While Nevada is usually hot enough, there are a few hot springs for those that want to heat things up further. The Goldstrike Hot Springs are located outside of Boulder City, Nevada inside the Lake Mead Recreational Area, but those that want to explore these natural hot springs cannot just drive there. Oh, no, there is actually quite the strenuous hike involved to get there. While the hike in question is only about six miles in length, there are eight fixed ropes along the way. This means that hikers will be indulging in a bit of free form rock climbing with only the rope and occasionally some carved steps to work with. However, this serves as the perfect warm up to enjoy the hot springs. After the strenuous hike, burning arms and legs will rejoice in the hot natural water.
|Trail Length:||6.5 miles||City/State:||Boulder City, Nevada||Bikes Allowed:||No|
|Elevation:||750 Feet (lowest)
1,580 Feet (highest)
|County:||Clark||Dogs Allowed:||Yes, but not recommended|
Getting There: Getting to the Goldstrike Hot Springs trailhead is fairly straight forward. Whether guests are coming from Boulder City or the Hoover Dam on the Nevada-Arizona border, Goldstrike Hot Springs trail is just a quick drive down the Great Basin Highway. Visitors will want to take Exit 2 toward Goldstrike Canyon. After a short drive down Route 172, take the first left turn on to Goldstrike Canyon Road and drive until the old dirt road dead ends into the parking lot for the trail.
The Hike: Once hikers have arrived and parked their car, the trail officially starts behind the boulders that mark the dead end road. It will be pleasant walking for awhile down the sandy dirt trail and past the surrounding desert scrub brush. Eventually, hikers will end up at their first landmark as they approach the Great Basin Highway. While being close to the highway and all the noise it brings is unpleasant, visitors will be treated to an impressive view of the Nevada approach to the O'Callaghan-Tillman Memorial Bridge. After these views, the scrub brush will become less common and instead there will be larger boulders surrounding the trail.
About a mile in, the first block in the trail occurs. The trail dips down a pile of boulders with a faint red painted arrow urging hikers to go on over what looks like a nasty drop. However, if hikers look to the rock wall beside it, they will see a narrow set of stone steps cared into the rock. There is a rope belted into the wall that hikers can hold for security, but it is usually not necessary unless hikers have really poor balance.
Now hikers have walked themselves into a gorge where they will primarily spend the rest of the hike. At first, this wash is a bit narrow but it is big enough for two people to walk side by side. It's nice to be able to run your hands over the smooth sandstone canyon walls here. However, eventually, the gorge will widen out where several washes come together in a bigger gorge. Keep heading straight or take a side trip to explore the other washes, but going straight will lead hikers to yet another rope. While the first fixed rope helped hikers down some stone steps, this one demands a bit more effort and bravery. You must use it as intended and walk down the rock wall backwards. It shouldn't be too difficult, but it may require a bit of bravery for those who have never done it before. Shortly after though, there is a bit of a fun part.
The next obstacle along the hike is a dry fall, or a chute in the stone. Visitors can do it the fun way or the lame way. The lame way is to follow the blue arrows and go around. The fun way is to get on your butt and slide down it. For those that choose the lame way, there is yet another fixed rope to help you on your way down.
After clearing the dry fall, hikers approach what was once the Upper Goldstrike Hot Springs. There was hot springs here once, but sadly they have all pretty much dried up. If you are hiking after a bit of rain, there may actually be some water there, but it is not spring fed anymore. Though there are no soothing pools, this section of the hike is no less interesting. It is still quite amazing to wander around the pock-marked area and see what the erosion of the water made from the rock here. The further into the Upper Pools area, the more likely you are to find some pools of water rather than a dry basin or a mostly dry basin with a bit of mud. However, these pools aren't the main affair, so don't dally in them too long.
There are a few more areas that require the fixed rope to get down ahead. The canyon has began to narrow again as well so there will be a number of boulders that visitors will need to stumble over, around and under to get past. Hikers should also keep their eyes open for Desert Bighorn Sheep. They are not too terribly aggressive and are fun to watch, but if they are grazing on the canyon walls, they are likely to send a few rocks your way.
As visitors continue to scramble, they will pass a few remains of manmade pools that have long gone defunct. Many built their own personal hot tubs and swimming pools in the narrow sections of the canyon, but many of them have all died away. However, it is also in this area where visitors will start to get their first major glimpses of water. There are a few streams and warm waterfalls in the area that are beautiful and refreshing. However, they also make the rocks slippery, so be careful walking on wet rocks or on dry rocks with wet feet. The last fixed rope of the area is by a waterfall. There are steps carved into the rock, but the last step is a big one, be careful not to slip.
Officially, hikers have reached their destination. The Lower Goldstrike Hot Springs are also lovingly referred to as the Cave of Wonders. This enclosed area hosts a large pool and usually several smaller ones of wonderful warm water that flows down a stream into the Colorado River. In an effort to keep pools full or maybe to make them deeper, the stream has been slightly blocked with sandbags, but still allows for some water to escape. Regardless, enjoy a soak in the waters that are usually around 110 degrees but can soar to 120 degrees, so it may be wise to do a toe dip first. It is likely that visitors will have some company in their hot spring as it is quite the popular place for hikers and a popular stop for those kayaking the Colorado River. For visitors curious enough to continue on by following the pathways and the stream, they are led to the Nevada Hot Springs, an area filled with warm pools and waterfalls. For those that want to carry on about 30 minutes past that, the trail leads right into a small sandy beach on the Colorado River. If the water is high on the river, the beach may be under water though. All that is left now is to have a soak and be careful tracing your way back up the trail. There are a number of ways to get back, but each way will spit out some place different. Taking another route without GPS or knowledge of the area can result in being lost, so it is best to retrace your steps.
Tips: There are a few things to keep in mind when exploring the area.
Be sure to bring lots of water. It shouldn't merit saying but the hot springs water is not safe to drink and the Nevada desert is hot. Heat stroke and dehydration are only made worse by hot springs, so stay hydrated and make use of shade to keep cool.
Many of the pools will have crystal clear water, but some pools will grow algae. Hikers should steer clear of the algae pools. It may be harmless algae, but blue-green algae loves warm water and low depths. It's toxic and will leave a pretty nasty rash on human skin; pets should also avoid drinking it.
As mentioned before, beware the desert sheep and their uncanny ability to knock loose rocks down into the canyon towards hikers.
Be careful hiking on rocks when wet. Wet rocks are always a bit slippery, but even if you just have a bit of water on your shoes and you touch a dry rock, it can be a major slip hazard. The hike back around here is always harder because people hike back wet.
The canyon that hikers go through is at risk for flash floods, so it may be best to cancel a hike if it is going to rain. Even after rain, be sure to check for flooding.
There is a danger (albeit a low one) of getting the deadly Neagleria fowleri infection from swimming in the hot springs. However, that shouldn't put you off a visit. There is a risk of this amoeba being contracted in almost all non-chlorinated water. The risk of contacting this brain-eating amoeba is extremely low, but hikers can judge for themselves if it is worth the risk. I know, telling you that it's a brain eater just put you off swimming outside of a pool ever again, right? Just take solace in the fact that many people have soaked here and no one has died from it; just keep the water out of your nose and mouth just in case.