Southern Nevadans seeking nearby outings on short winter days cannot go wrong with Lake Mead’s Northshore Road. This 62-mile scenic drive within Lake Mead National Recreation Area offers sweeping views of the lake, colorful desert panoramas and rugged mountains.
This road accesses developed areas at Callville Bay and Echo Bay, several trails and attractions such as red sandstone cliffs, hot springs and the ghostly ruins of a pioneer town.
Northshore Road can be reached from the Las Vegas Valley by either of two routes. From northern or central locations, follow Lake Mead Boulevard east past Sunrise Mountain. From southern valley locations, take Lake Mead Parkway from Henderson, passing Lake Las Vegas and crossing the Las Vegas Wash. A wide parking area just past the wash serves those who want to explore a creekside trail into wetlands that attract birds and wildlife.
Either approach reaches an entrance station for the recreation area where a fee of $10 per vehicle is charged.
After first cutting through a desert area with colorful, mineralized mounds, Northshore Road soon reveals expansive views of the lake with flat-topped Fortification Hill buttressing the far shore in Arizona. A wide, white “bathtub ring” around the lake marks the loss of water from years of drought. Lake levels are currently about 145 feet below the huge reservoir’s highest level.
Unless you have a high-clearance vehicle, stay on the pavement of Northshore Road and several paved side roads to facilities and points of interest. Intriguing unpaved roads meandering down to the lake are enticing, but most are subject to flood damage.
Developed facilities are extensive at Callville Bay and Echo Bay, where there are campgrounds, motels, convenience stores, fuel, boat-launch areas and marinas. Because of low water levels, the marinas have been moved, sitting now some distance from facilities that used to be near the shoreline. Both marinas are centers for fleets of rental boats.
Watch for signs marking several trailheads along Northshore Road. At Callville Bay, a half-mile trail climbs from the campground to a fine overview of the bay. Another popular short trail to Northshore Summit begins about 9 miles past the Callville Bay turnoff on the left side of the highway. It offers panoramic views of a colorful area of sandstone formations called the Bowl of Fire. Save exploration of the Bowl of Fire for when you have the time and energy for a full day of hiking.
Continue on the highway to a point where the vivid sandstone outcroppings are closer to the pavement. At Redstone, you can pull off the road into a picnic area among brightly colored stone monoliths. A trail runs through the area for a few miles. Redstone has picnic tables, grills and toilets but no water.
A few miles north of the Echo Bay turnoff, nature has created a desert oasis surrounding a couple of natural warm-water springs. Rogers Spring and nearby Blue Point Spring feed shallow wading pools and small creeks that meander toward the lake. Both have picnic facilities surrounded by palm trees and other shade trees and vegetation. Rogers Spring is more developed with more picnic sites and a footbridge across the stream. A short trail climbs to a viewpoint.
Northshore Road joins the road north through Overton and Logandale to Interstate 15. You can also return to Las Vegas through Valley of Fire State Park. Watch for the trail to old St. Thomas near the Valley of Fire turnoff. The ruins of the town were submerged when Lake Mead was filled behind Hoover Dam. Lower water levels have uncovered the ruins. Park off the highway and follow a trail to the ghost town.
Margo Bartlett Pesek’s Trip of the Week column appears on Sundays.