Lava Butte & Rainbow Gardens

07/06/2013 – I just recently updated this page to add new pictures for a visit Harvey and I made back on 04/24/13. Scroll down to the “04/24/2013 Trip Notes” section to learn more about this most recent visit.

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(Fig. 01)
Area Description: Composed of Dacite, an igneous volcanic rock, Lava Butte (Fig. 01) is part of a geologic wonder called Frenchman’s block that may have been a volcanic dome formed over 13 million years ago. Geologists are still arguing about this. The dark outer coating on these iron oxide rocks is desert varnish. The many smaller hills and peaks in the area are composed of limestone that are much easier to climb. Lava Butte rewards outstanding summit views of the surrounding mountainous areas, as well as Lake Mead, the City of Las Vegas, and Lake Las Vegas. The area west of Lava Butte, refer to (Fig. 02), known for its many colorful rock layers, is called Rainbow Gardens. This area and the many surrounding hills have coral and shell fossils from the Paleozoic era along with crystalline gypsum, quartz and many other minerals. The ravines and washes hold many fossils that have been washed down from the surrounding hills. When hiking Rainbow Gardens, look for Pinnacle Butte (also known locally as "Hitchhiker's Butte") and Red Needle. Depending upon the time of year, keep your eyes open for rattlesnakes. Other animals you may encounter wile hiking this area include desert tortoise, lizards, the cotton tale, the burrowing owl, big horn sheep, wild donkeys, coyote, badgers, chip monks and raptors.
MAP-Lava Butte & Rainbow Gardens-2
(Fig. 02)
Directions - Lava Butte

Hiking Notes: There is no real trail on this hike, although from time to time you may see remnants of one. Aim for the saddle on the south side, which will eventually follow a ridge all the way to the top. Elevation: 2,871 feet. Difficulty: Hiking Lava Butte itself is a moderate to difficult due to the steepness and some bouldering near the top. Length: The 1.5 mile R/T hike takes about 2 to 3 hours depending on your physical shape. Best Time to Hike: The best time to tackle this monster is during the cooler months of late fall and winter. during the cooler months. If tackling this summit during summer, be sure to go in the early morning and late afternoon hours. Unfortunately this is the time that you are more likely to encounter the diamondback rattle snake and the sidewinder. Both snakes are poisonous so one should be on high alert for them while hiking. The area surrounding Lava Butte has many hiking trails and falls under the care of the Bureau of Land Management.  These “mini hills” composed of limestone, give you great traction, making it easy to climb to many of the smaller peaks with little difficulty. Bring lots of water and good hiking boots are recommended for hiking the dark, iron oxide covered lava rocks on Lava Butte.
(Fig. 03)
04/24/2013 Trip Notes: As you can see from the map in (Fig. 02) there are three roads that run along the northwest side of Lava Butte; Kodachrome Road to the far west, Rainbow Gardens Road in the middle and Lava Butte Road running along the base of Lava Butte. On today’s visit, Harvey and I entered from Lake Mead Blvd (NV-147) and headed south, driving the full length of Kodachrome Road (approx. 8-miles). The pictures in (Figs. 03 & 04) were taken at a stop about a quarter of a mile in. We got out and hiked to the shaded cliff in the middle of (Fig. 03). The view in (Fig. 04) was taken from the top of this point, looking southwest. About halfway down Kocachrome Road we made another stop to do a little hiking and took the pictures in (Figs. 05 & 06). Climbing to a high point, (Fig. 05) is looking south towards Las Vegas. The view in (Fig. 06) was looking north, back toward the area that we had just covered. Shortly after leaving this spot, I found the rock specimen in (Fig. 07) which appears to be the fossilized edge of a shoreline back when this whole area was covered by water. For the trip back we headed up Rainbow Gardens Road which provided views of Lava Butte to the east (Fig. 08). Having hike part of this road on a previous visit (see below), I didn’t take too many pictures.
(Fig. 04)
(Fig. 05)
(Fig. 06)
(Fig. 07)
(Fig. 08)
02/02/2012 Trip Notes: Today’s rock hound trip from the Henderson Heritage Park Senior Facility was to Lava Butte and the Rainbow Gardens. Even through the drive in from Lake Mead Blvd (NV-147) (yellow dashed line on the right side of (Fig. 02) above) was a little rough in spots, we made it to the base of Lava Butte’s northwest face. While the majority of our group hiked the power line rode that ran along the length of the butte and around towards its south face (marked in green on the map), two of our members actually climbed and hiked its entire ridge-line from north to south. Their performance was actually an encouragement for the rest of us to give it a try on our next visit. On our way out from Lava Butte, we took one of roads marked ‘Rainbow Gardens’ (western most green dashed line on the above map), however, it did not lead to the main area that we were looking for. As we ran out of time to explore the other road that led to this area, we were forced to leave it for another trip. The picture below (Fig. 09) was taken at the beginning of the road that winds its way from NV-147 to Lava Butte. A washout in the road caused us to park our van (visible in the center of the picture in (Fig.10) near the base of the butte’s northern end. We then hiked the power line road up hill for nearly a mile along its west face before it eventually turned and reached the butte’s southern exposure, shown in (Fig. 11). With a view of the Las Vegas valley, I continued on about another three-quarters of a mile before heading back. (Fig. 12) shows Bill, our driver, looking for signs of the last five hikers that had yet to return. On the right in (Fig. 13) is Albert Ramos, another longtime member of our group, taking in some final sights before boarding the van for our return trip. The birds in (Figs. 14 & 15) were captured along the road that we followed around the base of the butte. I believe they are house finches.
(Fig. 09)
(Fig. 10)
(Fig. 11)
(Fig. 12)
(Fig. 13)
(Fig. 14)
(Fig. 15)
Rainbow Gardens Road: Again, due to a wash out, we had to park our van several miles short of our destination point along this road. The pictures below are some of the views that my hiking partner Blake and I shared while hiking this two mile stretch (green shaded dashed line noted as Rainbow Garden Rd. on the map in (Fig. 02) above. The first picture below (Fig. 16) is of a small pass that we hiked thru that led to a wide valley between two long ridges. The next picture (Fig. 17) in this series was taken on our return while standing in the center of the picture below, looking in the opposite direction. If you click this picture to enlarge it, you can see Lake Mead in the upper right-hand corner. The final three pictures (Figs. 18, 19 & 20) were all taken along Rainbow Gardens Road. It is quite easy to see why they call this area Rainbow Gardens.
(Fig. 16)
(Fig. 17)
(Fig. 18)
(Fig. 19)
(Fig. 20)