Elbowing our way up Elbow Canyon

Elbowing our way up Elbow Canyon

Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: May 3, 2011
Activities Activities: Hiking
Seasons Season: Spring


Cougar Springs  (5)Cougar Springs

This is not a typical trip report detailing a climb of this mountain. It is about getting to the mountain via a rough and rugged 4WD high clearance road.
I'm writing this simply because I've had several people ask for more information on Elbow Canyon so hopefully this will be of help to those who are interested. Road conditions can change and this road could get even worse than it is or become even impassable and if you aren't comfortable driving a road that seems more like a cow path or a rocky stream bed at times, than study the maps and find another way in. If you get to a point where you really don't want to push it further, find a spot to park and hike from there as illustrated by some others in the trip report linked to below. However, if you have a good sturdy vehicle and the experience to deal with a gnarly at times road, you might enjoy this one. Dennis and I both felt that this was our "crux". The hike was enjoyable and somewhat anticlimatic.

Finish to a great week

Dennis and I had found a great area that was just warm enough to allow us to escape the colder weather from which we had fled. He from rainy Oregon and me from snowy Utah. Where was this magical place? Southern Nevada. Southern Nevada had been our ticket to the sunshine and the warmth of the sun and we had been loving it. Our last peak that we wanted to bag was Bangs Peak, not far from Mesquite Nevada but unique in that it is that part of Arizona which is pretty much isolated from the rest of the state. Part of the Arizona strip, Bangs was particularly interesting to Dennis and I because it was a prominence peak, so our final effort would be to find the top of this relatively obscure peak.

I should mention that although it is isn't obscure in the sense of location, it is obscure because most people don't know they are looking at Bangs Peak when the travel I-15 near Mesquite since it is very obvious on the Mesquite side of the highway. One of the most amazing sections of interstate that a person can drive in the west is the Virgin Canyon section of I-15 located between St. George Utah and Mesquite Nevada. I won't go into detail about this section of highway but when it was built it was considered to be the most expensive costing highway ever built in the US up to that time. Wikipedia has a great informative piece that you can bring up via this link.

I had been staying in Mesquite with Dennis but my wife drove down from the snow country to get some sunshine and warmth and had booked a room in St. George. I drove up and stayed with her and interestingly enough, from the motel room we were in, I could see the tip top of Bangs Peak in the distance. Early Tuesday morning, I drove back down through the Virgin River Gorge to Mesquite and hooked back up with Dennis. Dennis gave his wife a hug and we headed for our destination of the day, Bangs Peak.

This trip report isn't to talk about the hike & climb of Bangs Peak itself, it is more to present the part about the drive itself. To me, that was the real adventure of this one.

Up Elbow Canyon

Thanks to Harlan's neat trip report that he made, he had mentioned about Elbow Canyon as an access route, we had decided to try that since it was the most direct route from Mesquite to the trailhead we wanted to get to. By studying the maps, including the ones found in Harlan's TR, we found our way to a key landmark, an old abandoned corral that was at the mouth of Elbow Canyon.

A sign warned us that the road was not maintained so we weren't sure whether we could make it up it or not but we wanted to give it a try. As it turned out, it was an adventure in 4WD driving. While it took us just a half hour to get to the corral from Mesquite, it took us another hour and a half to get to the trailhead that was 8 miles away via Elbow canyon. At about the 4,000' mark, we startled a bunch of cattle that were just off to the side of the road and found that the road kept getting worse as we gained elevation. Several times Dennis had to get out of the truck and guide me through spots where I needed an extra set of eyes to make sure that I didn't nail something underneath the truck.

I don't have a skid plate that protects the vitals nor gas tank so caution is always wise when I'm hitting these kind of roads. It is worthwhile to report however, that there was nothing that was really a problem for my Tacoma. The key is to pay attention and slowly work your way through the sections that could do damage. "Rock gardening" is appropriate in a few spots but overall, if a driver is patient, the road can be driven. The switchbacks were the worst, steep and loose but my truck has the low 4WD gearing and that helped immensely. What a relief it was to finally reach Cougar Springs Pass at 6400'. From the pass to Cougar Springs itself was a bit less than a mile and then the actual trailhead was about a quarter of a mile beyond Cougar Springs.

Corral that is a key spotThe Corral
Heading up Elbow Canyon    (3)The Sign
Up Elbow CanyonThe Road

For several milesThe road was our crux

Up Elbow CanyonThe Road
Up Elbow CanyonThe Road
Success       (4)The Pass

The Trailhead/Maps

The trailhead     (6)Trailhead: The Goal for the driving part

Elbow Canyon 1Map 1
Elbow Canyon 2Map 2
Elbow Canyon 3Map 3

From the hike

If you would like to see more pictures from our hike, I have an album that you can check out HERE.


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Summertime - Feb 21, 2013 6:19 pm - Hasn't voted

Elbow Canyon roads

I am transcribing an interview with a woman that was done in 1970, when she was 78-years-old. She lived in Bunkerville and Mesquite as a child, and moved to Littlefield after her marriage. She talks about taking a buggy over the mountain through Elbow Canyon when she was several months pregnant in late 1916 or early 1917 (the child she was carrying was born 3 Feb 1917.) She talks about how rough that road was "before they improved it." I thought you would like to know you were driving on an "improved" road. :-) Happy hiking, and thanks for reporting on your trip. I grew up in Vegas, now live in St. George, and I'd never heard of that canyon. I think we'll have to make a day of it when the weather warms.

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