Bridge Mountain

[tab:Overview]

Activity: Hiking, scrambling, bouldering

Location: Red Rock Canyon NCA

Time on Trail: 5 hrs 50 mins

Difficulty: Difficult

Distance: 5 miles out and back

Elevation: +/- 2000 feet

Trailhead

From the Las Vegas side, enter the Red Rock Scenic Loop and proceed to the Willow Springs turnoff which is approximately 7.5 miles from the Scenic Loop Gate. The trailhead is at the Red Rock Summit, approximately 4.7 miles from the Willow Springs turnoff. This road is also known as the Rocky Gap Road. The trailhead is marked with a small sign and has a large dirt parking area on either side of the road. Be warned, the road to the trailhead is only manageable by high clearance 4-wheel drive vehicles. There are several points along the way where careful navigation of the wash and boulder dodging are required. My heart was pounding a few times just on the drive to the trailhead!

Highlights

This is a very difficult hike and those that want to tackle Bridge Mountain should be experienced hikers with basic climbing skills. The ascent of Bridge Mountain includes a high level of exposure and multiple chimney climbs.

Trail Description

The Bridge Mountain hike is my absolute favorite in Red Rock, at least so far! To conquer the Bridge Mountain summit, hikers must be able to tackle three distinct sections: the initial climb up and over the Top of the Escarpment, the scramble across the sandstone theater and the Natural Bridge, and the final climb to the Arch, Hidden Forest, and the peak itself.

The trail starts of as a gradual climb, working the ridge line to the Top of the Escarpment. By the time you reach the top, you have already gained 700 feet in elevation. I was certainly feeling it as we started off at a pretty aggressive pace. The junction in the trail showing North Peak to the left and Bridge Mountain to the right is well marked and signals the first downhill section of the hike. The next mile is downhill with great views of the Las Vegas valley, the Keystone Thrust, and Bridge Mountain. You will know that you reached the Thrust when you see the gray soil turn to red rock and the trees disappear around you.

The next section is the scramble across sandstone and I found it to be very challenging on the legs. There are frequent scrambles up and down small cracks and chutes to make your way along the sometime difficult to follow trail. The trail is marked by two vertical lines (like this ll) and bi-directional arrows. It was much easier to follow on the return. Towards the end of this section you reach the Natural Bridge. It’s a sandstone spine that splits Icebox Canyon on the left and Pine Creek Canyon on the right. The drop off on either side is dramatic. Brian and I spent some time here taking pictures and recounting past trips in each of the canyons below. Very scary place to be if the winds pick up.

Once across the Natural Bridge, it’s a short hike to the base of Bridge Mountain and the crack that serves as your route up to the next level. Admittedly, I was a bit sketched looking up at the climb, a 70 foot crack that looked much worse than it was. Once in the crack, we made our way up to the first shelf quickly. From there, it’s a shuffle a few feet to the left and up another chute to the second shelf. We took a breather, really just because I couldn’t feel my legs! It was not graceful and my moves up to that point were anything but efficient. The rest was certainly needed! Brian, of course, was fine and asking me questions about our strategy that I couldn’t have been more disinterested in at the time. The third crack was a short one and leveled a bit onto an inclined section of rock that was very easy to walk up. Once you get to this point, the rest is clear sailing. A few steps around the left and the Arch comes into view. Awesome site and definitely worth the work to get there. The Arch is essentially the door to a large bowl or tinaja with a very tall ponderosa pine growing inside. There is water in the middle and photos are a must.

Once you’ve had your fill, scale the wall to the left and walk out to the Sandstone Ampitheater. To the left is another tinaja, even larger than the one accessed by the Arch. Great place for lunch. The grade slopes down to the Hidden Forest and for the first time you can see a full view of the final ascent.

The final ascent begins to the right with views of Rainbow Wall in the distance. There is a very visible crack that runs diagonally from bottom right to top left on the face and that is the easiest path for those wanting to tackle the summit. Though less technical than the climb up to that point, the legs take a beating on this one…according to Brian. He said it was a very difficult workout.

There are no short cuts on the way back. Retrace your steps down the face of Bridge Mountain, across the sandstone theater, and back up to the Top of the Escarpment. From there it’s all down hill!

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[tab:Video]

Sorry, no video this time.

[tab:Notes]

I made it to the base of the final ascent and ran out of steam. I made the climb up the 70 foot chimney to the Arch and the Hidden Forest, but didn’t have the juice to tackle the final ascent. Brian continued to the summit without me. This was my first real climbing experience and I think the adrenaline is the only thing that kept me going.

I will tackle this one again this fall when the weather cools down and will bag the peak. This hike would be very difficult, if not dangerous, in the heat of summer. Hikers are exposed to the sun with very little protection for the majority of the trail. For now, the title of Trail Sherpa on Bridge Mountain goes to Brian who definitely earned it. He’s a great hiking partner and an awesome climber to learn from.

[tab:END]

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I'm the founder of Vestor Logic, the digital strategy and web design firm that created Trail Sherpa, ParksFolio, and Modern Steader. I'm a day hiker, top chef in camp, doting husband, and father to two headlamp wearing boys. My work in digital media brings those experiences to life.

  • Brian Anderson

    Bridge Mountain is high on my list of best days in Red Rock Canyon. The terrain is varied and challenging and the views are non-stop stunning! Hikers and climbers–this is a must-do!

    Thanks to tim for putting the site together–looks great!

    • I agree completely Brian! Great day on the trail. I always enjoy the hikes we do and the chat we have along the way.