Cold Creek and Bonanza Trail North Trailhead - Summary Page

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This page last updated on 05/04/2020
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(Fig. 01)

Directions: From the Stratosphere Casino head northeast on Las Vegas Blvd about 3 miles and turn left onto US-93-95, keeping on the left for US-95 North towards Reno. Following US-95 North towards the Mt. Charleston area, drive 36 miles, past SR-156, the turn to Mt. Charleston (Kyle Canyon Rd.) and past SR-156 (Lee Canyon), and head as if driving to Indian Springs. Look for a small green sign on the freeway for Cold Creek (approx. 5 miles past Lee Canyon Ski Area Turnoff). Turn west of the freeway onto Cold Creek Road (SR-172) and drive up the mountain past the prisons (State, Federal, work camps) toward the town of Cold Creek (approx. 13 miles). Drive slowly looking out for wild horses along the road.

Cold Creek DescriptionLocated at an elevation of 6,500 feet at the base of the northern Spring Mountain Range, the small community of Cold Creek, with nearly 250 people, is about 50 miles north of Las Vegas. It is nestled inside the boundaries of the Toiyabe National Forest. With a serene and breathtaking high mountain desert environment, the town is not a place for those who like city comforts. There is no electrical power and everyone's homes are supplied by either solar panels or generators. This is a place of wide open ranges, wide open spaces and sparse vegetation. The town's backdrop is a north-south mountain range with elevations up to 13,000 feet, separated by long narrow valleys ranging from 5,000 to 7,000 feet. There are two main reasons for visiting the town of Cold Creek; taking pictures of the nearly forty plus wild horses in the area and hiking the Bonanza Peak Trail. Just inside the Spring Mountain National Recreation Area (SMNRA), it is surrounded by the Wheeler Pass Herd Management Area (HMA). Primarily managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), HMA's are public lands where wild horses and wild burros are allowed to free-roam. The Cold Creek area is one of the best locations in the state for observing these animals. The Bonanza Trailhead is located about 2.2 miles north of the town. The view of Cold Creek in (Fig. 01a) below was taken looking east from the Bonanza Trail about halfway to the saddle.

(Fig. 01a)

Bonanza Hike SummaryAfter following the paved Cold Creek Road through to the edge of town, it will turn into a dirt road. This unmarked dirt road is called the Camp Bonanza Cold Creek Road. To get to the trailhead, follow this road for 2.2 miles to a parking area. The elevation at the parking lot and trailhead is 7,553 feet (Fig. 02) From the trailhead, follow the obvious trail for 2.8 miles up 2,253 feet to a Bonanza Saddle at the top of the ridge. From the saddle, elevation 9,803 feet, looking west into the valley below you will see Pahrump NV. Once you attain the saddle, turn to your left (south) and you will again see the very obvious trail heading off towards a heavily wooded area. Stay on the trail that ascends with a series of gentle switchbacks. After nearly a mile, just 10 yards before the last switchback that heads down, turn left. This use trail takes you to the summit of Bonanza Peak. The peak is an elevation of 10,397 feet , making the total one-way hike a distance of 4.07 miles from the trailhead.  Even though there are lots of switchbacks (someone estimated more than 80), the total elevation elevation gain from the trailhead is 2,844 feet, making what I consider to be a moderately difficult hike.
(Fig. 02)
05/02/2020 Trip NotesOn this date Jim Herring and I decided to visit Cold Spring for a little four- wheeling and a picnic. We started out by taking Cold Creek Road, then parts of Wheeler Pass Road and eventually Willow Springs Road, driving deep into the wilderness. We took so many roads that I thought we might get lost. The first thing we came to was Cold Spring, the we had hiked on our previous trip. Click here for pictures and a description of today's hike ... Cold Creek - 05/01/2020 Visit

08/24/2018 Trip Notes:  This trip was my eleventh visit to Cold Creek. Today, Jim Herring and I hiked along the Cold Creek the led to the Cold Creek Spring and to the Willow Spring and campground. Click here for pictures and a description of today's hike ... Cold Creek Spring - Notes for 08/24/2018.

