Old Spanish Trail - Armijo Route

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Destination:Old Spanish Trail.
Distance from Point of Origin: 26 miles.
Estimated (One Way) Travel Time: 40 minutes.
Directions: Head southwest on S Las Vegas Blvd go 1.7 miles and turn right onto Spring Mountain Rd. G .7 miles and turn left to merge onto I-15 South. Travel 5.5 miles and take exit 33 to merge onto NV-160 W/Blue Diamond Rd/SR-160 (aka Pahrump Highway) west toward Pahrump. Heading west on NV-160 go past NV-159, the turn to Red Rock Canyon.  The location of the historic marker for this portion of the Old Spanish Trail is at milepost 17, on the left side of NV-160. Turn left onto a dirt road just before the historic marker and drive about a half mile to the parking area.

General Description: Explored, in part, by Spanish explorers as early as the late 1500s, this historical trade route has often been called the most arduous pack mule caravan route in the history of America. The trail saw extensive use by pack trains from about 1830 until the mid-1850s. The map below outlines the trail from its beginnings, near Santa Fe New Mexico to its conclusion at Los Angles Plaza in California. Approximately 1,200 miles long, it ran through areas of high mountains, arid deserts, and deep canyons. During this period, Mexican and American traders took woolen goods west over the trail by mule train, and returned eastward with California mules and horses for the New Mexico and Missouri markets.

The following was taken from the historical marker found at this location – “This portion of the Old Spanish Trail was discovered in January, 1830, by Antonio Armijo during his first trip from Santa Fe to Los Angeles. The spring just north of this marker provided excellent water and fed meadows of luxuriant grass for draft animals. Two days were required to travel between Las Vegas and Mountain Springs Pass. The trip was broken at Cottonwood Springs, the site of Blue Diamond, where an early start was usually made in order to climb the pass by nightfall. Early travelers often referred to the area as Piute Springs, but the present title has been used for over a century. The altitude made Mountain Springs one of the favorite camping spots on the trail.

Armijo’s return journey marked the first time a caravan made a round trip between Santa Fe and Los Angeles, and the governor of New Mexico trumpeted this fact immediately to his superiors in Mexico City. There was finally a land link between these two regions; no longer was Santa Fe so land locked, because California provided access to foreign markets via her seaports.  In 2001, the section of the Trail that runs across Nevada from the Arizona border to California (known as the “Old Spanish Trail-Mormon Road Historic District”) was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Special Attraction or Points of Interest: Besides knowing that you are probably walking in the steps of hundreds, if not thousands of pioneers that helped early settlers turn the west into what it is today, there are great desert vistas and spectacular views of the the Wilson Cliffs inside the Red Rock National Conservation Area and the eastern cliffs of  the Mount Potosi range to the west.
Primary Activity: Hiking.
Secondary Activities: Photographing.

Elevation: 4,270 feet.
Best Time To Visit: Available for visitation and hiking year round, the best time to make this hike would be in the cooler months of Fall, Winter and Spring.
Difficulty: Easy. Most of the terrain here is flat easy walking.
Facilities: None.
Estimated Round-trip Time: 3-4 hours.
For more info on the Amrijo Route and the Old Spanish Trail: and

Old Spanish Trail Notes: The entire Spanish Trail ran between Santa Fe and Los Angeles over a circuitous 1,200 mile northward-looping course traversing six modern day states; New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, and California. Between 1829 and 1848 it was the main corridor through the Southwest for traders, trappers, horse dealers, Indians and slavers. Woven woolen goods were shipped west from Mexico and California mules and horses were shipped east for the New Mexico and Missouri markets. After 1848 Mormon pioneers developed the western portion of the trail for wagon travel between Salt Lake City and southern California. Las Vegas was eventually settled as a way station and supply point on this vitally important route as were the towns of San Bernardino, Saint George and Cedar City. The route from the Muddy River, north of Overton, southwest to Las Vegas and beyond was one of the toughest and driest stretches of the trail, and would have been nearly impossible without the discovery of Las Vegas's springs and the water resources at Spring Mountain Ranch and Cottonwood Spring. The trail then heads west, following State 160 towards Pahrump Valley.  After topping out at the Mountain Springs Summit at 5,502 feet, the trail turns left off of Rt 160, onto the Old Spanish Trail Highway, which leads west to Tecopa California and on to Barstow, San Bernardino and Los Angeles. (Click on map below to enlarge)

