Spring Mountain Ranch State Park: The Complete Guide

desert vegetation with mountains in the background in Spring Mountain Ranch State Park
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Spring Mountain Ranch State Park

Address
6375 NV-159, Blue Diamond, NV 89004, USA
Phone +1 702-875-4141

The dramatic cliffs of the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area are on virtually every hiking buff’s Las Vegas-area bucket list, and for good reason. It has some of the most fabulous—and most accessible—scenery in the West. But its popularity also means big crowds, which is why locals often make their escape to the lesser-known Spring Mountain Ranch State Park, right next to it. The nearly 530-acre oasis in the mountains has been a working ranch and a luxury retreat for such owners as business magnate and film tycoon Howard Hughes.

This area contains rich archaeological evidence of 10,000 years of human habitation. The natural cold springs that feed this area provided water for the southern Paiute and earlier tribes. In the 19 th century, trappers and explorers passed through the valley headed for Los Angeles, and travelers began using the area as an alternate route for the Spanish Trail. The Old Spanish Trail became the Old Mormon Trail when, in 1847, Mormon pioneers began traveling between nearby colonies and Salt Lake City.

History

This plot of land was established in 1876 as Sandstone Ranch, and many of the features of the early working ranch survive. Today, visitors can explore some of the oldest buildings in Nevada, such as a mid-19th-century blacksmith shop, two bunkhouses, and several guest houses, as well as a workshop, cemetery, and the original Sandstone cabin and ranch house. The park is also chock full of stories from its legendary owners. Comedian Chester Lauck, creator of the radio characters Lum and Abner, bought it in the 1940s and renamed it the Bar Nothing Ranch. He sold it to German actress Vera Krupp in 1955, who renamed it Spring Mountain Ranch. And it was here that her famous 33.6 carat Krupp diamond was stolen while Krupp was eating dinner. She later sold the ranch to Howard Hughes. It became a state park in 1973, and in 1976 was entered into the National Register of Historic Places as a historic district.

The Best Things to Do

While you’ll certainly want to hike around this beautiful area, which feels atypically green because of its springs, you won’t want to miss the historic structures that comprise the ranch.

You’ll find information about the ranch and the different buildings at the Main Ranch House, where you can take a self-guided tour and park volunteers are on hand to answer questions. (Call ahead and you can book a guided tour.) Families love the living history programs at Spring Mountain, which actors present every spring and fall, depicting the lives of the area’s early mountain men, settlers, and pioneers.

Sitting at an elevation o 3,800 feet, the ranch is usually a good 10 to 15 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than the Las Vegas Valley below. This makes it a local favorite for Super Summer Theater, which runs May through September, under the stars in the big pasture at the ranch. Attendees bring blankets, beach chairs, and picnic dinners and enjoy fun live performances right in the shadows of the red rock cliffs.

Prefer something less programmed? You can enjoy the area as a nature retreat. With its higher elevation, you’ll see entirely different plants and animals up here than down below in the valley. Desert scrub, black brush, pinyon-juniper trees, and riparian can all be found, and you’ll often see fields of desert marigolds after a spring rainfall. Jackrabbits, cottontail rabbits, kit fox, coyote, mule deer, wild burro, and even bighorn sheep and badgers can be found up here. Many of the area’s most interesting species are nocturnal, but you’ll still see plenty in mild weather on a hike. And if you’re feeling like you just want to come to enjoy the scenery, you can have lunch at the shaded picnic sites, where lots of visitors come just to enjoy the tables and grills.

Best Hikes & Trails

The best time to hike this area is in late autumn when the weather is generally dry and although it can still be hot, you’ll appreciate the cooler temps of the mountains. Summer can bring thunderstorms and flash floods, and winters are cold. The hikes in this area are not generally physically demanding but offer great views and some wildly interesting flora and fauna. Remember to bring plenty of water: Regardless of how undemanding a hike sounds, you’ll still be tromping through one of the world’s more unforgiving climes. 

