Bitter Springs Back Country Byway

Las Vegas, Nevada (Clark County)

Last Updated: 01/06/2019
4.6 / 5 ( 5 reviews )
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Typically Open: Year Round
Permit Information: Permit Required - Click Here
Difficulty: 3-3
Length: 26.43 miles
Highest Elevation: 3261 feet
Duration: About 3 hours
Shape of Trail: Straight Through
Best Direction to Travel: N/A
Nearest Town: Las Vegas
Nearest Town w/ Services: Las Vegas
Official Road Name: Bitter Springs Backcountry Byway
Management Agency: Bureau of Land Management
District: Las Vegas District


Highlight: Bitter Springs Back Country Byway
The Bitter Springs Back Country Byway is located approximately 40 miles east of Las Vegas, south of Interstate 15 and West of the Valley of Fire state Park. The byway connects Interstate 15 to North shore road that surrounds Lake Mead by following old mining roads and washes through the Muddy Mountains. A major site to be seen is the multicolored sandstone formations known as the Buffington Pockets. Tracks from the Old Spanish trail(later known as the Mormon trail), a path created by Spanish explorers in 1776 and later by settlers and miners heading west, can be seen crossing the trail. This area has attracted people throughout time due to the springs and water holes. Evidence of this can be seen in the petroglyphs, pictographs, rock art and ant hill shaped roasting pits. Settlement in the area created mining ventures. Old borax mines can be seen, where sandstone was quarried. There is plenty of extraordinary views and landscapes to be seen along the byway. Wildlife in the area includes wild horse and bighorn sheep. Bring your camera, sun screen and plenty of water. Nearby is the Valley of Fire state park that has it own scenic views, campgrounds and facilities.


Route Information

Advanced Rating System

Recommended Vehicle:
Stock SUV with High Clearance and 4 Low
The reason for the rating is due to the rock obstacles at waypoints 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12. There is also thick sand and possible slick surfaces(if any recent rain).

Technical Rating

Typically, more rock or undulated road surface. Potential rocks and/or tree stumps less than 12" tall and/or vertical ledges less than 12" tall and/or near vertical ledges or waterfalls less than 24" inches. Tire placement becomes more difficult. Can be steep.
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Community Consensus

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This trail starts just off the Valley of Fire road and winds through the Muddy Mountains and ends at the North Shore Road. This is a trail that starts on slight paved road then to graded dirt road with washboards and progresses to rocky terrain then to rock and gravel road. Towards the end of the trail, there is thick soft sand. It is highly recommended that 4WD vehicle be used. The weather can cause some parts to become more rocky and washed out. Cellphone service was not available for the trip. We currently use Verizon. As always, please tread lightly. Bring plenty of water and sunscreen.


