Reaching New Heights

Winter is a great time in the Tri-state to opt outside and explore the beautiful landscape that surrounds us. Wandering the desert can be an opportune outlet to get some fresh air and physical activity.
One natural landmark worth a visit, about eight miles from Casino Drive in Laughlin, is Grapevine Canyon, the site of a large collection of Native American petroglyphs.
To reach the canyon, take the Christmas Tree Pass turn off of Nevada Highway 163 west (about 6 miles from the Laughlin strip), then follow Christmas Tree Pass Road for about 2 miles. A small sign marks the spot to turn left to the Grapevine Canyon trailhead.
From there it is a quick ¼-mile walk to the base of Grapevine Canyon, where the petroglyphs can be found.
Visitors must walk through rocks and gravel, so tennis shoes are recommended and long pants are best for scrambling amongst the boulders to higher points of the canyon.
The indigenous tribes of the area, which include the Mojave, Hualapai, Yavapai, Havasupai, Quechan, Pai pai, Maricopa, Chemehuevi and Southern Paiute, observe the canyon as a sacred place in their cultures.
The petroglyphs that are etched into the granite stone have been loosely interpreted as depicting stories of creation. The natural desert varnish gives them a dark color.
There are also a few recognizable drawings of bighorn sheep, which can be found roaming the area. Aside from the sheep, many reptiles, including rattlesnakes, are often spotted in the canyon, so watch your step.
Remember not to touch the petroglyphs as it can damage the drawings, which have been around for thousands of years. As this is a sacred spot, guests are expected to take care when climbing and asked that “when you leave this place, take only your memories with you.”
There are a few shallow cavernous areas that require just a little climbing, but make great spots to stop and sit awhile. The canyon is very quiet when visitor traffic is low, making it a perfect place for self-reflection or meditation.
Cell phone reception is spotty throughout the area, so it is best to plan on disconnecting from the electronics during your visit except to capture a few photos of the gorgeous view.
When departing the canyon, visitors have a couple of options. You can exit the same way you entered, or you may choose to continue on Christmas Tree Pass for a scenic drive through the Lake Mead National Recreational Area and the Spirit Mountain Wilderness.
Explorers opting for the scenic drive should have a high-clearance vehicle, as the road is washed out and rocky in areas. The pass continues for about 15 miles, and connects to US Highway 95 near Cal-Nev-Ari. From there it is about another 25 miles back to Laughlin.
The road winds behind Grapevine Canyon, through the Newberry Mountains. Spirit Mountain is the highest peak in the range, and is placed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is another sacred Native American landmark, acknowledged by the Yuman-speaking tribes as the spiritual birthplace of their ancestors.
You may hike Spirit Mountain, but there is no designated trail and it is quite a rigorous climb over rough terrain. If you are up for the hike, plan between 5-6 hours of your day to complete it. The elevation increases 2,400 feet, rewarding tenacious climbers with views from the top that can reach up to 100 miles away.
Another venture for experienced hikers is Boundary Cone Summit, just south of Oatman, Arizona.
Take Boundary Cone Road off of AZ Highway 95, which will turn into Oatman Road. After about 11 miles, take a sharp right turn onto Oatman Highway and park at one of the pullouts on the side of the highway.
There is an old ATV loop road that goes up to the mountain. Follow the road uphill until it forks, go left and continue up until you reach the top of the loop. From there, head straight up to a flat area with a concrete slab and barbed wire on the left. The main route goes left, skirting around the broken barbed wire fence, avoiding a deep mine shaft on your right. Continue on rotating around the mountain and the trail should start going uphill towards a giant drainage gully. Continue following the drainage trail upward, staying close to the rock wall on the right.
Continuing upward it is advised to trend left for the path of least resistance. There will be several open gullies and rocky ridges and boulders to pass as well as abundant Cholla cactus. The elevation increases by 1,373 feet and it is a fairly steep trek, giving this trail a difficult rating by AllTrails.com.
If you are looking for a more leisurely hike, the John Hohstadt trail behind the Mohave Community College Bullhead City campus grounds is a nice loop. The trailhead is located directly behind the 400 Building.
The trail is named after John Hohstadt, a former MCC associate faculty member who enjoyed the desert and was instrumental in the development of the college’s first nature trail.
Lots of wildlife frequent this trail, including coyotes, rabbits, desert tortoises, snakes and a variety of birds and lizards. Wildflowers and cactus are spread throughout the landscape as well. Rock hounds will find a variety of stones such as quartz, jasper, marble, agate, basalts and many others.
The 3/4-mile loop is mostly sand and is easy to follow, outlined with large rocks the entire way. There is a short optional hike stemming off the loop with ¼-mile rocky trail up to a viewpoint, which becomes narrow and steep at points. There is a bench at the top to sit and soak in the stunning picture of the river and mountains in the distance.
Always take a friend along when exploring a new avenue of the desert, as well as plenty of water for your trip. Be vigilant of wildlife and vegetation so no harm comes to them or you. And enjoy the views of the Colorado River, Mojave Desert and surrounding mountain ranges as a reward for your efforts!