Bridge Mountain, Potosi Mountain
By: Greg Roach
This was a DPS exploratory trip to Bridge Mountain, located at the southern end of the Spring Mountains in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area west of Las Vegas. I proposed this peak as a list addition and the mountaineering committee agreed so it will be on the ballot in March. All the people I know who climbed it liked it. I would rate it in the top 10 of my favorite desert peaks. As you know one advantage to having a desert peak list is to get us all out to see interesting places we would not see otherwise. If it's not on the list we won't see it and that would be a shame for this is a beautiful area and a fun third class climb.
Bridge Mountain is similar to the Guardian Angels in Zion National Park. The mountain is a sandstone formation perched atop Red Rock Canyon about 20 miles west of Las Vegas. For more information about this area a helpful book is Hiking the Great Basin a Sierra Club Totebook by John Hart. Mark Adrian also wrote a good description of this area in the Sage July/ August 1998 Volume Number 256.
Mark approached the trailhead, at Red Rock Summit from the east via Red Rock Canyon. We approached it from the west by way of Lovell Canyon Road. Our hiking route to the peak is about the same as Mark Adrian's group. However, we took a different route back making a loop hike (see map).
To get to Lovell Canyon Road take interstate highway 15 north to highway 160. This intersection is 9 miles
south of downtown Las Vegas and signed Blue Diamond/Pahrump exit. Drive west on highway 160 for 10.5 miles to the junction of highway 159. This junction is where Mark's group turned right/north. We continue west on highway 160 towards Pahrump for another 13.2 miles to the signed Lovell Canyon Road (passing the turn off for Potosi Mountain along the way) and turn right.
If you don't like the traffic on Interstate 15 or you are coming from the west turn off Interstate 15 at Baker and take highway 127 north to Tecopa and the Old Spanish Trail road to highway 160 east of Pahrump, Turn right and drive east 13.3 miles to the signed Lovell Canyon Road and turn left.
Our group consisted of 15 adventurous souls looking for new desert territory to explore. They were Rich Gnagy, Mirna Roach, Terry Flood, Joanne Honkonens, Patty Kline, Leslie Hofherr Judy Ware, Justin Puhl, Jack Wickel, Anne Marie Schober, Tina and Tom Bowman, and last but not least Elaine and Dave Baldwin. This was Justin Puhl's first DPS trip and we hope he returns for more desert peaks.
We met our group at 7:30 am 7.6 miles north of highway 160 on Lovell Canyon Road. There is a good place to camp here on the west side of the road. We camped here both Friday and Saturday nights. Directly across Lovell Canyon Road from our camp is the dirt road which leads up to Red Rock Summit about 2.8 miles from here. The 7.5 topo map which shows our campsite and driving route is Mountain Springs, Nev. The map adjoining on the north, La Madre Spring shows Red Rock Summit and the hiking route.
From the campsite we piled into the High Clearance 4Wheel Drive vehicles and drove to the trailhead at Red Rock Summit. There are three rough spots going in and out of washes farther up the road which require high clearance 4-Wheel drive. It was said by people in our group who had driven up the dirt road from Red Rock Canyon that it is equally rough. With 2-wheel drive vehicles one could drive up this road and park before it gets rough and walk the rest of the way. This would add another 3 miles and 500 feet elevation gain to the Red Rock Summit round trip stats of 6 miles 3000 feet gain making a total distance of 9 miles and 3500 feet gain for the round trip. This is a reasonable day hike.
We started hiking about 9:00 am from Red Rock Summit the high point of the road. The trail heads east up a ridge through the juniper and pinyon pine forest for about a mile to reach the major ridgecrest running north and south. From the ridgecrest you are rewarded with a beautiful view of the sandstone bluffs towering above Red Rock Canyon. It had snowed recently and there was a little snow on the north side of the ridges. Bridge Mountain towers up in the east. The route goes up a crack on the western side which looks impossible to climb at first, but goes third class. Bridge Mountain is almost due east at 95 degrees with Rainbow Mountain and Mt. Wilson the sandstone mountains rising in the southeast. The high mountain off in the distance about 12 miles south with antennas on the top of it is Potosi Mountain.
We continued south on the ridgecrest following a good trail. In about half a mile there is a new sign that says "Bridge Mountain Trail". This sign was not here in April of this year the first time I climbed Bridge Mountain. The trail had also been changed and now leads around point 2201 meters before heading down off the limestone ridge covered with pinyon pine to meet the sandstone bluffs below. Once in the sandstone you would swear you were in the Zion. The trail heads across the sandstone then descends to a cliff that drops 2000 feet off to your right into Pine Creek. What an awesome view!
