Wheeler Pass

Las Vegas, Nevada (Clark County)
Last Updated: 04/20/2018
5/5 (1 review)
Information
Nearby Trails
Status: Open
Difficulty: 1-5
(EASY - MODERATE)
Length: 28 miles
Highest Elevation: 7690 feet
Duration: About 2 hours 30 minutes
Shape of Trail: Straight Through
Best Direction to Travel: N/A
Nearest Town: Las Vegas
Nearest Town w/ Services: Las Vegas
Official Road Name: 45601
Management Agency: Spring Mountain Recreation Area
District:
Distance:
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Highlights

Highlight: Wheeler Pass

Wheeler Pass is located approximately 50 miles Northwest of Las Vegas in the Spring Mountain National Recreation area. Wheeler Pass Road was previously known as the road from Bennett's Ranch to Indian Creek. Bennett's Ranch was settled in 1875 in the Pahrump Valley. Indian Creek was a ranch owned by a small group of Indians. Now known as Indian Springs. It's history includes being a station on the Tonopah and Las Vegas railroad. Currently, it is part of the Creech Air Force base. As you travel towards the trail head, you may encounter wild horses on the roads and the surrounding areas. On the trail, travelers will pass the Charcoal kilns. The Tecopa Charcoal Ovens in Wheeler Wash were built in 1875 by Nehemiah (“Red”) Clarke. Per information on a sign posted at the site in the past: These beehive-shaped structures are the remains of three charcoal making kilns and one Lime Kiln built for Jonas Osborne in 1877. He designed and built a big furnace to smelt over 20 tons of silver and lead ore each day in the boom town of Tecopa, California in January of 1878. Forty-four men attempted to keep the furnace working by cutting and hauling the ore, and feeding and constantly repairing the furnace. It completely failed and was abandoned in the fall of 1878. As this area of the Spring Mountains had the best and closest source of wood, the kilns were setup here and the charcoal produced was carried by horse-drawn wagons about 50 miles to the Tecopa Smelter. Evidence shows only tree limbs were cut in fuel and no extensive tree cutting was done. A single kiln has an estimated capacity of 35 cords of wood which would produce 50 bushels of charcoal, enough charcoal to produce one tone of silver-lead ore. Wood for the kilns was provided by Harsha White, who operated a saw mill in Clark Canyon, and was in partnership with Nehemiah Clarke. Unfortunately, the kilns have not been able to withstand time, weather and vandalism. The remnants can still be seen. Don't forget to bring sunscreen, water, snacks and your camera.

Video

Route Information

Technical Rating: (1-5)
(EASY - MODERATE)

Rutted and/or rocky road. No shelves. Rocks up to 12" and water crossings up to 12" with possible currents. Passable mud. Moderate grades to 15 degrees. 6" holes. Side hill to 20 degrees. 4WD required. No width problems.

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Description

The trail starts just outside of Cold Creek and crosses the Spring Mountains and ends in Pahrump. The trail consists of dirt roads, small to large boulders, some mild sandy areas, some wooded areas and a maintained dirt road. 4WD is highly recommended due to the boulders. The weather may cause washes or ruts on the trail. There are many small roads/trails that intersect the trail, only the larger ones are covered. Stay on the main trail to follow Wheeler Pass Road. Cellphone service was not available for most of the trip. We currently use Verizon. As always, please tread lightly. Bring plenty of water and sunscreen.

Waypoints

1. Trailhead

Approximately 13 miles after turning off of US 95, the main road will bend to the left. The bend in the road to the left follows Cold Creek Road. Turn on the smaller road to the right/west. After the turn, there is an air down area/parking lot.

2. Parking/air down area (0.1 mi)

This parking lot is a great area to air down and do any further preparations before hitting the trail.

3. Y intersection (0.8 mi)

Turn right/west to continue on the trail.

4. Y intersection (0.9 mi)

Turn left/west trail to continue following the trail.

