One of our day trips while we were in Las Vegas was to Spring Mountain Ranch State Park. Spring Mountain Ranch is on land next to Red Rock Canyon. Red Rock Canyon is super-crowded with people, so even though it is beautiful, I didn’t want to go back there. Traveling bumper-to-bumper at 10 mph along a park road is not my idea of a good time. Tom and I decided Spring Mountain Ranch might be a good alternative.
We went to Spring Mountain Ranch on a blustery Saturday. There were plenty of people there, but they were doing all sorts of activities and were spread throughout the park. Tom and I hit the hiking trails first and we had them all to ourselves. We climbed up to an overlook, then headed down through some gardens and by a pond. We also walked through an ash grove with trees that were over 400 years old.
We spent some time exploring Sandstone Canyon, a beautiful red rock canyon similar to the ones next door at Red Rock, but we had this path all to ourselves. At the bottom of the canyon was a small spring that fed a lush trail of vegetation. We lost the trail about halfway up the canyon, but we scrambled up and over rocks until we got to the end of the canyon. Then we crossed the spring and found another trail on the other side heading back down the canyon.
The 3,000 acres of Spring Mountain Ranch were once home to a cattle ranch, which was often used by travelers and horse thieves trying to recover before and after they crossed Death Valley. Back in the 1920’s one man tried to make it a Chinchilla ranch, which was more successful at feeding the mountain lions and coyotes than making fur coats. Today the park is 520 acres. Spring Mountain Ranch contains the oldest cabin in Nevada – the house (and hideout) of a famous horse thief named Bill Williams. The pretty ranch house was built in 1948 when the ranch became a retreat for Hollywood stars.
On the Saturday we visited, Spring Mountain Ranch was being used by large groups having picnics and playing soccer in the meadow and a group of Civil War re-enactors having an encampment in the North Pasture. There were tours of the historic ranch and a guided tour of the newer ranch house. One large group was having a botany class and exploring the native vegetation. Some volunteers had brought in a wild burro named Jackson who was being tamed as the mascot for the ranch. We love to see natural areas being used, and even though Spring Mountain Ranch was busy, it didn’t feel crowded.
I enjoyed our visit to Spring Mountain Ranch State Park and will certainly visit it over Red Rock Canyon in the future. Lush vegetation, interesting historical buildings, beautiful wildflowers, and uncrowded hiking trails make this a place I would enjoy visiting many times.