07/03/2017 Trip Notes:  This trip was my tenth visit to Cold Creek. Today, Jim Herring, her daughter Christina, Bob Croke, Harvey Smith and I decided to head to Cold Creek Nevada to hike the Bonanza Peak trail. Once we reached the town of Cold Creek, we spent a little time looking around for some wild horses that normally populate this area. After a few pictures we headed up the 2.2 mile dirt road above the town (Camp Bonanza Cold Creek Road) that leads to the trailhead. We made it in Jim's SUV without any trouble. Click here for description and pictures of today's hike ... Bonanza Trail Hike - Notes for 07/03/2017.html.
09/13/2016 Trip Notes: This was my ninth visit to Cold Creek. The main goal of today's hike was to hike to the Cold Creek Spring. Even so the 45 mph gusting winds made this a difficult hike, it was never-the-less a rewarding hike. Click here for info and pictures of today's hike ... Cold Creek Spring - Notes for 09/13/2016.

04/30/2016 Trip Notes This trip was about my eight visit to Cold Creek. Today, Blake Smith, Jim Herring and I decided to head to Cold Creek Nevada to see if we could hike the Bonanza Peak trail. This was my third time hiking this trail. We had heard that Camp Bonanza Cold Creek Rd., the dirt road above the town the leads to the trailhead was in bad shape and would require a 4WD vehicle. To our surprise, it was actually in pretty good shape and were able to make the 2.2 miles to the trailhead in Jim's SUV. Click here for info and pictures of today's hike ...Bonanza Trail Hike - Notes for 04/30/2016

10/22/2014 Trip Notes: I made my third trip this month to Cold Creek to let some visiting company experience the wild horses that roam this area. As usual it made for yet another great day of picture taking. Click here for more info and pictures of today's visit ... Cold Creek Trip Notes for 10/22/2014.

10/01/2014 Trip Notes: On a recent trip to Vegas, our friend Jim Herring was joined by a colleague from work who lives in Oklahoma. Jim suggested that we take Ray up to Mt. Charleston and out to Cold Creek for some picture taking. Click here for more info and pictures ... Cold Creek Trip Notes for 10/01/2014.
09/16/2014 Trip Notes: I recently had a visit from my sister and her husband who live in Lake Tahoe. As they both like the outdoors and love to take pictures, I decided to take them to Cold Creek to take pictures of the wild horses.  Even though I have been here at least five times, I am always able to get some great pictures. Click here for more info and pictures ... Cold Creek Horses.

04/11/2013 Trip Notes: This was my fourth visit here with the rock-hounds from the Heritage Park Senior Facility. As usual, we spotted more than a dozen wild horses (Fig. 03 & 04), both on our way in and out of the area. Each time I come here, I seem to climb a little higher up this trail. Because I am always stopping to enjoy the beautiful views, trying to capture pictures of birds, and looking for rock specimens, it seems that I never have enough time to make it to the top. I estimate that this time I made it about a mile and a half up to an elevation of nearly 8,800 feet. Refer to “Turn Around Point” on (Fig. 02).  The view in (Fig. 05) is looking east towards the Sheep Range. (Fig. 06) is a view south towards McFarland Peak. As you can see from the shots in (Figs 07 & 08), the higher we climbed, the more snow we encountered. As the morning warmed up and the snow started melting and the trail actually began to get quite muddy and slippery. 
(Fig. 03)
(Fig. 04)
(Fig. 05)
(Fig. 06)
(Fig. 07)
(Fig. 08)

04/19/2012 Trip Notes: Even though there was considerable snow visible in the upper reaches of the ridge line, we escaped the deep snow that prevented us from reaching the Bonanza Trailhead a year ago (see 3/24/2011 trip notes below). Unfortunately, as a result of this year’s lack of snow and rainfall there was very little in the way of wildflowers or blooms of any kind. We were rewarded however, with the largest sighting of wild horses we've ever encountered here in any one single visit – I counted more than 32. At around the 6,500 foot level above the town, one of our first encounters was of three or four horses that were just taking it easy by lying around (Fig. 09) on the cool ground. One even provided a show by rolling over on its back several times (Fig. 10), as though he was scratching an itch. Some in the group even took to petting them (Fig. 11), while the “more skittish” just looked on (Fig. 12).
(Fig. 09)
(Fig. 10)
(Fig. 11)
(Fig. 12)
On our return trip down the mountain, we stopped for lunch at the first of the three ponds (Fig. 13) located just east of the town and found another cluster of horses that were feeding on the vegetation in this area of the upper valley. This grouping included a proud mother and her young foal (Fig. 14), the third newborn we had seen today. They appeared a little more skittish than the first group we encountered and would start running away (Fig. 15) whenever we got to close. Click here for more pictures of wild horses ... Wild Horses of Cold Creek.
(Fig. 13)
(Fig. 14)
EP-Cold Creek Colt
(Fig. 15)

