The Mountains of Nevada •
Blue Diamond Hill • Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area (part)
• Spring Mountains
• Clark County

Down on the desert flats, looking up at a canyon. I would not ascend this canyon, but I would descend it

The Spring Mountains, plus a view of the trails and the horse stables/parking area where I started

Look back down at the trail I have been ascending

Rock formations as I gain the upper plateau

Looking back from where I came, the clouds are starting to build

View of the 4,950-foot point (left) and a hill possibly as high (right)

The windsock at the presumed 4,950-foot summit

Picnic tables and astro-turf at the 4,950-foot point

Peak 4,929 in the distance

Almost to Peak 4,929

The top of Point 4,929, looking north at the suddenly-appearing storm

The other hill at the 4,929-foot point

Low clouds, virga and probable rain as I exit

Looking down the canyon as I hike out. Now cloudy and rainy

Date: May 22, 2021 • Elevation: 4,950 feet • Prominence: 1,110 feet • Distance: 11 miles • Time: 4 hours • Gain: 1,780 feet (gross) • Conditions: Sunny and cool at first, then rainy and cloudy at the end


Blue Diamond Hill is a long scarp of uplifted sedimentiary rock, with cliffs along its east and gentler slopes to the west. The very top of the mountain lies on BLM and private land, but a significant portion of its northern and western slopes lie within the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. From Las Vegas looking west, the hill has a bland tan color and seems to blend in with the Spring Mountains that rise behind it. However, up close, its cliffs and canyons and variety of landforms suggest it's anything but a bland hill.

The hill is very popular with mountain bicyclists, along with two-footed hikers and occasionally their smaller four-legged companions. There are miles of bike trails going up and all around the hill, offering many options to gain the high plateau. Horses also use these trails, part of a horse-rides outfit open to the public. Not surprisingly, this is a very popular hiking-biking-riding area.

I had arrived yesterday to Nevada for a week-long stay with my dad in Henderson. I hiked Tortoise Shell Peak yesterday afternoon in abnormally cool conditions for late May. The same conditions would persist into today, then things would warm up significantly. Thus, I planned to hike this peak today to take advantage of the cool temperatures, which were expected to top out in the low 70s.

I was up at dawn and followed the freeways and roads to the northeast entrance into the Red Rocks, following the 215 Beltway to Charleston Boulevard, then a few miles west toward Red Rocks. I had purchased a day pass online but no one checked if I had one. I parked in a small ad-hoc lot along the main road at the entrance to the horse stables. It was about 7:30 when I arrived, and the lot already held about 20 cars. There were hikers and bikers going every which way.

I had copies of the trail maps but there are so many, it could be confusing, so I decided to follow my nose and common sense, and follow whatever looked most promising. From the parking area, I walked past the stables and followed wide paths that skirted the Blue Mountain massif to its north. The path merged in with a road that bent south, aiming uphill into a canyon. The road ends here, where cables and beefy wooden posts are erected, presumable as a way to tie off one's horse.

A good trail continues, dropping about twenty feet into a drainage, then up the other side, bending in toward the canyon, but angling upward too. Then the trail started a sequence of sharp switchbacks, about a half-dozen in all. Afterwards, the trail I was (called the Bomb Voyage Trail) on then angles east and contours with the slopes, sometimes overlooking cliffs mere feet away. In time, the trail entered into a parallel canyon, gained steeply, then angled out of the canyon and finally gained the upper plateau on its northernmost tip. Here, two women came hiking down, and moments later, a male jogger.

(Note: I did not realize it at the time, but among the switchbacks is a junction where another trail branches. It occurs about the fourth switchback if hiking uphill. After a right turn, this junction will be on your right and the trail will actually descend slightly, whereas the one I was one continued uphill. I honestly did not think much of this trail, thinking it just led to an overlook. However, it is a good trail that goes up the canyon, and I ended up taking this trail down on my descent).

Now on the upper plateau, the slopes were much gentler, and it was just a matter hiking up and up and up until I found the highest point. The trails would meander and follow long arcs when contouring around some of the hills, I assume to make the bike-riding experience more manageable. I didn't mind, except the extra distances seemed unnecessary. I honestly had no idea where the highpoint hill was. I figured I'd just see it and it would be obvious. I must have identified a half dozen hills I assumed to be the highpoint, only to find a higher hill beyond it. I encountered a man walking with his dogs and a team of three bike riders along this stretch.

Finally, I achieved a high spot and could see two hills off in the distance, one with a flag on it (it turned out to be a windsock) and another hill to its right (west), which looked as high. I was less than a mile from those hills, so I continued along the trails and now some rough Jeep tracks, aiming for the windsock hill first. I surmounted it, shot an image, then hiked down it and over to the western hill. Hiking up that hill, it appeared lower than the windsock hill.

