COVID-19 CLOSURE: Please be aware that the BLM has closed the Sloan Canyon Visitor Station. The Parking lot may still be open during regular operating hours. The trailhead can be accessed by parking on Democracy Drive and hiking .6 miles to the trailhead, which adds 1.2 miles to the hike described below.
The Sloan Canyon Petroglyph Loop is a 4.1 mile hike from the Sloan Canyon Visitor Station in the Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area. The hike uses both the Sloan Canyon #100 Petroglyph Trail and the Sloan Canyon #200 Cowboy Trail. The highlight of the hike is the Sloan Canyon petroglyph gallery, which is a .25 mile section of Sloan Canyon that contains hundreds of petroglyphs made by Native Americans who used Sloan Canyon as a hunting ground and a spiritual site for hundreds of years. The petroglyph gallery is 1.6 miles away from the Visitor Station.
Before attempting to hike the Sloan Canyon Petroglyph Loop, please make sure that you are prepared and are following the guidelines for hiker safety.
Sloan Canyon Petroglyph Loop Trail Map & Overview
Most of the hike on the #100 Petroglyph Trail is in a sandy wash that goes through the canyon. This makes the hike fairly easy with one exception. As the canyon narrows towards the petroglyph gallery, there are several pour-overs (rock walls created by rushing floodwater in the wash). The pour-over just before the petroglyph gallery is roughly ten feet high. I have scrambled over these pour-overs with dozens of different people of all ages and physical abilities over the years without any issues, but you should exercise caution because the rocks can be slippery. I find the pour-overs easier to go up than to go down, and you can avoid the going down part by following this hike and using the #200 Cowboy Trail to return back to the trailhead. Due to the fact that most of this hike takes place in a wash, you should exercise caution and check the weather during thunderstorm season. Once you enter the canyon, mobile phone coverage is spotty at best.
The petroglyph gallery, and much of this hike, is located within the North McCullough Wilderness Area, which is a special area located within the Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area. In addition, the petroglyphs located in Sloan Canyon are protected under federal law. As such, the following activities are prohibited while on the Sloan Canyon Petroglyph Trail Loop:
- No rockhounding, excavating or removing objects of antiquity, cultural artifacts, or paleontological artifacts;
- No pets are allowed on the #100 Petroglyph or the #200 Cowboy Trails;
- No discharging of firearms;
- No prospecting, removal or disturbance of sand, rock, gravel, or minerals;
- No mountain biking;
- No camping is allowed in and around the petroglyph areas, and;
- No trapping, collecting, possessing, molesting, disturbing, injuring, destroying, or removal of any plant, or animal, or part of the natural floral and fauna in the wilderness area is prohibited.
In addition to the rules above, hikers should remain on designated trails in and around the petroglyphs in order to not damage any of the cultural and paleontological artifacts located within Sloan Canyon.
The Sloan Canyon Visitor Station
For many of us, visiting Sloan Canyon for the first time involved a journey on a pretty rough jeep trail to get to the trailhead. During the past decade the development of the Inspirda community has brought roads and infrastructure (and thousands of homes) close to Sloan Canyon. In 2016, the BLM, in collaboration with the City of Henderson, built Nawghaw Poa Road, and a parking lot in order to provide better and controlled access into Sloan Canyon. The Visitor Station, which is now a large trailer, is located on the south end of the parking area. The trailhead to the Sloan Canyon #100 Petroglyph Trail has changed a couple of times since 2016, and is now located on the east side of the Visitor Station and leads south towards Sloan Canyon. This is a controlled access area, and hikers are required to check-in at the Visitor Station when it is open. There is also porta potty just outside the Visitor Station.
Nawghaw Poa Road, which leads to the Visitor Station, is controlled by a gate. The road closes at the same schedule as the Visitor Station. The Visitor Station schedule changes seasonally. During the summer (June to September) hours are from 8:00am to 4:30pm Friday, Saturday and Sunday. During the rest of the year (October through May), the Visitor Station is open every day from 8:00am to 4:30pm. You can call (702) 515-5350 to confirm that the road is open. You can access the Sloan Canyon trails when the Visitor Station is closed, but you will not be able to access Nawghaw Poa Road. During these times you can park on Democracy Drive and hike the .6 mile to the trailhead.