5. Campground (2.9 mi)

On the right of the trail, there is a camping area. There are a rock fire ring already built. There are no amenities or facilities. Please follow the fire hazard warnings. There are signs that have the dates that fires are allowed.

6. Willow Creek scenery (3.1 mi)

Here, the trail passes Willow Creek and Willow Creek campground. The pictures show some of the mountains seen from the trail.

7. Y intersection (3.9 mi)

Follow the trail to the right/north to follow the main trail. Drivers can choose to go left/west for a small hill climb.

8. Camp site (4 mi)

On the right is another area for camping. Again, no facilities or amenities. There is a rock fire ring present. This is a larger area than the previous site. There are some nice views of the scenic landscape.

9. Merge of trails (4.1 mi)

At this point, the trails merge from the previous Y intersection. Here you can see the slope of the hill, described briefly in waypoint 7.

10. Y intersection (4.9 mi)

Follow the trail to the left/south to stay on Wheeler Pass road. The trail to the right is Needle road and will merge with Wheeler pass in a short distance.

11. Y intersection (5.1 mi)

Follow the trail to the right/southwest to continue on Wheeler Pass road. The left/south trail is Wilderness road that ends at the base of the mountain.

12. Trails Merge (5.2 mi)

Here, Wheeler Pass Road and Needle road merge together. Stay to the right on the main trail to continue on Wheeler Pass road. Those wanting a challenge may choose to follow the trail to the left.

13. Rock Garden Trail (5.3 mi)

Here are some pictures of the rock garden trail. It is highly suggested, that the driver walk the trail to determine if it is passable based on current conditions, vehicle, gear and weather. This is only for modified vehicles.

14. Trails Intersect (5.9 mi)

At this point, the rock garden trail and Wheeler road intersect. If you chose to follow the rock garden trail, it does continue on the other side of the main trail and eventually merges with Wheeler Pass trail.

15. Y Intersection (7.2 mi)

Stay to the right/southwest trail to continue on Wheeler Pass road. If looking for more of a challenge/fun, take the trail to the left/southeast. It is a rockier path than Wheeler Pass road.

16. Rock Garden trail (7.2 mi)

Here are some pictures rock garden trail. Driver should walk the trail to determine if it is passable. This rock garden trail is much less challenging than the previous one. This trail has been driven by stock Jeep Wranglers in the past.

17. Wheeler Pass (7.6 mi)

At this point of the trail, you will come to Wheeler Pass. There is a large open semi flat area to park and enjoy the views. This is a good place to stop and have a snack or meal. It can be windy. The second picture is taken of the trail that you have come from and the third picture is the trail ahead.

18. Y Intersection (8.5 mi)

Follow the trail to the right/southwest to follow Wheeler Pass road. This is the tougher of the 2 trails. Going left/southeast will follow W Willow Peak road that becomes Trough Spring road and eventually merges with Wheeler Pass road.

19. Intersection (10.8 mi)

Turn left/south to follow Wheeler Pass road. This will take you through Wheeler Well campgrounds.

20. Wheeler Well Campground (11 mi)

This is Wheeler Well campgrounds. Plenty of room for at least 10-15 vehicles and tents. No facilities or amenities.

21. Y Intersection (11.4 mi)

Follow the trail to the right/southwest. Both trails run parallel and intersect each other for the next few miles.

22. Charcoal Kilns (12.6 mi)

To the right/west of the trail are the Charcoal kilns. See highlights above for information on the kilns. There is a fence around the kilns to protect the remnants. This is what they look like currently. To see what they look like in the past, click on the link: Charcoal Kilns

23. Desert Landscape (14.1 mi)

Here is some examples of the different landscapes seen from the trail.

24. Views of Pahrump (19.5 mi)

These three pictures are a panoramic view of Pahrump in the distance.

25. Endpoint (28 mi)

This is the end point of the trail. At this point, driver can choose to turn around and follow the trail back to the starting point or continue into Pahrump. There is a winery with a nice restaurant, tours and a shop. From Pahrump, follow Nevada 160 east to Las Vegas.

