Cottonwood Peaks
On 22 November 2018, Shin Goto, Dinah Kruze and I hiked up a ridge in the Bird Spring Range southwest of Las Vegas, Nevada.  Dinah and I spotted this ridge to the south while we were hiking up Heart Hill the previous day, and we thought it would make for a nice longer hike.  As we would later learn, this ridge actually has a couple of high points which are locally known as Cottonwood Peaks.  Starting from Late Night Trailhead which is located along Highway 160 about 7.6 kilometres west of the junction with Highway 159, we walked through an underpass to the south side of the highway, and right away, we made the mistake of climbing up the nearest ridge.  Unfortunately, this first ridge does not connect to the longer main ridge, and we ended up having to backtrack a bit and lose some hard-won elevation before gaining the proper approach trail (Badger Pass trail).  About 1.6 kilometres south of the trailhead, we left the trail to ascend a subsidiary ridge giving access to the main ridge.  The off-trail hiking was generally easy, but we were also buffeted by a strong wind which was our constant companion for at least the first half of the day.
Try not to be here during a rain storm... Shin and Dinah go through the underpass to get to the south side of the highway.  The ridge at left does not connect to Cottonwood Peaks, and it is preferable to go around it to the right.
It was a good warm-up though! Dinah and Shin descend the first ridge they climbed after realizing that it does not connect to the main ridge at distant left leading to Cottonwood Peaks.
Back on track! Shin and Dinah ascend the correct ridge.
Yes, Shin is wearing a turkey hat! It is American Thanksgiving after all! While Shin and Dinah ascend the ridge, clouds roll over the peaks of Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area (NCA).
Upon gaining the main ridge, Shin, Dinah and I settled into an undulating but pleasant hike southward along the crest of the ridge.  Obstacles, if any, were easy enough to circumvent, and our only uncertainty was how far south we were willing to walk.  When we reached what appeared to be the high point of the ridge, we were surprised to find a register which attributes the name "North Cottonwood Peak" to the high point.  Shin recognized many of the names in the register, and it would seem that the ridge is more popular than any of us had expected.  By this time, the strong winds that had pummeled us all morning finally died down, and as such, we were able to enjoy a nice lunch break at this high point.
We have a lot of hiking still ahead of us! Shin and Dinah gain the crest of the main ridge.  Behind them is the first of several high points along the ridge.
No trails, but the hiking is easy. Shin and Dinah avoid some short cliff bands on the way up the first high point of the ridge.
One step at a time... The actual high point of the ridge looks dishearteningly far away.
Good place to stop for a break out of the wind! Shin and Dinah get some relief from a blustery west wind while hiking along the base of this rock fin.
Fortunately, we hiked in sunshine all day. On this day, Potosi Mountain to the west is mostly shrouded by clouds.
Are we there yet? The ridge narrows a bit here before climbing up to the next high point.
With Red Rocks to the north, it's doubtful if any climbers come here to scale these crumbly walls. Could be a first ascent for any keeners! Shin and Dinah pass by some surprisingly steep cliffs on the east side of the ridge.
This is not the summit. Dinah watches Shin dig out a geocache from under a cairn on the ridge.
Yeah! Dinah, Shin and Sonny gather next to a cairn on the high point known as North Cottonwood Peak (1605 metres).
I laugh everytime I see this! Shin eats a pound cake for lunch.

I have lots of scrambling left to do in that area!

The peaks of Red Rock Canyon NCA dominate the view to the north.


Sin City

Las Vegas is clearly visible to the northeast.


Are we going or not going?? Another high point (far right) on the ridge appears to be higher.  Note the dust storm at distant left.
From North Cottonwood Peak, Shin, Dinah and I could see another high point further to the south that looked just as high if not higher.  After a brief debate about continuing, we decided to go for it, and as it turned out, reaching the second high point did not require much extra effort.  We found a second register there which attributed to the high point a slightly simpler name--just "Cottonwood Peak".  Both high points are roughly of equal height.
Wow, Dinah still wants to hike some more! Dinah sets off for the other high point further south.
Believe it or not, there are some wild horses in this photo. A dirt road ends on the ridge crest at a dip just before the next high point.
I'm kicking ass while Shin is employing some Jedi turkey tricks. Dinah is acting like she doesn't know us... Shin, Dinah and Sonny reach the second high point which is known simply as Cottonwood Peak and is roughly the same elevation (1605 metres) as North Cottonwood Peak.

The unnamed ridge in the foreground can be scrambled, but we were ready to turn around at this point.

The Bird Spring Range continues to the south at left.  The two conspicuous bumps at distant right are Devil Peak and Little Devil Peak.  Barely visible on the horizon at far right is Clark Mountain.


Shin, Dinah and I stopped only briefly on the high point of Cottonwood Peak before backtracking a bit to a dip in the ridge crest.  Instead of continuing back the way we came, we picked up a dirt road at the dip and followed it westward for a short distance before heading cross-country to the north.  We soon picked up a good trail which we had spotted earlier from high on the ridge.  This trail is part of a network of mountain biking trails in the area, and by connecting with other trails, we eventually found our way back to the trailhead.  Though long, this return route saved us from a lot of unnecessary ups and downs.

The only blemish on an otherwise outstanding day of hiking was when we tried to go to the Cracker Barrel restaurant in Las Vegas for dinner.  A very long wait for a table prompted us to go elsewhere, and we settled for dinner at the Sundance Grill in nearby Silverton Casino instead to wrap up our day.
Okay, let's go for lunch! Here is a look back north at the main ridge from Cottonwood Peak.
There were several more horses just out of view to the right. A herd of wild horses graze on the lower slopes of Cottonwood Peak.

The most beautiful part of the whole hike.

Dinah looks north through a gap to the peaks in Red Rock Canyon NCA.  She would follow a mountain bike trail ("3 Mile Smile") through the gap.


Look but don't touch! This is one of the many Joshua trees found in the vicinity of the gap.
Save this one for a short, lazy day... Hiking out a mountain bike trail, Shin and Dinah pass by the first ridge that they mistakenly ascended in the morning.
We each took a separate tunnel on the way back! Dinah and Shin approach the highway underpass near the trailhead.
Dinah broke even, but I lost about 5 bucks! While waiting for a table at a restaurant in the Silverton Casino, Sonny and Dinah kill some time (and money) by playing video poker.
A very enjoyable ridge walk! Total Distance:  17.5 kilometres
Round-Trip Time:  7 hours 8 minutes
Cumulative Elevation Gain: 1167 metres

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