This is an outer circuit exploration of Blue Diamond Hill, located on the Southern end of Red Rock Canyon in Nevada. The first exploration is a circuit of the Eastern Region of Blue Diamond Hill. The second exploration is a circuit of the Western region of Blue Diamond Hill.
There are a variety of multi-use trails including hiking, mountain biking, equestrian and 4WD. Since the trails are multi-use, they tend to have more gradual inclines. However, the network of trails on Blue Diamond Hill interconnect, crisscross and intertwine. In addition, it appears the trail system is somewhat dynamic and evolving over time. To make things even more interesting, none of the trails in the Blue Diamond Hill trail system are marked. So, it may be difficult to define individual trails and loops on your first encounter. You will at first guess which trail you are on before later becoming familiar with the trail system. Of course, if you use GPS, you might avoid a bit of wandering, but may also miss some discoveries along with missing a greater organic familiarity with all of Blue Diamond Hill.
One additional complicating factor: The Southern region of Blue Diamond Hill is privately owned by a few companies: Maverick Helicopters; Gypsum Materials Resources LLC; Blue Diamond Hill Gypsum. Additional areas are privately owned. In fact, if you tried to access Blue Diamond Hill from just about any other area than the Fossil Canyon parking area outside the Cowboy Trail Rides operation, you’d likely be stopped by fences and signs.
For the reasons noted above, it may be a good first-time strategy to make a wide outer circuit of the trail system along with noting the private and public areas. Look around and get a big picture impression of the lay of the land. Then return to begin to systematically explore individual trails and loops in the trail system. I took the outer circuit in a clockwise direction initially because this led to the higher elevation perspective early on.
Take the Charleston exit off Hwy 215 in Las Vegas. Head up toward the mountains (Red Rock Canyon). You’ll pass Calico Basin and then the Red Rock Canyon entrance. Just a bit beyond that watch for the Cowboy Trail Rides on the left.
Park in the Fossil Canyon Trailhead area on the South (left) side of Highway 159 outside the Cowboy Trail Rides operation.
It took me two times to actually pick out the route for a complete outer circuit of the Blue Diamond Hill trail system. This is in part due to the fact that there are no trail markings and that I navigate by the feel of the land vs. GPS.
In the initial exploration (below) I made a clockwise circuit of the Eastern region of Blue Diamond Hill, taking the Muffin/Bomb Voyage trails to the Overlook Ridge Trail to the high radio Tower, then descending to the Bone Shaker Trail and cutting through Blue Diamond Hill on that trail to the Fossil Canyon parking area. I thought I was still on the outer circuit below the radio tower, but to actually remain on the outer circuit I would have needed to continue on Overlook Ridge to the Maverick Helicopters wind sock before descending to the West.
So, following one of my best navigation strategies, in the second exploration I reverse the circuit direction and take the circuit in a counterclockwise direction from the Fossil Canyon parking area.
This adventure begins at the Fossil Canyon parking area outside the Cowboy Horseback Ride operation and heads East (downhill), paralleling Hwy 159 on an equestrian trail which later becomes a mountain bike/hiking trail heading toward Red Rock Campground. The benefit of this little detour is locating the bike route and observing the Eastern side of Blue Diamond Hill from below. Approaching Blue Diamond Hill from the South, we connect with the hill’s trail system and take the Muffin/Bomb Voyage Trail up the Northeast side of Blue Diamond Hill. Once on the upper ridge we angle further East to the Overlook Ridge Trail. After taking another brief detour off trail North on the ridge we reconnect with the Overlook Ridge Trail and take that to the upper radio tower. We then descend West on the Radio Tower Trail. Finally, we cut through the mid-section of Blue Diamond Hill on the Bone Shaker Trail to return to the parking area.
Curiously, on this last Saturday of January, I did not see a single mountain bike on the trail system, though there were many tire tracks. This may have been due to a starting temperature of 31 degrees at the trailhead! The horses were also missing on the trails today. However, there were hikers and runners.