Directions to Trailhead

Trailhead Coordinates: 36.421303, -115.730629
From Las Vegas, drive north on Interstate 15. Depending on location on Interstate 15, there are 2 options. The first option, take US 95 North towards Reno. If further north, the second option is to take County Road 215 West. If choosing the second option, continue on County Road 215 West and take the exit onto US 95 North. Continue on US 95 North until the Cold Creek Road exit. Turn left/southwest. At approximately 13 miles, the Cold Creek road will bend to the left. The trailhead will follow the road to the right.

Camping

There are multiple camp sites along the trail. No facilities or amenities available.
Camping: Wheeler Pass

Land Use Issues

None.

Writer Information

James and Mimi Nicholson

Mapping Crew - Nevada
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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.

Community

Questions & Answers (8)

Q: Just joined the group. Will my Jeep Liberty be OK to ride from Pahrump to Cold Creek via Wheeler Pass road?
–Dan (12/09/2018)
A: : Hi Dan. I can only assume your liberty is stock. There are some parts that have rocks. Depending on ground clearance, you may scrape the bottom. I have driven a stock Wrangler on this trail a few years ago and was able to do it with minimal scraping. The good thing is this trail can be driven in either direction. If the trail looks too tough, you can always go back the way you came. Use good judgment and common sense. I would recommend bringing another vehicle with you and recovery gear.
–James and Mimi Nicholson (12/10/2018)
Q: I just bought a Jeep Cherokee 4wd trail hawk . Would be something I would want to try with this vehicle .
–Steven looez (04/28/2018)
A: Hi Steven, your vehicle should be okay on this trail. There are some parts that have rocks. Depending on ground clearance, you may scrape the bottom. I have driven a stock Wrangler on this trail a few years ago and was able to do it with minimal scraping. The good thing is this trail can be driven in either direction. If the trail looks too tough, you can always go back the way you came. Use good judgment and common sense.
–James and Mimi Nicholson (04/30/2018)
Q: What about a totally stock Mid size 4WD? Would it have issues or would it be O.K.?
–Dave Richards (04/19/2018)
A: This would be easier to answer if I knew which specific vehicle you are thinking of driving. I've driven a stock Wrangler unlimited(4 door) which I would consider being a mid-size 4wd vehicle on this trail without issues. Hope this helps.
–James and Mimi Nicholson (04/19/2018)
Q: Would you clarify the section between waypoint 18 and 19. My map shows the road to the left at waypoint 18 as the wheeler pass road, and the one to the right as simply UFS 601. Which is the preferred and easier route?
–Mike Hailey (01/23/2018)
A: Hi Mike, sorry for the slow response. At waypoint 18, according to the map shown and multiple maps researched shows Wheeler Pass Road is to the right. For Wheeler Pass Road, the preferred route is the right turn and indicated. In my opinion, the left turn on W Willow Peak Road that becomes Trough Spring Road and merges with Wheeler Pass Road is the easier route.
–James and Mimi Nicholson (04/19/2018)
Q: Would you recommend this trail for a 1st timer? Have a stock 16 Rubicon and going to do this solo while the family stays on the strip. Rather have fun with the Jeep than lose money at the tables. Thanks
–SoCalRubi (08/28/2017)
A: Yes. I would recommend this trail for a beginner with a stock Rubicon, I have done this trail with a stock Rubicon in the past. I would not recommend doing this trail alone. I would strongly recommend that you never go offroad alone.
–James and Mimi Nicholson (08/29/2017)
Q: Will a stock F-150 crew cab short bed have any issues with size on this trail?
–Brett Jackson (08/22/2017)
A: Hi Brett. There may be a section or two where you may drag the rear when going up an incline. If you choose to run the trail, there 8s also the possibility of desert pinstriping due t9 the width of the truck.
–James and Mimi Nicholson (08/29/2017)
A: Hi Brett. I don't think you will have any issues due to the length of the truck, except on waypoint 7. Choose the right fork, it is possible that you would drag your rear at the dip before the hill climb. It is possible that you might experience some desert pinstriping due to height and width of the vehicle.
–James and Mimi Nicholson (08/23/2017)
Q: up in wheeler pass, Pahrump. whar road is the saw mill on, and can you go there
–craig (04/17/2017)
A: Hi Craig, thanks for the question. Younts(Clarks) Saw Mill can be found by turning left/east onto Wheeler Pass Cutoff Road, then a right/east onto Autumn Road which merges with Clark County Road, if traveling from the north. If traveling from the south, turn right/east onto Clark County Road and follow until the Saw Mill. Hope this helps.
–James and Mimi Nicholson (04/17/2017)
Q: is it to early to go mid april to go over pass
–craig (02/21/2017)
A: It really depends on the weather from year to year. In my experience, we have been up there and have had no problems with the weather at that time of year, but I have heard stories in the past where it can be tricky. Hope that helps. Thanks for the question.
–James and Mimi Nicholson (02/21/2017)

