The Black Mountain #404 Trail


The Black Mountain #404 Trail is one of the best hikes in southern Nevada. At 5,030 feet, Black Mountain is the highest peak in the North McCullough Range located in the Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area. This 7.5 mile roundtrip hike begins at the Shadow Canyon Trailhead in Sun City Anthem, and takes you 3.7 miles, with an ascent of 2,054 feet, to the summit. The 360 degree views from the summit are incredible, and well worth the climb. While the first 3 miles of the hike is moderately difficult, the last .7 mile to the summit is very difficult. Black Mountain is an ancient volcano, and the trail near the summit is steep and badly eroded in places. The trail can be slippery near the top, so hikers should wear good hiking boots, and exercise caution on the trail. Hikers should be very cautious on the descent, as the eroded parts of the trail can be slippery. The photos included in the description below were taken on different hikes over a period of 6 years.

Black Mountain as seen from Fracture Ridge to the south..

The #404 Trail is a loop that consists of the main south trail and the more primitive north trail. Below is a guide to the main south trail. This trail is well traveled and should be used on your first trip to the the top of Black Mountain. The north trail should only be used by experienced hikers as it is not well marked and requires a considerable amount of scrambling over large boulders. While the main south trail can be used by families, I would not bring children on the north loop.

Before you attempt to hike the Black Mountain #404 Trail, please make sure that you are prepared and are following the guidelines for hiker safety.

Overview of the main Black Mountain #404 trail.
Lower Trail Waypoints on the Black Mountain #404 Trail.

Waypoint 1 – Shadow Canyon Trailhead (N 35.94513° W 115.08158°)

The hike begins at the Shadow Canyon Trailhead in the Sun City Anthem neighborhood in Henderson. To find the trailhead, you can enter 2268 Shadow Canyon Drive Henderson, NV 89044 enter your GPS/Google Maps (which is the home next to the trailhead). There are not bathrooms at the trailhead. There is limited parking, so it is not uncommon for hikers to park on Shadow Canyon Drive.

Shadow Canyon Trailhead.

The first half mile of the hike is on a paved trail that provides access to several different trails in the area.

Overview of the trails that can be accessed from the Shadow Canyon Trailhead.
Paved trail from the Shadow Canyon Trailhead.

Waypoint 2 – Right Turn Up to Cinder Block Structure (N 35.94034° W 115.07834°)

After you have traveled .4 miles on the paved trail take the paved trail to the right that takes you up towards the power lines and the cinder block structure.

Waypoint 3 – Cinder Block Structure (N 35.93949° W 115.07767°)

After you have traveled .49 miles you will reach the cinder block structure. There is a map of the nearby trails on the east wall.

To get to the Black Mountain #404 Trail you will pass to the left (east) of the cinder block structure and head towards the south edge of the detention basin.

Trail passing the cinder block structure.

As you pass the utility road behind the cinder block structure you will hike on a dirt trail that takes you to south ridge of the detention basin. Hike along the south ridge of the detention basin until you find the Black Mountain Trail sign.

Waypoint 4 – Black Mountain Sign (N 35.93862° W 115.07543°)

Black Mountain Trail sign.

After you have traveled .66 miles from the Shadow Canyon Trailhead, you should find the Black Mountain #404 Trail to on your right. The trail is marked by the traditional Black Mountain sign pictured above and the brown BLM trail posts. Please note that every now and again the traditional Black Mountain sign gets knocked down by the elements. The north Black Mountain #404 primitive trail is accessed by continuing east on the south rim of the detention basin (the north trail should only be used by experienced hikers).

Waypoint 5 – One Mile Mark (N 35.936730° W 115.072224°)

From the Black Mountain Trail sign, you travel on a well maintained hiking trail .34 miles to the one mile mark from the Shadow Canyon Trailhead. The trail conditions will be similar for the next 2 miles. At around the three mile mark, the trail becomes very steep and difficult. The elevation at the one mile mark is 3,238 feet, which means that you are now 262 feet higher than the Shadow Canyon Trailhead. You will ascend an additional 500 feet over the next mile.

Waypoint 6 – #402 Connector Trail Junction (N 35.93404° W 115.06850°)

At 1.33 miles from the Shadow Canyon Trailhead you will arrive at a saddle where you will find the junction with the #402 Connector Trail. The #402 Connector Trail connects the Black Mountain #404 Trail with the #403 Park Peak Loop Trail. The #402 Connector Trail heads south (right) from the Black Mountain #404 Trail. Continue straight (east) on the Black Mountain #404 Trail.

Waypoint 7 – Two Mile Mark (N 35.93238° W 115.06051°)

Black Mountain #404 Upper Trail Map.

The elevation at the two mile mark is 3,737 feet. At the higher elevation you are now seeing Joshua Trees among the outcroppings of volcanic rocks. You will also find more switchbacks on the trail. You will ascend 620 feet over the next mile to reach the three mile mark.

Joshua Tree along the trail.
Joshua Tree along the trail.

Waypoint 8 – Three Mile Mark (N 35.93045° W 115.05078°)

The elevation at the three mile mark is 4,357 feet. For the remaining .7 mile to the summit you will climb the remaining 700 feet to the summit. The trail becomes more difficult and steep. Some scrambling may be required. I find this portion much harder to descend than to ascend. The trail is very eroded in this portion of the trail, and the volcanic rocks can be slippery. As you near the summit the eroded portions of the trail diverge in two places. Each way will get you to the top, but I find the off shoot trail to the right (south) is less eroded.

Typical trail conditions on the upper portion of the trail.
Example of eroded sections of the trail.
Looking southwest near the summit.
Joshua Tree near the top of Black Mountain.
Hiking up the steep portion of the Black Mountain Trail.

Waypoint 9 – The Black Mountain Summit (N 35.93101° W 115.04402°)

Hikers reaching the summit are rewarded with 360 degree views of the Eldorado Valley and the Colorado River Mountains to the east, Sloan Canyon and the Brightsource solar energy towers to the southwest, Red Rock Canyon and Mount Charleston to the west and the entire Las Vegas valley to the northwest. Most of the year you are also greeted by the U.S. flag (they never last long with the strong winds at the summit). At the summit you will find a summit register in an ammo box in the stone circle.

U.S. flag at the summit.
Looking southeast towards the Eldorado Valley.
Stone circle makes for a great rest spot at the summit.
The trail register is inside of the ammo box in the stone circle.
Melting snow from a winter hike.
Looking east towards Dutchman Pass and the Eldorado Valley.
A well worn flag, looking northwest.

The Way Back Down

To get back down, you should go back down the trail the way you came. Do not follow the sign leading to the primitive north trail, which takes you scrambling across large boulders along the Ridgeline to the north. I find the first half mile down from the summit to be the hardest part of the hike. The eroded portions of the trail are steep and slippery. I suggest that you keep a low center of gravity and keep a close watch on your footing. After a half mile, the trail begins to become less steep, and you can cruise back down to the Shadow Canyon Trailhead.

The loose volcanic rocks can be slippery on the way down.
Joshua Tree near the top of the trail.
Another Joshua Tree at the top of the trail.
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Disclaimer: All distances, elevations, waypoints, narrative descriptions and other facts are approximate.