09/01/2011 Trip Notes: This was my second time hiking here and I was glad to see the snow gone. Unlike our previous visit, we got to see the many wild horses that this area is noted for. At one point when we stopped for pictures, they came right up to our van and one actually stuck his head in the door as soon as it was opened (Fig. 16).  It is just amazing how tame they have become, and how close you can get to take pictures (Figs. 17-19). On this visit, the lack of snow also allowed us to travel the two miles beyond the town (Fig. 02), up to the Bonanza Trailhead (Fig. 20), located at the base of the Spring Mountains.
(Fig. 16)
(Fig. 17)
(Fig. 18)
(Fig. 19)
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(Fig. 20)
Driving to the far edge of Cold Creek, where the pavement ends, a very rough dirt road (my back will never be the same) continues up to the parking area for the Bonanza Trailhead at an elevation of 7,513 feet. Hiking to the top requires a moderately a strenuous, 5-mile R/T hike involving many switchbacks to a saddle (Fig. 02) and crest of the Spring Mountains at 10,230 feet, that then heads south along the crest to the summit which is 10,397 feet. Due to time constraints, we were only able to hike up about one miles of the trail, traveling through a wide variety of flora that begins in pinyon-pine-juniper woodland, ascends through a mixed forest of white firs, bristlecone pines, ponderosa pines and limber pines. As most of the trail is forested with bristlecone pines, there is plenty of shade and openings that offer great views to the east, like the one shown below in (Fig. 21). Be sure to view the slideshow at the end of the page.
(Fig. 21)

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(Fig. 22)
03/24/2011 Trip Notes: This was my first visit to Cold Creek with the rock hounds from the Heritage Park Senior Facility. The area is known for the wild horses that roam the yards of homeowners and the surrounding desert landscapes. Because it had snowed for several hours the night before our visit, the roadway was covered with snow and ice (Fig.22),  providing a kind of "winter wonderland" view. About halfway up to the town we encountered a resident whose vehicle had skidded and was stuck blocking the road. We had to assist her in order for us to pass and continue on.

The snow on the road on the western end of town was actually so deep it prevented us from driving up to the Bonanza Peak trail-head where we were going to do some hiking. As a result, the only wild horses that we were able to observe were the 7 horses that were feeding on some hay put out by one of the local residents. Everyone spent some time hiking a short distance up the snow covered road (Fig. 23), enjoying the crisp fresh air and the occasional smell of a wood burning stove. We actually got the van ‘stuck’ (Fig. 24) due to the icy road conditions and had to spend a few minutes getting it turned around.
(Fig. 23)
(Fig. 24)
Truly and early sign of spring, were the dozens of good old American Robins (Figs. 25 & 26) feasting on the plants and desert shrubs that surrounded the small pond just downhill (east) of the town. There are three ponds, fed by the springs that emanate from the mountains on the western end of town. I’m sure these ponds are good for a wide variety of desert species as I also observed several sparrows, house finches and some four legged animal tracks that I was unable to identify. I am looking forward to a return visit a little later in the spring.
(Fig. 25)
(Fig. 26)
One of the residents came out to talk and told us that the BLM is considering another controversial roundup of wild horses, leaving many of the local residents in an uproar. Even though only a few hundred people live in Cold Creek, many of them say they moved here because of the wild horses that wander through their property almost every evening. The locals know the horses so well they've given names to most of them. Rumor has it that the most likely plan would be for the BLM to gather about 95-percent of so-called "excess animals", which would mean the removal of more than 300 horses and more than 500 wild burros from the area.

Play a Slide Show

Clicking the picture-link below will open OneDrive in a new window and a folder containing 83 pictures taken on nearly a half dozen trips to Cold Creek. To view the show, click on the first picture in the folder and you will get the following menu bar:

Clicking the "Play slide show" will play a fullscreen window of the slide show.


Note: Every attempt is made to provide accurate information, but occasionally depictions are inaccurate by error of mapping, navigation or cataloging. The information on this site is provided without any warranty, express or implied, and is for informational and historical purposes only.