Then things got rather annoying. Topographic maps show a 4,956-foot spot elevation, which would have been the summit of Blue Diamond hill. The maps also show a tiny 4,960-foot contour slightly west of the 4,950 spot elevation, which is where the windsock is located. But these hills have been mined down significantly. The windsock hill (the one with the 4,950-foot spot elevation) has clearly been altered and lowered. No trace of the 4,960-foot area exists, and the hill to the west is enclosed in a 4,920-foot contour but by observation (and a short visit) is lower. The Wikipedia page lists the elevation as 4,931 feet and this is from a 1980 reference.

To here I had hiked about 4 miles and I thought I was done, ready to turn around and exit. But looking south, there was an obvious hill far off that frankly looked as high, and too close to dismiss. It was slightly less than two miles away. I couldn't ignore it, and suddenly, I felt obliged to hike out to that 4,929-foot hill to properly claim a summit of Blue Diamond Hill. Some days I really appreciate my stupid obsessiveness. I'm being sarcastic. To add to the fun, the weather was starting to look really threatening to the north. Big dark clouds were building over the highest peaks of the Spring Mountains. They did not seem to be moving fast, but I did not want to be caught up here if things got wet and rainy.

The hike out to the 4,929-footer wasn't bad at all. I was able to follow Jeep tracks, foot paths and easy cross country nearly the whole way. I was soon on graded tracks, and hiking steeply up past some sheds to gain the 4,929-foot hilltop, which I tagged. I also walked over to the other hilltop, which looked equal in height, and tagged it too. I was not wasting time. I was moving quickly and now heading northbound, watched as the clouds built and lowered. It seemed the windsock hill was still in sun, but beyond that, it looked ominous. My main concern, as always, is lightning. Rain and cold would just be inconvenient, but lightning, deadly.

I was walking very quickly and not stopping, not even for drinks or snacks. I walked past the windsock hill and down a grade, descending into a gentle saddle where four or five trails meet. By now, the clouds were above me and the temperature had dropped about ten degrees, but no rain yet. Had it been sunny, I probably would not have been moving so fast, and I probably would have repeated my ascent route out. But under these conditions, I thought it wise to descend as fast and as soon as possible. Thus, I took a trail that dropped into a canyon, hoping it would lead me out. It would lead me somewhere, that's all I knew.

It turns out I was on a fine trail called the Bob Gnarly trail. It steeply descended into the canyon and stayed solid the entire way down. About halfway down, I felt drops. Just a sprinkle, but enough to motivate me to move fast, plus to be mindful of the rocks becoming slick. Suddenly my feet felt heavy and I knew what was happening: my calf muscles were starting to charley-horse on me. I had been moving so fast for so long with no breaks, they just ran out of fuel. I sat down and took a fifteen-minute break. The rain was just a light sprinkle for now. I sucked down a whole gatorade at once, plus ate a bunch of cheese sticks and jerky. I was famished and I realize I had simply pushed myself too far. I needed water and potassium and salts back into my system. I also rubbed the hell out of my calves.

After my break, I resumed the downhill hike, now going slower. My legs and feet were still a little wobbly but they were behaving. I was soon back to where this trail met the first one I was on at the switchbacks. From here, I just slowly walked down the trails and paths back to my car. I had hiked about 11 miles, and I was very surprised to see that it was just a few minutes before noon. I had been hiking for 4 hours. It felt like 6 hours and it felt more like 2 p.m..

I did not delay. I just drove back to my pop's place in Henderson, showered and rested, then he and I went for a mid-afternoon "linner" at a nearby casino restaurant where they serve decent New York Steaks. I had me one, plus all the fixins, and I felt much better!

Most people who hike to the highpoint go to just the 4,950-foot windsock, and I would probably agree that even if it's not 4,950 feet any more, it still is probably the highpoint, but that 4,929-foot top, to me, looked to close to call. That's just my opinion. You may feel differently.

I did not hike for the next couple days. I needed a rest day. I also went with my father to visit my mom, who has just recently been moved into a memory-care facility in Henderson. Her cognitive abilities have been waning now for a few years and recent events forced my dad's hand. This just happened, less than a month ago. Seeing her was bittersweet. She did not really remember me. She would light up as though she knew who I was, then her face would go back to being a neutral expression.

I have been grieving her decline and her loss for a couple years now. Even as recently as last summer, she was still able to hold a conversation and kind of register who I was, but those days are gone. My mother is in good health. She'll likely live out her days at this facility, which is a very nice place. I am grateful she is in a place where she is looked after properly by professionals, and she seems happy. She is generally in good spirits. She literally lives in the moment. She does not remember anything from moments ago, so she does not concern herself with those worries. I am grateful for all that she provided for me from when I was a baby onward, and think back even to recent times, such as our hike up Bird Spring Peak back in 2016. I love my mom very much!

My next hike was a day later, up Ugly Brown Lump closer toward Mount Charleston.

(c) 2021 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. WHA