1. Y intersection/Trail head (0 mi)
As you are heading down Valley of Fire highway, it will curve to the left/southeast at approximately 3 miles from the off ramp of Interstate 15. Do not follow the curve of the highway, continue straight/south onto a semi paved/dirt road names Old Spanish Trail road. A good place to air down will be when you the pavement ends and the dirt road begins. The road is mostly washboard for a few miles.
2. Campground (0.6 mi)
As you continue on Old Spanish Trail road, there will a camp ground on the right. There are no facilities or amenities at this site.
3. Scenic landscape (3.8 mi)
As you can see in the pictures, there is some spectacular desert landscape to be seen. This is just one variety that will be seen on the trail.
4. Directional Sign (4.2 mi)
On the trail, you will encounter this sign that give general information and directions to some of the sights to be seen in the area.
5. Y intersection (4.3 mi)
At this y intersection, you will see the turn for Colorock quarry on the right/southwest. Continue straight/southeast.
6. Campground (5.3 mi)
To the left of the trail will be another clearing that can be used for camping. If you choose to set up camp in this area, if would be best to set up on the right or left and not in the center. In the pictures, you can see that a trail continues through to other parts of the desert. No facilities or amenities at this site.
7. Y intersection (5.8 mi)
Here you will come to a split in the trail. The right is the bypass of the next few rocky obstacles. If you are out for an easy relaxing drive, stay to the right. If you are up for a little challenge, choose the left turn.
8. Rock obstacle (5.8 mi)
As you enter the rocky course through this part of the trail, you still have two options. If you stay to the left, the trail is primarily rocky shelves. If you choose the right, you will encounter some medium to large rocks and boulders. Both are passable.
9. Rock obstacle (5.9 mi)
The continues the same way as the beginning. Left is flat rock shelf. To the right, more boulders and a small shelf to climb.
10. Rock obstacle (5.9 mi)
At this point, you will have to stay left and follow the gravel/rock trail to avoid damaging the desert.
11. Rock obstacle (5.9 mi)
As you continue on the trail, going to the left, you will encounter a slight climb up a shelf and then more flat rock. If you choose the right, you will encounter the rocky gravel trail.
12. Rock obstacle (5.9 mi)
Continue on the trail to encounter more rock shelves and gravel/rock trail. If you choose not to continue on the rocky trail, there is an option to get back on the bypass trail.
13. Trails merge (6 mi)
Here is where the bypass and the rocky trails merge together and continue.
14. Scenic landscape (6.6 mi)
Continuing on the trail, you will begin to see the Buffington Pockets, the multi colored sandstone formations.
15. Y intersection (6.9 mi)
At this intersection, go right/southwest to follow the trail.
16. Scenic landscape (6.9 mi)
From the trail, you can see the different types of desert landscape you will experience during the drive.
17. Y intersection (7.1 mi)
At this intersection, the driver can choose to turn left/southeast and go down into a wash or turn right/southwest and continue on the higher ground. Both options will merge. We chose to turn left/southeast into the wash.
18. Campground (7.2 mi)
At the bottom of the descent into the wash, you will see a campground on the left. This would make for a very nice secluded camping area. There are no facilities or amenities at this
19. Campground (7.6 mi)
Continuing on the trail, there will be a turn to the right going up a slight hill. At the top of the hill is another area for camping. There are some beautiful views of the valleys, mountains and rocky formations to be seen from the site. No facilities or amenities on site.
20. Scenic landscape (8.4 mi)
Here are some examples of the different desert vegetation, rock formations and colors to be seen from the trail.
21. Y intersection (9.4 mi)
At this intersection continue straight following the main trail. It appears that the right turn will travel up to a ridge.
22. Y intersection (9.6 mi)
Continue straight on the main trail, the turn to the right appears to travel up to a ridge line.
23. Y intersection (9.8 mi)
At this intersection, follow the trail to the left/southeast. There is a BLM sign pointing to the left.
24. Y intersection (12.2 mi)
Continue following the trail through the left curve. There is a BLM sign showing the direction, but it is at the end of the curve.
25. Y intersection (12.4 mi)
At this intersection, stay to the left. The right turn appears to be the more used trail, but it is misleading.
26. Scenic landscape (13.3 mi)
As seen in these pictures, the valley floor opens up allowing views in all directions of the mountains and the vegetation.
27. Scenic landscape (20.4 mi)
As you continue on the trail, you will be driving very close to this rock formation that has interesting shapes and colors. To the left of the trail, there appears to be some small shallow caves in the sandstone.
28. Scenic landscape (22 mi)
Here are some more examples of the different types, shapes and colors of the rock formations. The second picture looks like a jack rabbit in shape.
29. Scenic landscape (23.4 mi)
As you continue to drive in this old river bed, there are more interesting desert landscape to be seen and admired.
30. X intersection (25 mi)
At this intersection, you will see that many trails merge. In the second and third pictures, you will see that there is a sign with directions. The second picture shows the view of the current trail on the left. At the sign, turn left/southeast. As you pass the sign, you will be able to verify that you are heading towards North Shore Road.
31. Y intersection (27.8 mi)
As we get close to the end of the trail, you will encounter this intersection, turn right towards the visible North Shore Road to the end point. Continuing straight will take you to the overhead pass of the road and into the desert towards Lake Mead.
32. End point (28 mi)
This is the end of the trail. Nice flat area to air up your tires, pack up any equipment you don't need and grab a drink for the trip home.

Directions to Trailhead

Starting Point: Las Vegas

From Las Vegas, drive north on Interstate 15 to the Valley of Fire exit/exit number 75. Turn right/southeast. Follow the road and continue past the Moapa Indian Reservation store. Approximately 3 miles after, the road turns left/southeast. At this point continue straight/south onto the dirt road towards the mountains. There will be a brown Bureau of Land Management (BLM) sign indicating the trail.


Dispersed camping along the trail. All sites are primitive without amenities. For more information: Lake Mead National Recreation Area
Camping: Bitter Springs Back Country Byway

Trail Reviews (12)

Questions & Answers (0)

Writer Information

James and Mimi Nicholson

Mapping Crew - Nevada

We are James and Mimi Nicholson, married for 19 years, living in Nevada. We are not new to Off-roading; having owned Jeeps for 18 years. We started with a 1979 CJ-5. Other 4 wheel vehicles owned include CJ-7, Cherokees, Grand Cherokee and a Liberty. We like to overland, camp, whitewater raft and kayak. We have been off-roading in Oregon, Washington, Georgia, South Carolina, California, Arizona, Utah, Louisiana, Texas and Nevada Our focus while off-roading is safety, treading lightly and simply enjoying the outdoors with friends and family. Our current rig: 2015 Jeep Wrangler JKU Tank Rubicon. AEV 3.5" lift with 315/75/16 GY Duratracs with level 8 Tracker wheels. C gussets, control arm skids, ACE rock sliders, Engo 10,000 winch, OR-Fab tire/can carrier. M.O.R.E. skid plate, Gobi stealth roof rack. S-pod. ARB OBA. Adams front and rear drive shafts.
For individual use only, not to be shared.