Turning left we followed the well ducked route down a sandstone gully towards Bridge Mountain and arrived at rather flat sandstone area. Then descended down a ridge about 50 meters in elevation to the big saddle or sort of a huge bridge of rock with deep canyons on both sides that leads to the route up the west side of Bridge Mountain. There are "=" signs painted at the base of the friction climb which is about 120 feet long with good hand holds. None of our group needed a rope on the way up. Although one person asked for a rope going back down. A rope probably should be carried in case of emergency or to help beginners. After climbing up about 120 feet the easiest route goes slightly to the left at a ledge and then continues up to easier climbing. At the top of the ramp there is a large arch or bridge with a pool of water behind it. I think this is the reason they call the Peak Bridge Mountain. You can climb through the bridge, up the right side of the wall behind it, and then back over the bridge to the flat area above. Another route can be climbed on the northern side of the pool behind the bridge by climbing up next to a fallen log. We went up over the bridge and came back by the fallen log.
Once over the bridge the landscape flattens out. There are some interesting tarns to the north which offer good photo opportunities. The summit area looms high above a forested valley. We hiked to the southern end of this valley, staying on the sandstone above it. Then climbed diagonally up and across the mountain towards the northeast to the large summit area and then south to the actual summit. There is a great view from the summit.
This peak has a summit register and is climbed regularly by the Nevada locales. On the way back down we met a group of high school students and their teacher who were backpacking up to spend the night in the forested valley below the peak. There is water in the tarns for camping and they would have a beautiful view of the lights of Las Vegas at night.
On the return hike back to the cars we retraced our steps down the. steep slabs, across the big saddle, and back up the ridge opposite Bridge Mountain climbing up 50 meters in elevation and arrived back at the rather flat sandstone area. Instead of following the ducks the we came in we headed in a westerly direction following the sandstone above the deep canyon on our right / north until we reached the head of the canyon where the pinyon pine forest meets the sandstone. This gave us the opportunity to see more on the canyons and the sandstone formations. At the head of the canyon the color of the sandstone rock changes from brown to a dark red color and there was running water in the canyon. From here we hiked west up the steep brushy slope to join the trail at the point where the trail first comes up to meet the ridge from Red Rock Summit (see map).
We arrived back at the cars at about 3:30 pm. This was a slow pace it could be hiked much faster, however we took our time to enjoy the beautiful scenery. We were back at our campsite just in time to set up our potluck dinner and happy hour before it got dark. There was a warm cheerful campfire that night as we enjoyed all the good food and drink our friends had brought to share.
Sunday morning we were on the road early. We drove back down Lovell Road to Highway 160 turned left and drove east about 5 miles to the signed Potosi Mountain dirt road and followed it to the trailhead. It took us about a half hour to reach the trailhead. We were hiking at 8:00 am. We took Route A in the DPS guide. There is a good trail that leads from the and of the road south of the mine ruins up the ridge mentioned in the guide. We took this trail over to the Potosi Mine (shown on the map) and explored the mine before continuing up the ridge and rejoining route A about 100 meters above the point where we left the route.
The mine is an interesting place and well worth the visit. There are huge tailings pouring down the canyon from the mine entrance. The entrance to the mine had been sealed off at one time with reinforced concrete blocks. But, the blocks in the center had been torn down and there is a hole large enough to drive a car through. The entrance is like a big cavern with the remains of many campfires scattered around. Bring a flashlight if you want to explore the mine. There are many side tunnels and large rooms inside. Watch out for a mine shaft on the right that drops sharply into a dark abyss. See the SIDELINES in the DPS guide for more information on the mine.
The views improved as we continued up the ridge to Potosi Mountain. Soon we could see the Sandstone Bluffs where we had been the day before. Rich Gnagy found an interesting fossil in limestone rock on the way up to the peak. We had lunch on the summit which was a little windy. After enjoying the view we headed back down using the route A variation mentioned in the guide which took us right back to our cars. We returned at 3:30 pm with plenty of time for the drive back to L.A.
Everyone who climbed Bridge Mountain liked it better than Potosi. There were 15 climbers for Bridge and only 8 hiked on Sunday for Potosi. Three of the Saturday climbers went down to Red Rock Canyon to further explore the area. I think I will go back myself and explore it some more another time. It is really a beautiful area. Thanks to all who joined our outing and don't forget to vote for Bridge Mountain.
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