Sandstone Rocks, Joshua Trees and Rock Arts at Gold Butte National Monument
December 5, 2021
The Gold Butte National Monument is a 300,000 acres nature preserve in southeast Nevada. It’s also home to a lot of history: Gold Butte has provided food and shelter to humans for at least 12,000 years! But unlike many other National Parks and Monuments, Gold Butte isn’t developed at all. You won’t find any campgrounds, restrooms, maintained hiking trails, etc. In fact, most of the roads are dirt and you will need a high clearance vehicle to visit most of the monument.
The monument was designated by President Barack Obama in 2016 after a lengthy campaign by local conservation groups and the Moapa band of the Paiute. From what I read, and unsurprisingly, this was not the taste of the local ranchers, including the infamous “Bundy” that have their ranch just on the outskirt of the preserve.
Last week, as I was mapping my route from home to Los Angeles (where I will reunite with Kuan before we head to Baja), I figured it would be a good idea to spend a least two days in the monument and do a small portion of the 64 miles backcountry byway as well as a few hikes. The Monument has been on my “bucket list” since 2016 and while it’s pretty close from home, I never had the chance to visit.
Here is a map of my route during these few days in the monument. You can also download all the waypoints following this link.
You could drive a Prius for the first 21 miles but after that high clearance is mandatory! You could get away with 2WD on a stock truck or SUV but only if you have all terrain tires.
Shortly after passing the official Gold Butte National Monument sign you will enter a very large alluvial slope called a “bajada”. It’s a great opportunity to stop you car and observe the variety of plants that grow in this part of the Mojave desert. We don’t have all these plants in Utah so I spent a good 30 minutes looking and photographing all of them.
The trail to the famous petroglyph was a little difficult to follow. It took me a while to find the “falling man” petroglyph… and I actually forgot to take a picture of it so click here if you want to see what this unique petroglyph looks like.
That said, I did find many other petroglyphs and you could easily spend half day exploring the area.
The campsite I found to stop for lunch was so great I decided to just stay and enjoy the rest of the afternoon drinking cider and reading books.
After a peaceful night, I woke up very early to score a few hikes before noon. I am fine with the winter heat of the desert but Margo, the dog, is very sensible to heat and can barely move when it’s warmer than 16 Celcius / 60 Fahrenheit.
We made our way to the Mud Wash narrows trailhead just after sunrise and started our hike with 3 layers on us! (Spoiler alert: I finished in t-shirt).
Next stop was the Red Rock Springs on the Little Finland road. Margo being already very tired, I knew I could only make it to the lower springs.
After the short hike, we headed to Little Finland for lunch and spent time around the rock formations.
As I am writing this, I am near the Valley of Fire state park and I really regret I left the monument after 2 days. I think I should have spend at least 4 days in the monument but… I was running out of food! I still have a lot left to explore and I am thinking coming back in the spring when the flowers are blooming would be perfect!
I truly hope the park stays rugged and unsupervised but unfortunately I was the witness of too many infractions from ATV users. They were literally destroying the place by driving off the designated roads on fragile desert plants and soils.
Please, don’t be “that guy”. 🙏