The Hoover Dam is a major sightseeing destination for visitors to Las Vegas, and it should be; It is massive, engineering genius, and considered some sort of Wonder of the World. However, I think a lot of Hoover Dam's glory has to do with its' surroundings. Lake Mead, the Colorado River, and the surrounding desert mountains make the Dam possible and give us perspective. And in these mountains are hidden gems such as Goldstrike Canyon! Not even 2 miles away, hikers in the know are rappelling boulders and soaking in hot springs.
Goldstrike Canyon is a popular Winter time destination for Vegas locals. It is easy to access, close, and Easy to Moderate difficulty. The hike is about 2 miles from trailhead to Colorado River and the elevation difference is about 600 ft (River being lower). The challenge/fun comes from the obstacles/puzzles put in place by rockfall. There are some class 3 scrambles with what might be considered class 4 ropes in place. There are actually at least 5 ropes put in place to aid in scrambling, so you and those in your party should have the ability to use them.
The Canyon is a blast in itself, but no doubt the draw is that of the Hot Springs along the way and at the end. There are several flows that have been dammed up to make pools and there's even a Hot Spring waterfall that might be the most refreshing of all. However, I've been told by people that some Hot Spring pools have disappeared over recent time, perhaps due to an earthquake. So, as of 2/1/11, there are still natural, sulfur scented spas to stretch out in.
Getting in the vicinity of the Hot Springs is as easy as heading towards the Hoover Dam.
From Las Vegas:
Take 93 South through Henderson and then Boulder City. Stay on 93 and shortly after passing the Hacienda you want to make your first right at Exit 2. Once off you will make your first right and then an immediate left onto a dirt road.
From Kingman, AZ:
Take 93 North. After crossing into Nevada take Exit 2. Go left and head past the off ramp then make quick left onto a dirt road.
It is recommended that you have 4x4 and high clearance, but the distance to the trailhead is short and you can use your own judgment in taking the road.
This is not a difficult canyon to navigate. It isn't a maze and painted arrows and hundreds of tromping boots make sure of that. Still, I wanted to show some of the things to be found in Goldstrike Canyon to entice visitors without giving it all away.
The parking lot is just the dirt road terminated by a small wall of rocks. Make your own spot while not blocking others in is the name of the game.
The canyon starts off very wide open and the ground is loose dirt. Telephone wires and the runnings of the Hoover Dam are noticeable but die out.
After arrows guide you around a landslide, you will be snugly between canyon walls. Bighorn Sheep can cross around here, so be on the look for them. (Of course I didn't see a one that day) Soon, the obstacles crop up. The first is a 6 foot drop where you have to feed yourself through two slick rocks, but there are steps on one of the rocks to help. After that, you get in rock swinging mode. Most of it you can ramble down easily, and I'd say there are 5 real trouble spots. There are several ropes on some of the drops that you may opt to use, so again, be capable with them.
After a mile or so, you will see and smell the hot spring water permeating the ground.
There are 3 main hot spring pools and a few small efforts at pools which may be low flow or lukewarm water. There's a small cave to hang out in and an amazing hot spring waterfall to go under.
Not long after the "Showers", you will come to the meeting of the Colorado River and Goldstrike Canyon. From there, if the water level is low, you can hike to a tall waterfall and the Sauna Cave, both of which are North of the mouth. The Sauna Cave is a hundred foot or so old mining attempt that leaks hot spring and creates a very sauna like atmosphere. You won't be able to see the Hoover Dam from the mouth of the Goldstrike Canyon, but you can see the new impressive bridge that spans the Colorado.
Goldstrike Canyon is still within Lake Mead NRA, but you won't be asked for your annual pass here. Still, I believe they'd like for you to Leave No Trace and conduct as minimal an impact on wilderness as possible.
Camping in Goldstrike is not unpopular on the weekend. Primitive fire rings are all through out and the ground is soft. Some people even hike in at night and light candles around the Hot Springs. Of course, if you're going to camp, remember that it is still a wash.