Spanning nearly 300,000 acres into the enchanting Mojave Desert, visiting Gold Butte National Monument should be top of the list to anyone exploring the region’s concentration of National Parks. As one of America’s newest dedicated National Monuments, Gold Butte encompasses striking and rugged landscapes in an extremely remote section of southeastern Nevada. Here, visitors can expect to find alone-in-nature experiences, among dramatic red sandstone, and appreciate unique perspectives of nearby Lake Mead National Recreation Area and Valley of Fire State Park. Aside from the endlessly interesting vibrant landscapes found within the National Monument, the area is known for impressively large and famously beautiful petroglyph panels, and is a critical habitat for a variety of important wildlife. Furthermore, Gold Butte is home to the very first designated Backcountry Byway, hosts an array of intriguing history and prehistory, all while divvying up satisfying outdoor recreation opps amid timeless solitude.
Once you’ve officially entered Gold Butte National Monument, the first point of interest you’ll likely cross paths with is stunning Whitney Pocket. Here, visitors can access primitive campgrounds, or set up a staging area to unload OHV’s and explore into the rest of the monument. Before hitting the road, be sure to check out remnants of an original prehistoric roasting pit, panels of ancient petroglyphs, and the Dam and Storage Cave constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the early 1930s.
- Coordinates: 36.523005, -114.140595
Though you’ll find it totally effortless to spend hours (if not days) exploring this otherworldly National Monument with what feels like infinite points of interest, Little Finland manages to steal the show. As one of Gold Butte’s most visually striking attractions, Little Finland is noteworthy because of the gnarly red wind-swept rock formations and ancient petroglyphs. Here, count on spending hours wandering through can’t-believe-it’s-real landscapes, accented by Palm Trees forests of Joshua Trees. If you’re accessing it, you’ve logged a few hours travel time into the monument, braving the legitimate possibility of a flat tire (or two) making Little Finland feel like the reward it truly is.
- Coordinates: 36.451703, 114.216935
A site you should be sure to check out before hitting the road is Devil’s Throat, otherwise known as a 110-foot deep sinkhole on the outskirts of this National Monument. Cloaked by sagebrush and Yucca plants, this humongous sinkhole is almost hidden in plain sight. If you’re interested in checking it out, be sure to pay attention to the chain link fence surrounding this massive drop. Though you may be tempted to jump the fence for a closer look, don’t. The fence is there for a reason: the area leading up to the sinkhole is extremely unstable and unsafe to walk on. But, this uncommon National Monument feature is equally stunning from afar, and provides for some killer photo ops, especially during early morning or at sunset.
- Coordinates: 36.427759, -114.149011
GOLD BUTTE TOWNSITE
Is there anything better than a mind-blowing nature experience paired with some solid Nevada history? When exploring Gold Butte you can have your cake and eat it too with a visit to the historic Gold Butte townsite. As you might suspect, the National Monument was named after the Gold Butte Mining District that was responsible for pumping out gold in the early 1900s. Here, mining was active from about 1905-1910, and remnants from these enterprises can still be appreciated here today. Though extreme southern Nevada temperatures have eroded this extremely remote historic site, several foundations, historic gravesites, and old mine shafts can still be seen here.
- Coordinates: 36.280236, -114,200180
For hiking enthusiasts, be sure to zero in on the Monument’s highest summit at Virgin Peak. Situated at a little over 8,000 feet, the views from Virgin Peak are tough to beat. Accessing the trailhead is a bit of a challenge, as the road leading up to it washed out in late 2017. For the most up to date information on summiting Virgin Peak and participating in this 10 mile ascent, call Friends of Gold Butte at (702) 208-8377.
- Coordinates: 36.602831, -114,112272
PETROGLYPH ETIQUETTE: KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
Gold Butte National Monument was inhabited by the real Native Nevadans thousands of years ago, who left their mark on this stunning landscape in a variety of ways. One of them, was through stunning petroglyphs Gold Butte is known for. We cant spell out exactly these ancient carvings are located, considering many of these locations are of spiritual importance to local tribes today. That being said, rest assured that spotting these impressive panels is easy work, just be sure to keep your eyes peeled when exploring this dynamic landscape. And if you come across them, do NOT touch them, as the oils on your fingers damages the petroglyphs.
SERVICES, AND GETTING THERE
Gold Butte is beautiful beyond description, but boy is it remote. You’ve gotta work a bit to get here, but when you do, the payoff is big. The National Monument is located about ten miles from the southeastern Nevada community of Mesquite. Beyond Mesquite’s city limits, there are no services in Gold Butte National Monument. This means that there are no toilets, and camping is extremely primitive with no designated campsites. Trailheads are minimally marked, and cell service is extremely limited if available at all. Last, the road to Gold Butte was last maintained decades ago, and is extremely rough. Though it sounds dramatic, it’s not uncommon to get one or two flat tires while exploring the National Monument. High clearance, four wheel drive rigs are crucial, so are two full sized spares. Also, be sure to carry plenty of food and water to adequately prepare for an unforeseen emergency situation.
From Las Vegas, take Interstate 15 toward Mesquite. Take exit 112 toward Riverside/Bunkerville. Drive south for three miles. Once you cross the bridge over the Virgin River, turn immediately right onto Gold Butte road. Keep following this paved, but potholed road. Once you pass the Gold Butte National Monument sign, then you have entered the monument and adventure is yours for the taking!