Potosi Mountain • Spring Mountains
• Southwestern Clark County

Potosi Mountain.
The true summit is the
pointy peak on the right

Some of the initial steep road

Looking southeast

The summit is way up there

Topping out at the 2nd towers,
the true summit is ahead

I had to battle tiny
patches of snow...

The buildings near the top.
The route follows the conduits,
but it's not as steep as
it looks

The true summit, plus the cliffs
that Potosi Mountain is known for

A look back at "South Potosi"

Looking down the steep road
onto the desert flast below.
Trust me, it's steep!

Interesting geological "folding"
of the strata, low on Potosi

The asphalt road.
See my truck?

On the drive out, I took a shot
of the road that goes up to Potosi

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Date: April 5, 2008 • Elevation: 8,514 feet • Prominence: 3,012 feet • Distance: 9 miles • Time: 5 hours and 15 minutes • Gain: 3,150 feet • Conditions: Clear, breezy and chilly

Potosi Mountain is in the Spring Mountains, the range that form the western "wall" of mountains hemming in Las Vegas. The entire range, including its highpoint Mount Charleston, dominates the Las Vegas skyline, moreso than the glitzy hotels, which look pathetically small when measured up against the mountains. Potosi Mountain is a prominent mountain about 20 miles south of the city, anchoring the southern half of the range. It has a distinct prow-shaped summit with steep east-facing cliffs.

In 1942, a DC-3 airplane crashed into Potosi Mountain, killing actress Carole Lombard, among many others. The site of the crash site is not meant to be revealed, although dedicated (and sometimes lucky) searchers have found the site, where some remains of the plane can be found. At the time, most of the plane was salvaged for its metals, so no big pieces remain. I had no interest in seeking out the site. It seems wrong to pick around an area where many people perished.

Potosi Mountain is also well-known to tower builders, who have built communications towers on the tops of the three main summits of the mountain. A steep road runs up the peak from the south for the benefit of the tower workers and the occasional hiker such as myself. After a few months in which I had hiked a few peaks and turned back on others, and all with some level of bush-whacking or route-finding, I wanted an easy hike this time. No bush-whacking, no route finding, none of that. Thus, the service road actually appealed to me.

The road is no stroll. It gains over 3,000 vertical feet in less than five miles. But it meant I would have to do very little thinking and just follow the road, which is something I am good at doing. I planned a weekend visit to my folks in Henderson with plans to hike up Potosi Mountain on one of the days. I drove to Henderson on Friday afternoon after work, covering 310 miles in just over five hours, which is pretty good considering it was a Friday with lots of Phoenix-to-Vegas drivers, and that I went via Laughlin to avoid the back-ups at Hoover Dam (the bridge was not yet complete).

On Saturday (today), I left Henderson around 5 a.m., planning to show up just as the sun was rising. I got onto Interstate-15 south to Jean, then west on NV-160 toward the small town of Goodsprings. From here, I followed local roads north about 4.5 miles to a Y-junction, going left, now following a dirt road that went another 1.8 miles into the foothills before coming to a locked gate. It was just after 6 a.m. when I arrived and backed into one of the pullouts. I got dressed into my hiking clothes and was on the move by 6:20, the sky alight with the new day but the sun still behind the eastern ranges.

Comment on the drive: I missed the bypass road that leads off NV-160 before Goodsprings (didn't see it in the dark, I guess), and went into Goodsprings itself. This wasn't too much trouble. If this happens to you, I suggest taking Esmeralda Road north to Pacific, then hang a right, go past Revere, then take a dirt road on the left that connects to the paved bypass. This road is paved but torn up with big potholes. It leads to a gate (right at the aforementioned Y-junction) at a quarry. The road's name, as I learned while driving out, is "Goodsprings something something gravel bypass something" Road. Something like that. You can't miss it. I did.

Now walking, I passed the gate and immediately came upon an especially steep segment of the road, which was paved to my surprise. I think they just put it in because there was a pile of unused asphalt nearby. This goes on for about a third of a mile, during which time the road is very steep. Going by the map it gains about 500 feet in this short length, and doing the math, this is about a 30% road gradient. Given that vehicles need access up here, the asphalt seems like a good idea to combat erosion and perhaps, downhill skidding. Even walking it was a grind. But it went fast and within minutes I had passed the asphalt section and was back on good old dirt, the gradient lessening slightly.