There is a good path that roughly parallels Highway 159 between the Red Rock Campground and Blue Diamond Hill. It appears this pathway is primarily used by foot and mountain bike traffic. One could stay at the campground and tackle the various runs on Blue Diamond Hill by mountain bike over one or more days. As you approach the Cowboy Horseback Riding outfit, circle around the South side of the hill just East (below) the parking area there to access the Blue Diamond Hill trail system. Note that there is an equestrian trail circling the hill. However, it’s possible to stay on a firmer bike trail all the way as long as you bypass the hill to the South (left) between the smaller hill and Blue Diamond Hill.
If you skipped the detour to the East, you could quickly head from the Fossil Canyon parking area on Highway 159 toward Blue Diamond Hill and into the trail system. If you’re circumventing Blue Diamond Hill in a clockwise direction, head for the canyon on the East side of the hill. It’s the closest canyon to the parking area. Stay to your left to ascend Blue Diamond Hill on the Muffin/Bomb Voyage Trail. The trail is excellent, with a gradual incline, though in a few places there are some shallow rocky ledges to navigate. The rapid ascent quickly reveals an expansive view of Red Rock Canyon, the Rainbow Mountains, La Madre Mountain cliffs, Turtlehead Peak and Calico Hills. These views are lit up best during sunrise and early morning hours.
You’ll arrive at a prominent rocky bluff on the beginning of the upper ridgeline summit where views to the East of the Las Vegas Valley, Gass Peak, Muddy Mountains, Frenchman Mountain, Sunrise Mountain and points beyond begin to open up. These views are lit up best during afternoon and sunset hours.
Continue on the Eastern ridge system toward a radio tower that is faintly visible to the South. The ridgeline trail is very good and easy to follow. As you continue, all the views mentioned earlier open up further, along with views into the Mt. Charleston Wilderness (Griffith Peak to Mummy Mountain). You’ll notice another ridgeline further to the East on Blue Diamond Mountain. The trail dips down and crosses over from the ridge you are on to the ridge further East. It’s worth while to go off trail for a bit and head North (left) along the Eastern ridge. There are some spectacular views from the ridge, a beautiful rugged combination of rocks, cliffs and desert plant life and many fossils embedded in the rocks. This is also a place of wilderness solitude. Few, if any, people take the out and back excursion North along this ridge.
Eventually, turn back South to retrace your way to the main trail, which now becomes the Overlook Ridge Trail, heading toward the upper radio tower. Watch for impressive pillars along the cliff line during this stretch.
The radio tower offers perhaps the best expansive 360 degree view from anywhere on Blue Diamond Hill. The Maverick Helicopter operation becomes visible to the South along with the gypsum mining area. If you’re making a wide circuit of Blue Diamond Hill continue South toward the wind sock over Maverick Helicopters before turning West and beginning your descent of Blue Diamond Hill.
On this adventure I headed West straight down from the upper radio tower on the Radio Tower Trail. A bit before the lower radio tower you’ll see a cairn and a trail angling off to the right. This trail will lead to the Bone Shaker Trail which takes you all the way back to your starting point at the parking area on Highway 159.
The Bone Shaker Trail cuts through the mid-North/South section of Blue Diamond Hill along a descending ridge between Cowboy Canyon to the West (left) and Skull Canyon to the East (right). The canyons are impressive and the trail is well named. As you reach the Northern area of the ridge, the angle of descent increases and you’ll find yourself descending a rocky slope in many places. To me, it’s impossible to imagine riding a mountain bike, or anything on wheels, down this steep rocky section, but you’ll see mountain bike tracks. “Bone Shaker” is well named! As you progress North along the Bone Shaker Trail, you’re facing spectacular views of Red Rock Canyon and the Keystone Thrust cliffs of the La Madre Mountains Wilderness. Eventually, after the steepest final descent, you’ll reconnect with the lower pathway just South of the Fossil Canyon Trailhead parking area on Highway 159 where you began.