Mormon Well Road - DNWR

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This page last updated on 09/10/2018

(Fig. 01)
DNWR Access: Today, Jim Herring and I decided to drive the entire length of Mormon Well Road in my new Jeep Cherokee. After driving approximate 30 miles north of Las Vegas on US-95, you turn right and head east onto a 4-mile paved road that leads to the Corn Creek Station ... Corn Creek Station Visitor Center - DNWR. Just past the visitor center you come to the t-intersection of Alamo Road and Mormon Well Road (Fig. 01),  the two main dirt roads that run through the range.
The more traveled Mormon Well Road is a 47-mile long expedition through a desert basin known as Yucca Forest, filled with thousands of acres of yucca, Joshua trees, and creosote bush. After winding across this basin you begin to climb into a high desert landscape filled with junipers and pines. About 28 miles out you reach the Mormon Pass Campground and historic Mormon Well, located in a grove of Ponderosa pine. Alamo Road heads north from Corn Creek and provides access to a number of roads that climb into the western base of the Sheep Range, one of which, Hidden Forest Road, leads to a historic backcountry cabin where hikers can spend the night. Visit the following page for a history of the Desert National Wildlife Range ... Desert National Wildlife Range - Summary Page. The map below (Fig. 02) covers the majority of the 60 mile journey we took across the Range and shows the locations of the areas of interest on the sign in (Fig. 01). 

(Fig. 02) - Map of Mormon Well Road
Mormon Well Road: In the mid 1850's Mormon settlers moved into southern Nevada. Around the turn of the century, one of the wagon trails, now known as Mormon Well Road, refer to (Fig. 02), was developed as a travel route by pioneers in this region. This trail served early efforts at mining and ranching in this part of the state. Not shown on the map, the picture in (Fig. 03) shows the first 5 miles of Mormon Well Road leading to Yucca Gap with the Sheep Range on the left. (con't below)

(Fig.03) - Mormon Well Road
Yucca Gap: At Yucca Gap is the point where the road passes between the Sheep Range on the left and Fossil Ridge on the right. We have actually passed through this area several times on previous hiking trips to Fossil Ridge and the fossil filled ridges below Yucca Peak in the Sheep Range. The Yucca Fossil Ridge Trailhead Parking Area is shown on the map in (Fig. 02). The view in (Fig. 05) is pointing due East parked at the Yucca Fossil Ridge Trailhead Parking Area. (Fig. 06) is a view Southwest across the Yucca forest towards Yucca Gap in the center of the picture. (con't below)

(Fig. 04) - Yucca Gap
(Fig. 05) - Yucca Fossil Ridge Trailhead Parking Area
(Fig 06) - Yucca Forest looking Southwest from the parking area
Pine Nut Road: After crossing about another eight miles of desert playa filled with thousands of yuccas (Joshua trees), we came to Pine Nut Road (Fig. 07). This road heads Northwest, six miles to the Pine Nut Campground at the base of Sheep Range. It crosses an old burn area that burned in the early 1990's. It is amazing how long it takes for the vegetation to come back to what it once was. The road eventually gains enough elevation to climb out of the Mojave Desert Scrub zone and get into the Pinyon-Juniper Woodland zone where trees begin to provide shade (Fig. 08). Once you reach this traditional camping area, the campsites are shaded by Single-leaf Pinyon and Utah Juniper trees.  There are 6-7 campsites variously tucked under or around the trees (Fig. 09). One campsite has a nice cliff-edge view to the south (Fig. 10). This side road (Fig. 11) is a nice drive in the desert and an easy way to get away from town or camp out in the desert with some shade, but it is wild and remote country without any services. (con't below)

(Fig. 07) - Beginning of Pine Nut Road
(Fig. 08) - View toward the Pinyon-Juniper trees at the base of the Sheep Range
(Fig. 09) - One of the campsite parking areas
(Fig. 10) - Campsite with a cliff view
(Fig. 11) - Pine Nut Road Yucca Forest heading south on the return
Peek-A-Boo Canyon: After we backtracked to Mormon Well Road we continued north two more miles to Peek-A-Boo Canyon (Fig. 12). This was a nice canyon with some unique geology and a wide variety of trees and vegetation (Figs. 13-16). We actually got out here and hike around a little before continuing on. (con't below)

