Saturday

Christmas Tree Pass

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Destination: Christmas Tree Pass.
Distance from Point of Origin: This depends upon which end of the access road you enter from. Though you pass Christmas Tree Road on the Western side, it is suggested that you continue on to the Southern entrance, closer to Grapevine canyon. The latter would be 92 miles.
Estimated (One Way) Travel Time: 1 hour and 35 minutes.
Directions: From the Stratosphere Casino head northeast on Las Vegas Blvd about 4 miles and turn right onto US-515/93/95 south towards Boulder City. Follow US-93/95 for 17 miles and then merge onto US-95 South (Veterans Memorial Hwy) toward Searchlight/ Laughlin/ Needles. Follow for 55.5 miles and then turn left onto NV-163 East. Follow this for approximately 13 miles and turn left onto Christmas Tree Pass Road. Pay close attention, as it is not very well marked. Driving in about 2 miles on this very flat dirt road, you will find a turn left toward Grapevine Canyon. Continuing pass this turn will take you on the 13 mile drive through Christmas Tree Pass and back onto Rt. 95 for the return trip home.

General Description: Christmas Tree Pass is a pass that leads over the Newberry Mountains in southern Nevada. They are located due east of Cal-Nev-Ari. This scenic drive is roughly fifteen miles in length and is a very enjoyable ride offering some fine sweeping views into Arizona and the Colorado River valley down below. Once you reach the western side of the pass you are presented with sprawling views of the Mojave Desert. The pass gets its name from the scatter of pinyon and juniper trees along the route, some of which people have decorated with cans, bottles and shiny pieces of metal.
Special Attraction or Points of Interest: Other than some very unique geologic rock formations, the only special attraction here are the hundreds of petroglyphs found at Grapevine Canyon.
Primary Activity: Hiking and Photographing. WARNING: This area is home to several kinds of rattlesnakes who leave their dens in the spring to hunt after a period of long winter hibernation. Be careful where you place hands and feet and listen for their warning buzz or rattle-like sounds.
Secondary Activities: Rock-hounding

Elevation: At the Southern end of Christmas Tree Pass Road the elevation is around 1,978 feet. The entrance to Grapevine Canyon is roughly 2,450 feet. As you pass through Christmas Tree Pass you will reach an elevation of almost 4,000 feet. The peak of Spirit Mountain, off to the North as you climb the pass is 5,639 feet. See the map below.
Best Time To Visit: Open year-round, the cooler months of Spring and Fall are the best times to visit. Spring visits offer more opportunity to see wild flowers and blossoming Joshua trees and yuccas. Take note that when visiting in winter, hese mountains do get snow.
Difficulty: Hiking or climbing any of the surrounding mountains and peaks would have to be in the moderate to difficult category.
Facilities: None.
Estimated Round-trip Time: 4 to 4-1/2 hours. Coupled with a hike up Grapevine Canyon this could be an all day trip. Although much of this road is like driving on a washboard, with occasional deep ruts and protruding rocks, careful and slow driving will allow a passenger car to traverse the full length of the road, however, a high clearance vehicle is recommended. With occasional stops for picture taking, it took me two hours to drive this 15 mile stretch.
More Info On Christmas Tree Pass: http://www.birdandhike.com/Wilderness/SpiritMt/_Spirit.htm
Christmas Tree Pass

Area Description
: Christmas Tree Pass and the road known as Christmas Tree Pass Road, is the gateway to two wilderness areas in the Newberry Mountains in southern Nevada. The first being the 33,518 acre Spirit Mountain Wilderness Area encompasing Spirit Mountain, considered the center of creation for all Yuman speakers, and is sacred to several Native American tribes of the region. The second, the 7,761 acre wilderness area that, in addition to Sacatone Canyon and the Granite Outcrops, is best know for Grapevine Canyon, the site of one of the most prolific rock art findings in Nevada.For more detailed information and pictures on these two areas, click the links below.


10/20/2011 Trip Notes: Unable to stop and take pictures along Christmas Tree Pass Rd. due to time constraints on a visit to Grapevine Canyon with the rock hounds, I decided to take a chance and drive my 1992 Cadillac up this road to get some pictures on my return from spending the week in Laughlin. While by itself, Christmas Tree Pass Road isn't what I would call a "destination drive," coupled with a visit to Grapevine Canyon to view and photograph the many hundreds of ancient petroglyphs, the inherent scenery and unique geology certainly make it a very worth while side-trip. In addition to the color photographs I shot, I decided to take several pictures in black and white, in the tradition of Ansel Adams.
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This picture reminded me of two skull-like heads, one on top of the other in the center of the picture. Probably just my wild imagination, but to me the one on top almost appears like a the skull of a baboon with deep eyes and a protruding nose. The one below it looks like a “mummy” head.

The picture on the right looked like some kind of ancient, panther-like“gargoyle” atop a ledge, guarding the canyon from foreign invaders.

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Along both sides of the pass you will find Pinyon and Juniper trees, blackbrush, quite a bit of yucca, cholla, and other species mixed in. The hillsides are rocky with rounded granitic outcrops. In the rocky canyons and washes at the base of Spirit Mountain, the vegetation is a juniper forest with a diverse flora (including paperbag bush, catclaw acacia, buckhorn cholla, a variety of composite shrubs, bitterbrush, yucca, nolina, buckwheat, shrub live oak, desert willow, pinyon pine, wax current, rabbitbrush, hedgehog cactus and barrel cactus. The lower elevations are much less diverse and more typical of Mojave Desert Scrub (creosote bush, white bursage, and other shrubs) In the washes (especially at Grapevine Canyon) there are desert willow, cottonwood trees, grapevines, common reed, and lots of rabbitbrush.
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The area is know for its huge monolithic granite outcrops and older metamorphic rocks that appear nearly everywhere. The granites date from about 1.4 billion years ago and the metamorphic rocks are composed of gneiss and schist's that date from about 1.7 billion years ago. These rock types are generally separated by natural faults.
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History of Spirit Mountain: Spirit Mountain, a sacred place to Indian tribes in Southern Nevada, has become the first Indian land in the state listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The mountain, considered the beginning of creation, is so sacred to 10 Indian tribes in Nevada, California, Arizona and Mexico that background from its application for the national listing is not available to the public, even through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Tribal elders call the mountain "The place where shamans dream." The tribes consider it a place where ancient ancestors emerged into this world and has been so significant to Indian spiritual leaders for thousands of years that they were reluctant to allow federal archaeologists to put its secrets on paper. The mountain, called "Avi Kwa ' Ame," rises from the desert floor near the Colorado River and is capped by white granite bluffs.The tribes attached to Spirit Mountain include Hualapai, Mojave, Havasupai, Yavapai, Chemuavi, Quechan, Maricopa and the Hopi. The Pai Pai and Kumeyaay tribes from Mexico and Southern California, respectively, also consider the mountain sacred. It's a significant landmark to the Hopi, who can see it from the Arizona mesas. The Mojave tribe is considered the mountain's caretaker.
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