Fortification Hill, Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Arizona
Trail Overview, Fortification Hill, Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Arizona
Spectacular View from Fortification Hill Summit
Fortification Hill on the Arizona side of Lake Mead, like Black Mesa across Lake Mead on the Nevada side has the most incredible view of Lake Mead to be found anywhere. From the flag-topped summit you can see the full panorama of Lake Mead minus the Overton Arm stretching below, the Mt. Charleston Wilderness including Griffith Peak, Charleston Peak, Fletcher Peak and Mummy Mountain, the Rainbow Mountains on the West side of Red Rock Park, Potosi Mountain, Hoover Dam, Mt. Wilson, the Muddy Mountains and many other features in Nevada and Arizona.
Hybrid Adventure to Fortification Hill Summit
This is my first “hybrid adventure” including mountain biking for 3 miles on Kingman Wash Road’s hard gravel surface; walking and running the mountain bike up Fortification Hill Road’s deeper gravel steeper ascent for between 2-3 miles; hiking and running a ridge up to Fortification Hill’s head wall and a brief class 3 climb at the beginning of the head wall ascent. The entire adventure took 7 hours and 15 minutes: 4 1/2 hours to reach Fortification Hill summit from Hwy 93 (including about an hour for video shooting and 30 minutes of rest on the summit), and 2 hours and 15 minutes return trip from Fortification Hill summit back to Hwy 93.
Trailhead Directions, Fortification Hill, Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Arizona
- From Las Vegas, take I-11 South past Boulder City and over the Colorado River in the Hoover Dam area into Arizona
- The name of the road changes to Hwy 93 in Arizona
- At the Kingman Wash exit (exit 2) at Lake Mead National Recreation Area (about a mile past Hoover Dam and the Bridge) cross under Hwy 93 and head left for 4-5 miles on Kingman Wash Access Road.
- Turn right onto Fortification Hill Access Road (it’s behind and to the right of the one Restroom just before Kingman Wash Access Road ends at the Lake Mead Temple Bar Marina).
- Take Fortification Hill Access Road for about 1-2 miles to reach Fortification Hill Trailhead on your left.
Trail Observations, Fortification Hill, Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Arizona
Kingman Wash Access Road, South Mine Access Road and North Mine Access Road
Beginning at a small unmarked parking area a couple hundred feet from the intersection of Arizona Highway 93 and Kingman Wash Access Road I rode the mountain bike a little over 3 miles along Kingman Wash Access Road to a restroom just before the road ends at the Kingman Wash boat launch area. Kingman Wash Access Road is a good stretch of firm, well graded gravel, though there is a good amount of washboard action so have good shock absorption built into your bike.
Kingman Wash Access Road rises at first to a couple high points: The first at the intersection of South Mine Access Road and the second highest point at the intersection of North Mine Access Road. By the way, those two roads rapidly ascend and meet about 500ft up forming a huge triangle with Kingman Wash Access Road before continuing on as South Mine Access Road the an old abandoned mine about a mile or two past their upper intersection. The two mine roads are 4WD high centered vehicles only and the North Mine Access Road is really your best bet as the South lower portion of the South Mine Access Road is so steep and broken up that at times it resembles a controlled avalanche slope more than a road.
Kingman Wash Access Road from North Mine Access Road Intersection to Fortification Hill Access Road
Bypassing the South Mine and North Mine Access Road intersections Kingman Wash Access Road takes a fairly steep descent to the washes boat launch on the shore of Lake Mead. About 500ft before reaching the shore of Lake Mead there is a lone restroom. Fortification Hill Assess Road, unmarked, branches off to the right just in front of the restroom. About 1/8th mile up the road there is a road sign assuring you that you are on Fortification Hill Access Road. Due to the gravel and the rate of ascent, especially after the first mile, I found it easier and more rapid to walk/run the mountain bike. I wore my backpack on my back vs. placing it on the bike’s rear rack in order to keep the bike lite for easier progress.
Fortification Hill Access Road to Fortification Hill Trailhead
Fortification Hill Access Road continues to wind up its wash. About mid-way there are a couple bullet riddled signs that amusingly have the ignored message: “No Target Shooting”, though hunting is allowed. It’s not sure what one could hunt as the largest game are the protected big horn sheep. Just curious observations. The final mile and a half between this point and the Fortification Hill trailhead, the gravel road surface became so deep that it is impossible to ride the bike, even down hill!
The only indication that you have reached the Fortification Hill Trailhead is a small post that says “Trailhead | Wilderness Area”. There is no marking that says “Fortification Hill”, though there is a wide spot to park a few cars. Fortification Hill Access Road continues for a few hundred yards beyond the trailhead, before it ends.
Fortification Hill Trailhead to the Fortification Hill Summit
At the trailhead there are two route choices: Take the lower wash route to the left or the higher ridge route to the right. Both join about a mile up. The ridge route, though with a few up and down hills, has a firmer surface than the rocky wash route, and the view is much better. You can turn around and see Mt. Wilson and the surrounding mountains and washes all the way up in addition to an expanding Southern view that stretches into California.
The ridge route reaches the Fortification Hill head wall cliffs pretty rapidly, less than 30 minutes, where it takes a right to skirt the base of the cliffs for a couple hundred yards. At that point it’s obvious you need to take a left up a brief, fairly tame 15ft class 3 ledge. Once over the ledge the well marked trail continues to ascend to the top of Fortification Hill, where it takes a left to wind around the South end of the Hill for about 3/4th mile to a high point which is clearly the summit. Arriving on that high point there is a flag and summit box which assures you that you are indeed on the summit.
The view from the summit is incredible with Lake Mead stretching below and all the other grand features described in the beginning of this article. Watch the video and the slide show on this page as the best description is visual!