Armijo Trail Notes: I pieced together the following information after viewing numerous Internet sites pertaining to the Armijo Trail. Knowledge of Armijo’s trip was brought to the attention of historians after the publishing of his journal in 1954. Though many of his journal entries appeared somewhat cryptic, a careful reading of them, combined with a familiarity with the topography of the region they traveled, made it possible to retrace the route of this historic undertaking. It appears that Armijo's caravan, between 31 and 60 men depending upon what account you read, left Santa Fe New Mexico and traveled north to Abiquiu (now Albuquerque). Heading west from Abiquiu, they traveled  down Largo Canyon, crossed the San Juan, Animas, and La Plata Rivers (in New Mexico) and reached the Mancos River (in Colorado) south of what is now Mesa Verde National Park. After descending the Mancos River Canyon and crossing the San Juan River for a second time, they traversed Navajo Indian country to the Colorado River with the aid of a Navajo guide. They crossed the Colorado at one of its most famous places, known today as the “Crossing of the Fathers.” The historic crossing was named for the Spanish Fathers Domínguez and Escalante after their November 1776 crossing of the river. Traveling further west, the group reached the Virgin River near St. George, Utah. After ascending the Santa Clara River, they re-joined the Virgin at Littlefield, Arizona and followed it to its junction with the Colorado River. From that point they traveled down the Colorado to Vegas Wash east of Henderson, Nevada. Exiting from here to the west is where it gets a little sketchy. Though generally credited with the establishment of the southern route of the Old Spanish Trail across the Mojave Desert from Las Vegas to Los Angeles, the exact route is under question. They most likely stopped at the Vegas Springs for water (now the Springs Preserve) and then continued in a southern direction towards Jean before heading west towards Goodsprings and on to Sandy Valley and the southern tip of Death Valley, finally catching up with the main route into Tecopa California.

05/03/2012 Trip Notes: This was my second visit in a year to the Old Spanish Trail with the rock-hounds from the Henderson Heritage Park Senior Facility. The mountain scenery here can be quite beautiful, but because I have already have quite a few shots taken on previous visits, I spent the majority of my time trying to locate a route to the two mines located near the base of the Potosi Range. After checking this location when I got home, it appears that I was about 2-1/2 short of the mines.
Mt Potosi Mine MapBased upon today’s hike, it looks like the van can make it in about 1-1/2 miles in from the main road (Rt 160). The intersection of the two dirt roads shown in the middle of the above picture is in the upper right-hand corner of the map on the right. The location of the two mines (the Dawn Mine and the Ninety-Nine Mine) appear to be roughly a two mile hike from this point. (Click the map to enlarge)

The landscape picture above the map was taken looking due west towards the Potosi Mountain Range. This ridgeline can be seen along the left-hand edge of the map above. The picture below was taken from the same vantage point as the landscape shot above, by merely turning 90-degrees and looking back down the road that I hiked up. from the base of the Cottonwood Valley.

Though the landscape still showed the signs of a relatively warm, dry winter, with little to no rain, I did find a few signs of spring (shown below) along the various washes that paralleled my hike up the road.
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04/21/2011 Trip Notes: I hiked the Old Spanish Trail at milepost 17 on NV-160 as part of a daytrip with the rock hounds from the Heritage Park Senior Facility.

Realizing that it is still early spring, I was still quite surprised to see how green the overall area appeared. I was able to view several desert plants and wild flowers in full bloom (above) and found grasses and lichen (below) growing of many of the rocks in the wash that ran parallel with the trail.
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As you follow the trail south, the view west across the desert floor provides a great view of the eastern cliffs of Mount Potosi, which turned out to be the second stop on our journey. If you look closely at the far ridge just left of center in the above picture, you can just barely make out the half dozen radio towers located at the very top of the mountain. (Click to enlarge the crop at the right to better see the towers)

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Slideshow Description: The slideshow above contains 28 pictures that were taken while hiking along the Old Spanish Trail in Las Vegas.