Trail Reviews (7)

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
What a great way to beat the heat of Las Vegas! went out with the Desert Wranglers from Carpenter Canyon in Pahrump through Wheeler Pass and finished in Cold Creek. Traveled to the camping area where there was some water running on the trail the headed to the Kiln site for lunch. Ride was nice and not technical for the most part. There were a couple of short hill climbs, nice mud puddles and we maneuvered through some washed out roads going up and down some of the hills. It was an enjoyable ride and was about thirty degrees cooler on the mountain was able to map this on my GPS so I tango back soon. There were a lot of roads that broke off and I got off track a few months ago by myself but now I am ready to go out with some other friends.

Author:
Status: Not Reported
Offroaded on:

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Made it a about 6 miles in, full size truck extra cab. Turns get away too tight and tough to maneuver. Definitely becomes a short wheelbase trail.

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
JEEP RENEGADE DESERT HAWK 2017 (STOCK) Had great time on this trail, got to see some wild horses and some amazing landscape.

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Went up Wheeler Pass for a two-day outing starting on 9/9/17. Finding the trail was pretty easy, but worth noting you do pass through a small section of private property and past a house at the start (just after Waypoint 3). Took the advice to walk both rock gardens and that was helpful and it does appear to be a water course and could get washed out after a storm. There were some challenging spots but the lifted 2003 Tacoma had sufficient clearance. I would say the hardest part (for me) was the sharp left turn just before the summit (between Waypoint 16 and 17). With the longer truck (6 ft bed) navigating the two boulders positioned within the turn I had to do some repositioning to get the right angle and it still was a bit of a step. Camped and photographed at the pass summit, and the temps were cool but pleasant. Woke up to a large Elk Bull bugling right outside of my truck at 3am, and the herd (harem) of 8 stuck around until sunrise and I was able to get some photos. So far so good! The descent is generally easier, although the trail is tighter/overgrown and a much wider truck would get some pin striping as mine got a little. Some fun rock garden sections too. There are also many more sections that follow water courses and it would be problematic to do this in or after a big storm. Beautiful route and the camping added a lot of value to it with the wildlife experience I was hoping for. *I will add photos to this as soon as they are uploaded.*

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Took the kids in our Suburban up Wheeler from Cold Creek to Pahrump, stayed on the Wheeler Pass rd the entire time without taking any easier way up or down shortcuts. Uphill was a little rough fro the erosion but more than manageable. Drive down was fun as always. Shot a timeleapse of the drive in 1sec intervals and stretched it out to double speed. It was windy the previous several days, Wheeler Pass sign was knocked off, I righted it and leaned it against the post to get documented proof that we were there.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
The weather in Las Vegas is starting to heat up, so it was a great day to visit Wheeler Pass Road to update the trail information and to ensure the winter weather did not drastically change the trail. There was plenty of vegetation blooming on the sides of the trails and the rabbits were out enjoying the warmer weather. No major changes to the trail. Wheeler Pass trail is a very scenic trail with plenty of mild rock gardens to keep the drive interesting.