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The River Mountains are a moderately-sized range separating Henderson and the Las Vegas Valley from Lake Mead to the east. Partly lying within the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, the range appears to be popular with mountain bikers and hikers alike. The highpoint is River Mountain BM with over 1,400ft of prominence. Black Mtn, about a mile further south, is featured in Zdon's Desert Summits and has a maintained trail going most of the way to the summit. I planned to do both of these along with a few other named summits in a loop around the southern part of the range. I had spent the night parked below a flood control basin on the east side of Henderson. In hindsight, my starting point wasn't the shortest or easiest for tagging these four summits - that would probably be from the south out of Boulder City - but it mattered little as I had an enjoyable outing with the place mostly to myself.
I started early, before 6a, so that I could finish before noon, giving me time to get to the Las Vegas airport to pick up my wife who was flying in for a VB tournament over the long holiday weekend. It was just light enough to see without a headlamp, the lights of Las Vegas shimmering in the predawn view to the west with the snowy peaks of the Mt. Charleston area framing it in the background. I followed a road signed for No Vehicles east, up and into the large catch basin before the road turned to follow a series of transmission lines that cross the range on their way to Hoover Dam. After about 2mi, signs indicate I had entered the Lake Mead NRA, around the same time as sunrise over Southern Nevada. I left the road where a transmission tower sits on the SW Ridge of River Mtn BM, following the ridge almost 800ft up to its summit in about 20min. The peak affords a view of Lake Mead to the east, though not as good as I had imagined - part of that might be the drought-induced receding waters. A benchmark, ammo box register and survey stakes mark the range highpoint.
I next turned my attention to the traverse of the range's crest to the south, first heading northeast before dropping southeast to the powerline saddle. Above the saddle to the south lies unofficially named River Mountain Peak. It has two summits about 1/6mi apart. I found a register on the lower north summit which confused me some at first, but there was also a second, more recently placed one on the higher point to the south. None of the crest is particularly difficult and I enjoyed the easy class 2 scrambling between the various summits. Less than half a mile further south is Black Mtn, taking just over 20min to cover the distance between the two. The first of several tour helicopters flew overhead while I was on the crest - the River Mtns are not your remote Wilderness experience. A recent register had been left at the summit by the same party that had left the one one River Mtn Peak. A use trail makes it easy to continue southwest another half mile to the Black Mtn Overlook. This is the terminus of the maintained trail starting up from Boulder City. There are several plaques here graphically showing the geology of the surrounding mountains in far more detail than your ordinary visitor cares to absorb. They were clearly designed by geologists who take things like "dacite flows" and "Toroweap Formation" as casual conversation items.
From the lookout I followed the Black Mtn Trail down to the saddle with Red Mtn. A handful of military helicopters went flying over the south edge of the range near Boulder City, both Apache and Huey types. It was only at the saddle that I recognized I was no longer in the Lake Mead NRA (in fact that portion of the range south of River Mountain Peak is within the Boulder City corporate boundary). Here there are wooden signs with the names of various mountain bike trails that permeate the terrain around Red Mountain, part of the Bootleg Canyon Mountain Bike Park. Bootleg Canyon Rd is found west of Red Mtn and can be used by pretty much any vehicle to drive to within about half a mile of Red Mtn (this would be the easiest route to all of the peaks here). I followed one of these trail up towards Red Mountain, finding there are two summits to this mountain. The lower eastern summit is the one found on Peakbagger.com, just east of a zipline setup that has been installed along the connecting ridge. There is a fine view of the four peaks I had visited earlier from this point. To the northwest can be seen the higher Red Mtn topped by a VOR station. The highest point is reached via a set of concrete stairs to a small outcrop overlooking the flight navigation equipment that dominates the summit.
Rather than take the switchbacking road down from Red Mtn, I dropped cross-country off the northwest side, disturbing a few bighorn ewes that were quietly occupying this part of the mountain. As I was crossing Bootleg Canyon Rd further down, a lone mountain biker was just making his way to the top, the only person I saw all day on the hike. There are other summits one can visit by continuing west towards Railroad Pass, including Bootleg Mtn, Leaning Arch and Easter Island Peak, but I was out of time today. I needed to get back so I'd be in time to pick up my wife at the airport around 1pm. It was 10a and time for me to start back. I followed one or another of the mountain bike trails to the north and back inside the NRA where I followed another road back to the flood control basin and the van parked on the other side of it. The whole outing came in at 5hrs, a nice half-day effort. That would give me time to get the van and myself presentable before heading to the airport. The next three days would be mostly occupied by a volleyball tournament my daughter's team was competing in. There would be more time for the hills once they were back on a plane Monday evening...
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Black Mountain - Red Mountain
This page last updated: Thu Jan 26 16:03:06 2017
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