In Vegas and searching for some recreation that will redefine your interpretation of legitimate adventure? Head for Gold Strike Canyon Hot Springs, about an hour from the Las Vegas Strip, just outside Boulder City. We’re not kidding when we say it will make you rethink your definition of outdoor adventure, this outing seems to have it all. Yes, descending 600 feet into this spectacularly scenic canyon does promise rewarding hot springs, but in order to reach them visitors must face 3rd class scrambling/bouldering by navigating through 8 rope courses that weave in and out of house-sized boulders. This trek is not for the feint of heart. We’d certainly rank this one as expert adventure level, but the juice is worth the squeeze if you can make it happen.
Departing from the trailhead off of 93, visitors can park their rigs in a free parking area and hit the trailhead. The gravel trail begins just before the Hoover Dam’s Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, winding its way through Gold Strike Canyon all the way to the beautiful Colorado River. The entire length of the trail is about 2 miles one way, but does incorporate a series of 20-foot rope climbs that are not beginner level so plan for 3-4 hour hiking time each way.
The hike begins on a relatively flat path but becomes increasingly steep as you work your way down the canyon. Scenery is spectacular, as you navigate through enormous, red rock vertical canyon walls and boulders and vibrant native plants. 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. Dehydration is a real thing in the Nevada desert, but particularly on this hike as sweltering temperatures and unprepared hikers have resulted in dozens of rescues and a handful of fatalities each year.
From the checkpoint, the real work begins as you’ll be faced with the first rope descent down. Total, there are 8 ropes you must navigate down to reach the springs at the bottom, next to the Colorado River. But, the best part about this hot spring endeavor is the fact that you aren’t traveling to just one; there are pockets of pools peppered throughout the canyon. Geothermal activity is major in Gold Strike Canyon, meaning that you’ll not only uncover a multitude of hot pools in the canyon, but will come across a handful of grottos and hot waterfalls as well. The silver lining? If you can’t make it all the way down to the bottom, there are other options to take advantage of throughout the canyon. Also, keep your eyes peeled for a handful of wildlife…you might even score and spot a couple of desert big horn sheep peering down at you from the rocky canyon walls above.
Once visitors reach the bottom, the canyon widens, opening up to the bank of the Colorado River. Here, cliff jumping is about as perfect as it gets and you can take in an unfiltered view of the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge. While there are a variety of pools throughout the canyon, the best are near the bottom in the bigger pools, known as the Nevada Hot Springs. The pooled up area has water temperatures that fluctuate from 85-105 degrees, with water trickling from the source around 122. Trust us on this one, it’s totally worth it.
This one is a definite must on any hot spring or bouldering enthusiast’s list. BUT, we do have to reiterate the danger involved on this hike. We would not recommend doing this hike alone, or with dogs, and if you are not comfortable pulling your own weight you might want to consider an alternate hike. Hiking in the desert can be an extremely rewarding experience, but there are a handful of serious risks that come with it.
TRAVELNEVADA PRO TIPS
- The canyon is narrow in certain portions and is subject to flash flooding. If it looks like it could rain, plan to check this one off the list another day.
- Extreme temperatures have led to dozens of rescues and even a handful of fatalities in recent years. We cannot stress the importance of bringing water and snacks on this hike, it’s critical. Please travel prepared. Bring water, lots of water.
- It is nearly impossible to do Gold Strike Hot Springs without close-toed shoes. Plan on wearing shoes that you can get wet, but will ultimately protect your toes when scrambling and navigating your way through the gravel trails in the canyon.
- Gloves make your life a lot easier when navigating through the ropes. Not crucial, but it does help.
DUE TO EXTREMELY DANGEROUS TEMPERATURES, PLEASE NOTE THAT GOLD STRIKE CANYON HOT SPRINGS IS CLOSED ANNUALLY FROM MAY 15-SEPTEMBER 30.
From downtown Boulder City take Highway 93 south, toward Hoover Dam. Once you pass Hoover Dam Lodge on the left, take the first exit on your right, Highway Exit #2. At the end of the offramp, turn right and then an immediate left. Take this well-maintained dirt road a few hundred feet and find an open, free parking spot. This is the beginning of the trailhead.
Whether you decide to visit a well-known hot spring or attempt to venture to a lesser-known geothermal zone, be sure to follow a few tips to keep yourself and others around you safe.
Always, ALWAYS test the temperature before getting into a natural hot spring. Even well-known springs can drastically change temperatures, so testing the water each time will ensure you don’t step into a spring that’s too hot. A food thermometer works well for testing.
- Always be sure to bring a proper vehicle with enough gas to make it to and from your destination, as well as plenty of extra food and water in case you have vehicle trouble. Often times Nevada hot springs are located in remote areas. Be sure to bring a detailed map and let people know where you’re going before embarking.
- While falling ill from swimming in hot springs are extremely rare, there is still a possibility that it could happen. Some hot springs contain organisms that could be harmful to humans. It may be a good idea to keep your head above water at all times.
- Please pick up any trash you bring to a hot spring. A much-anticipated soak in nature can be tainted by a spring riddled with trash and broken glass.
- Because of potential slippery or sharp rocks and occasional broken glass, a pair of sturdy water shoes is recommended before stepping in. Teva sandals are ideal.