  • Lake Harriet Overlook: Rangers lead hikers through the Sandstone Canyon and Lake Harriet Overlook trails, which pass some of the oldest buildings in the state, through some of the beautiful canyons of the Red Rock Escarpment, and on to Lake Harriet, a reservoir created when Spring Mountain was an active ranch. The lake is home to the endangered Pahrump poolfish, which date to the Ice Age and have no close relatives in the world. One of the prettiest views in the park can be seen as you face the lake and the red slopes of the Spring Mountains.
  • Sandstone Canyon Loop: The Sandstone Canyon Loop is a gentle, 1.2-mile route that follows a creek over some gentle hills and through some woods to reach the Sandstone Spring, the source for most of the water in this area.
  • Sandstone Springs via First Creek Trail: You can reach Sandstone Springs via a 5.4-mile out-and-back trail through cactus and rough rocks, and past some historical artifacts left by some of the ranch’s first families. Look for the trails that lead along the base of the bluffs, past Lake Harriet, to the springs.
  • Potosi Summit: A nearly 11-mile trail, Ninety Nine Mine, takes you to the summit of Potosi Mountain, a mountain in the Spring Mountain range surrounded by limestone cliffs. Potosi’s slopes are still filled with old mines, and there are a number of interesting caves. The mountain is most famous for its tragic Hollywood past: In 1942, a plane carrying Hollywood star Carol Lombard crashed on the northeast side. Clark Gable, her fiance, waited at the base while rescuers searched—and failed—to find survivors. Some of the wreckage can still be seen today.

Where to Stay Nearby

There’s no camping in Spring Mountain State Park, but there are a lot of options for staying nearby. The Las Vegas Strip is only about 30 minutes away, but if you’d like to stay closer to this area and Red Rock next to it, there are some good options within just a few miles.

  • Red Rock Casino Resort and Spa: Red Rock redefined the “locals’ casino” idea when the resort opened at the base of the Red Rock Conservation Area. Full of great restaurants, it’s the area’s go-to for dining, and its aesthetic draws on both the area and its glam Las Vegas heritage (think back-lit onyx bars and 3.1 million crystals in the massive chandeliers). It has the best views of Red Rock and the Spring Mountains.
  • Delano Las Vegas: Delano Las Vegas took the place of what was Mandalay Bay's TheHotel at Mandalay Bay and transformed the somewhat dated tower into a boutique that celebrates the desert environment that surrounds it. Think white-on-white decor with incredible sandstone details (like 10-foot-high boulders at the entrance). Don't miss an evening on its 64th floor at Rivea and Skyfall, both by Alain Ducasse, which have the best panoramic views of the Las Vegas Strip and east toward Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.
  • Element Las Vegas Summerlin: For those who want to avoid the casino scene altogether and stay close to the conservation area, the open-flow hotel rooms of Element, with all their conveniences (kitchens, dishwashers, coffee makers, work desks) are a low-key and convenient choice. Unwind after a day of hiking at the outdoor pool. The hotel is near Downtown Summerlin, the walkable retail and dining center of the neighborhood.

Getting There

From the Las Vegas Strip, Spring Mountain Ranch State Park is between a 30- and 45-minute drive (depending on traffic). Head south on I-15 and exit on Blue Diamond Road. This will take you to the Blue Diamond Area, which connects to the Red Rock Canyon Scenic Byway. Turn left into the Spring Mountain Ranch State Park. There is a day-use entrance fee of $10 per vehicle for Nevada plates and $15 for non-locals or bike in for $2.

Tips for Your Visit

  • Pets are welcome, but they must be kept on a leash.
  • Don’t collect mementos in the state park. State and federal laws protect the area and its historic structures, artifacts, rocks, plants, and fossils.
  • Some of the trees here are more than 400 years old. Don’t climb them.
  • Trails close one hour prior to the park’s close. Stay on the trails.
  • Don’t go off-roading, as tempting as the landscape may be.
  • Here to take pictures? Photography in the park is regulated. Make sure you know the rules.
  •  Like in other Nevada State Parks, flying a drone is prohibited here.
  • There is wildlife in Spring Mountain Ranch State Park, and although most of it is nocturnal (i.e. you’re not likely to encounter it since the park closes at 4:30 PM) you might want a primer on how to interact with it. The Nevada Department of Wildlife s issues this one.
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Spring Mountain Ranch State Park: The Complete Guide