, geological and archaeological sites to explore, finding the perfect campsite shouldn't be difficult!
Atlatl Rock (requires fee)
Recommended Points of Interest
Atlatl Rock petroglphs
White Domes (short hike)
Seven Sisters Rocks
Devil's Throat sinkhole
Tassi Ranch old adobe
Radio Crystal Mine
Maps + Navigation
>> Always check with local land managers for road closures and conditions.
Gaia GPS (NatGeo Trails illustrated layer, Neotreks, Gaia base layer)
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