Waypoint 1 – #101 Petroglyph Trail Trailhead (N 35.91624° W 115.12594°)
When the Visitor Station is open, hikers are asked to check-in with the volunteers inside the Visitor Station. In the past, the #101 Petroglyph Trail lead you directly east from the parking lot turning south when you connected with the wash that runs through Sloan Canyon. In the past year the new trail was created that starts from the east side of the Visitor Station and heads directly south towards the canyon, before the trail turns southeast along an old jeep road leading into the canyon.
I highly recommend that you use a GPS app on your smartphone that allows you to track your path without cellular or internet service, which will be unavailable while in Sloan Canyon. Using one of these apps will allow you to track the distance you have travelled and assist you in finding your way if you become disoriented. The guidance below begins once you start on the #100 Petroglyph Trail on the southeast side of the Visitor Station.
Waypoint 2 – Trail Merges with Old Jeep Trail (N 35.91366° W 115.12740°)
After .20 miles, the trail merges into an old jeep trail that leads southeast towards the wash leading into the canyon.
Waypoint 3 – Trail Enters the Wash and Heads South into the Canyon (N 35.91078° W 115.12404°)
At .54 miles from the trailhead, the trail enters the wash leading into Sloan Canyon. The trail will now be in a sandy for the most part from here until you reach the #200 Cowboy Trail in 1.4 miles.
Waypoint 4 – The Canyon Begins to Narrow (N 35.90876° W 115.12435°)
At .7 miles from the trailhead, the canyon begins to narrow and the canyon walls around you become noticeably taller. Before the development of the Sloan Canyon Visitor Station, this is where hikers with good 4 wheel drive vehicles parked to visit Sloan Canyon. There was only room for a few cars to park here off to the right side of the trail. In 300 feet you will enter the North McCullough Wilderness Area, which was designated to protect the petroglyphs in Sloan Canyon.
Waypoint 5 – The Canyon Narrows Further Approaching the #200 Cowboy Trail (N 35.90351° W 115.12451°)
At just over a mile from the trailhead, the canyon becomes more narrow and the surrounding volcanic canyon walls grow increasingly taller. In just .2 miles from here you will reach the intersection of the #100 Petroglyph Trail and the #200 Cowboy Trail on your right.
Waypoint 6 – Intersection of the #100 Petroglyph Trail and the #200 Cowboy Trail (N 35.90153° W 115.12507°)
At 1.3 miles from the trailhead, you will reach the intersection of the #100 Petroglyph Trail and the #200 Cowboy Trail. The Cowboy Trail will intersect with the Petroglyph Trail on your right. You will continue on the Petroglyph Trail on your left. You will return to this point after completing the loop using the Cowboy Trail and returning back to the trailhead.
Waypoint 7 – First Pour-Over (N 35.89997° W 115.12338°)
At 1.4 miles from the trailhead, you will reach your first pour-over. This pour-over is smaller than the ones ahead, and is fairly easy to cross without scrambling. You will see a small trail to the left of the pour-over that takes you up and around the pour-over without even getting your hands dirty.
While the main concentration of the petroglyphs in Sloan Canyon is located in the petroglyph gallery ahead, there are petroglyphs scattered throughout the canyon. Just 280 feet past the pour-over (N 35.89948° W 115.12263°), look for several petroglyphs located high on the eastern (left side) of the canyon.
Waypoint 8 – Pour-Overs Ahead (N 35.89763° W 115.12321°)
At 1.7 miles from the trailhead, the canyon makes a sharp turn west (to the right), and you will get your first view of the series of pour-overs ahead. Now is the time to start noticing the rocks around you, and the petroglyphs start to come into full view as you go further into the canyon. The most successful route across the pour-overs is on the left side of the canyon. This route will take you into a hunting blind used by Native Americans that overlooks the wash. You will notice the hunting blind when you reach a circular area surrounded by petroglyphs with an excellent view of the trail below. Just past this area you will find an opening in the rocks to the wash below that makes an easy route down.
Waypoint 9 – The Petroglyph Gallery Begins (N 35.89758° W 115.12377°)
When you reach the last pour-over, the concentration of petroglyphs become noticeable at various levels in the canyon. This marks the beginning of what’s commonly referred to as the petroglyph gallery. Sloan Canyon contains over 1100 separate petroglyph motifs on over 300 separate rock panels. Various archaeological surveys indicate that the petroglyphs in Sloan Canyon were created throughout the Late Archaic to the historic eras (1000 B.C. to within the last 100 years). A large percentage of the petroglyphs consist of various lines and abstract shapes, with a smaller percentage consisting of anthropomorph (human) zoomorph (animals) shapes.
