The 14,763 acre North McCullough Wilderness portion of the 48,438 acre Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area is itself one and a half times the size of Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. This ancient volcanic area contains a network of hiking and biking trails weaving through lava flows, glassy zones and ash falls. The area remains in its pristine ancient condition and includes incredible views of the Las Vegas Valley and its surrounding mountains.
The main trail in the Northern part of the Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area is 8 miles in length and begins at the McCullough Hills Trailhead at the end of Mission Drive (close to the intersection of East Horizon Ridge Pkwy and Mission Drive). The trail ends at Del E Webb Middle School in the city of Anthem. To make a mountain bike circuit back to your starting point:
You’ve just made a complete circuit of the North end of the Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area!
Note that older maps refer to this as the “Mission Hills Trailhead”. Current Google Maps as of December 2020 refers to this same trailhead as the McCullough Hills Trailhead. To get to the trailhead from the Las Vegas Strip area take I-515 South. Continue past the intersection with I-215. Note that I-515 changes in name to I-11. Take a right off the E. Horizon Dr. exit. After 100ft or so take a left onto E. Horizon Ridge Pkwy. Take a final right after about 3/4 miles on E. Mission Dr. In less than 2000ft E. Mission Dr. will end at the McCullough Hills Trailhead.
The 8-mile McCullough Hills Trail is a good uphill climb with a number of brief rough cobblestone sections to cross at points where a wash crosses the trail. The trail is in excellent condition, though with some scattered stones to navigate. There are a number of off-shoot trails numbered in the 600 series that split off leading to most of the high points you can see from the main trail. If you can see a high point, there is probably a trail leading to it. The trail system in all forms quite a network of hiking, running and mountain biking options with grand views on the first 5 miles back to Henderson and beyond to the hills on the West side of Lake Mead and further in the distance to mountains further to the East.
After a high point at 3,125ft the Las Vegas Valley appears with a backdrop of Mt. Potosi, the Rainbow Mountains on the far side of Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, the Mt. Charleston Wilderness and the Las Vegas Strip as you descend the last 3 miles to the city of Anthem. When you see the paved East Anthem Trail splitting off to the right about 1/2 mile above Anthem, take it. It’s much smoother going if you’re on a bike, though it winds around a lot. If you’re hiking or running, skip the East Anthem Trail and just head straight down the very rocky final hill to the trailhead at the Del E Webb Middle School in Anthem.
The area is a pretty typical, untouched example of the Mojave Desert with scrub brush, scattered creosote and yucca plants. The benefits of this trail are its easy access to the major population areas in the Las Vegas Valley, good cell phone coverage and the feeling of quickly being in another world…peaceful, untouched desert. Late Fall to Spring or early in the morning would enable you to avoid the high heat of Summer days where temperatures can rise toward 120 degrees. For this reason, you’ll see reminders at every trail marker to dial 911 if you experience an emergency (i.e. ran out of water during the excessive heat of a mid-Summer day).