After passing a small knob, I saw the remaining part of the road that rises to the main range crest. From the gate to the range crest, the road gains about 1,800 feet in about 1.8 miles, a consistent 17-20% grade. I had to stop and change into long pants when the breeze would chill me severely in the cool morning air. Sometimes it would be still and other times it would blow fast (in this case, maybe 25 m.p.h. at the fastest, not that fast, I suppose). I arrived at the top of this steep section at 7:50 a.m., where I stopped and took a food and water break. The wind was nippy, but I found a seat in the morning sun that helped.

Around the bend, I was treated to a great view of the first of the Potosi summits. I knew better than to get my hopes up, knowing the actual highest point was still another mile north of this first peak. It was very impressive, if just for its sheer size. A fire from 2005 scorched this particular section of mountain, leaving nothing in its wake, no trees or grasses or anything. The hillsides were barren. I could see the road high up on the peak's west flanks ahead of me. The overall effect was like a huge amphitheater. I had good views into the Potosi Valley and the peaks and deserts toward Pahrump, but haze and dust dimmed the horizons for now. There were even smatterings of snow in the north-facing shaded sections of rock and cliff.

Back on the hike, the road drops slightly at first then gains steeply before moderating again. A side-road zooms up to the summit from here to the towers, but I ignored it. My progress here went very quickly. In sections, the grade was lenient and even level and occasional slight downhills. In less than a half-hour, I had worked my way around this first peak where I could now see the other two tower complexes and the true summit, still about a mile and a half north. So far, all was going to plan. The forest here was thicker, in the Nevada sense: smatterings of bristlecone, and all sorts of grassy underbrush and tumble-weedy plant things (thistles, probably).

I covered the remaining distance to the summit in 45 minutes, including breaks. The road crested near the second set of towers, then dropped steeply about 100 feet to a saddle before wiggling up to the last complex of towers near a building. Other than occasional steepness, there were no difficulties to mention. The weather was improving nicely, warming up and becoming more still. I walked up to the buildings, dropped my pack and walking stick and scrambled the final 40 vertical feet up rocks following wire conduits to the summit.

From the summit, the views were tremendous. Mount Charleston dominated to the north, still capped in snow. Las Vegas could be seen "everywhere" in the valleys to the east. The nearby Red Rocks could be seen as well. The big peak east was McCullough. I didn't spend long up top, instead walking back down to my pack and having lunch on one of the huge concrete guy-wiring anchors nearby the road. A true wilderness experience. I had a signal so I called my folks to say hi, and also to call my wife to say hi and tell her I was safe. It was about 9:30 when I finally checked the thing that tells time, a three-hour journey.

I spent about 15 minutes here, having an early lunch on the concrete anchor block before starting the walk down. The walk out went fast, taking the downhills at a nice steady pace. Before the steep downhill section back to the trailhead, I changed into my shorts again since the weather was warming up. I took the overall pace slow to enjoy the views and to take photographs in the slightly better, less hazy lighting.

The steep downhill parts went fast, too, but on the steepest portion I had to go slow lest I slip on the loose rock. Even on the asphalt I had to go slow. There was a guy driving up this road, presumably to go check on the towers. He was inching up at what seemed like 1 m.p.h. (1.6 km/hr) and it didn't look like fun. He had a full-size Chevy truck, but I'd opt for a Jeep on a road like this. Or walk it, as I was clearly moving faster than he was, but he probably had all sorts of tools and stuff with him, and his car radio.

I was back to my truck at 11:40, an exit of just under two hours and a total hike of just over five hours, including rests. I got what I wanted: some exercise and another 2,000-foot prominence peak to check off in the logs. I drove out slowly and stopped for more photographs, then stopped in Jean to call my family and my wife to let them know all was well. Later that day, we went out for a buffet meal at one of the casinos. The rest of the weekend was spent relaxing and generally hanging around my folks. I drove back to the Phoenix area early Monday morning.

(c) 2008, 2016 Scott Surgent. For entertainment purposes only. This report is not meant to replace maps, compass, gps and other common sense hiking/navigation items. Neither I nor the webhost can be held responsible for unfortunate situations that may arise based on these trip reports. Conditions (physical and legal) change over time! Some of these hikes are major mountaineering or backpacking endeavors that require skill, proper gear, proper fitness and general experience.