Please take care not to touch, sit on, or walk on the rocks containing petroglyphs. The petroglyphs are everywhere for the next quarter of a mile, and the safest place for you to view them is from the wash. It is recommended that you do not climb up the canyon walls in the petroglyph gallery.
Waypoint 10 – Washes Merge / End of Petroglyph Gallery (N 35.89540° W 115.12394°)
At 1.9 miles from the trailhead, the wash turns to the southwest and intersects with another wash from the south. There are still a number of petroglyphs in this area, but this area generally marks the end of the petroglyph gallery. From this point you could turn around and head back to the trailhead. I highly recommend that you complete the loop and return via the #200 Cowboy Trail. This route only adds .30 of a mile to your hike, allows you to see why the trail is named the Cowboy Trail, and provides some excellent views of the interesting volcanic geology in Sloan Canyon.
Waypoint 11 – Intersection of the #100, #200 & #300 Trails / Turn Right onto the #200 Cowboy Trail (N 35.89422° W 115.12771°)
At 2.2 miles from the trailhead, you should see a BLM trail marker post in the middle of the wash marking the end of the #100 Petroglyph Trail and the beginning of the #300 Trail to the Hidden Valley Trailhead. First time hikers really need to pay attention in this area because the beginning of the #200 Trail may be hard to recognize. The beginning of the #200 Cowboy Trail is on your right just before you reach the trail marker (do not go past the trail marker). The #200 Trail leaves the wash and takes an immediate turn to the right. Look for the #200 Trail markers to guide you. There are several petroglyphs in this area, including and interesting petroglyph of a cowboy like figure that is pictured below. Take the time to explore this area before continuing north on the Cowboy Trail.
Waypoint 12 – Saddle / View of Las Vegas Valley (N 35.89651° W 115.12809°)
At 2.4 miles from the trailhead (and .2 miles from the beginning of the Cowboy Trail), you will reach a saddle and the highest point on the Cowboy Trail. You will be able to see the Las Vegas Valley to the north from here. Make sure that you turn around and the view south of Sloan Canyon.
Waypoint 13 – Trail Leaves the Wash (N 35.89970° W 115.12750°)
At 2.7 miles from the trailhead (and .5 miles from the beginning of the Cowboy Trail), the trail leaves the wash and continues on a built trail. Continue heading down the canyon until you reach Waypoint 6 at the intersection of the #100 and #200 Trails.
Waypoint 6 – Turn Left (North) Back onto the #100 Petroglyph Trail and Head Back Towards the Visitor Station (N 35.90153° W 115.12507°)
At 2.8 miles from the trailhead (and .7 miles from the beginning of the Cowboy Trail), you reach the end of the Cowboy Trail and enter into the wash that comprises the #100 Petroglyph Trail. Turn left (north) and return back to the Sloan Canyon Visitor Station on the same path that you came in on. From here, it is 1.3 miles back to the Visitor Station. In .55 miles (and 3.55 miles from the trailhead) you will reach the boundary of the North McCullough Wilderness Area.
Waypoint 3 – Leave the Wash and Take Trail on the Left (west) Towards the Visitor Station (N 35.91078° W 115.12404°)
At 3.5 miles from the trailhead (and .74 miles from Waypoint 6), you will see the trail heading back towards the Visitor Station on the left (west) side of the wash. Take this trail, which will lead you northwest back to the Visitor Station.
Waypoint 2 – Leave the Old Jeep Trail and Take the Right Fork to the Visitor Station (N 35.91366° W 115.12740°)
At 3.84 miles from the trailhead (and .34 miles from Waypoint 3), you will see a fork on the right (north) side of the trail that leads you back to the Sloan Canyon Visitor Station.
Waypoint 1 – The End at the Sloan Canyon Visitor Station (N 35.91624° W 115.12594°)
When you reach the Sloan Canyon Visitor Station you will have completed the 4.1 mile Sloan Canyon Petroglyph Loop Trail. If you complete your hike while the Visitor Station is open, please go inside and check-out with one of the volunteers.