(Fig. 12) Entry to Peek-A-Boo Canyon
(Fig. 13) This canyon had some nice geology (Notice the cave center)
(Fig. 14) Peek-A-Boo Canyon
(Fig. 15) - Peek-A-Boo Canyon vegetation 
(Fig. 16) - Peek-A-Boo Canyon trees 
Mormon Pass Picnic Area: The Desert Pass Campground is located at Mormon Pass, elevation 6,640 feet (Fig. 17). This campground is a pleasant area with tall ponderosa pines and wide open skies, and makes a nice place for camping or just having a picnic. There are three family campsites, one group campsite, and two picnic sites that easily could serve as over-night campsites. Each site has a fire ring and a picnic table, and there are two vault toilets (Fig. 18). We selected one of its sites that had a fire pit designed for using charcoal (Fig. 19). We stoked up a nice fire and had a great picnic lunch. Waiting for the charcoal to heat up we hiked around the area and got several pictures of various wildflowers (Fig. 20). We had a nice lunch of hot dogs with all the condiments. (con't below)

(Fig. 17) - Desert Pass Campground
(Fig. 18) - Site with toilet facilities
(Fig. 19)
(Fig. 20) - Flowers around the Mormon Pass Picnic area
Mormon Well Spring & Corral: Our next stop was an unmarked spur road on the right about two miles past the Mormon Pass Picnic area (Fig. 21). There is a parking area with an old watering trough (Fig. 22). From the watering trough, the route runs south-southeast on an old, closed road. The hike is only about 3/4-miles round-trip,  After a few hundred yards, the old road turns east and cuts up a steep hillside. Halfway up the hill, the trail passes the foundation of what was a water tank (Fig. 23). Atop the hill, the corral sits on a flat area (Fig. 24). This historic site was developed by Mormon ranchers around 1900 as a summer pasture. It was abandoned about 1924. The corral was made from Singleleaf Pinyon Pine and Utah Juniper branches, with the uprights wired together into a circular structure (Figs. 25 & 26). There are open gates on the north and south sides of the corral, making it easy to climb inside. The Mormon Well Spring itself is located about 25 yards at the base of the hill on the south side of the corral (Fig. 27). The area surrounding the spring is covered with thick shrubs and bushes (Fig. 28). Its year-round source of water attracts wildlife from near and far and there is evidence of Bighorn Sheep scat, dozens of birds and lizards (Fig. 29). (con't below)

(Fig. 21) - View on Mormon Well Road at Mormon Well Spur Road

(Fig. 22) - Mormon Well trailhead parking and watering trough (view NE)
(Fig. 23) - The old water tank foundation
(Fig. 24) - The old round corral
(Fig. 25) - Wired uprights of the corral
(Fig. 26) - Wired uprights of the corral
(Fig. 27) - The spring
(Fig. 28) - Thick shrubs and bushes surrounding the spring.
(Fig. 29) - Well camouflaged Lizard

Sawmill Canyon and Elbow Canyon: The road to Sawmill Canyon looked rather rough and we decided to take a pass. For the next 12-15 miles of driving, the road winded its way through the wooded mountain tops (Fig. 30). As we began to decend we came to Elbow Canyon. This is a very deep wash about 75 feet below the road (Fig. 31). As we dropped down even more from the mountains we had some nice views on the way to highway 93 (Figs. 32 & 33). With all our stops, picture taking, hiking and lunch at the picnic area, the trip took us nearly 6 hours to reach Highway 93. Though this is a rough road, there were only a couple of spots where we had to engage the 4WD. We both enjoyed the ride, scenery, peace and quiet, and the fresh country air. It was wonderful, we never encountered another person for the entire trip.

(Fig. 30) - Road follows a deep wash for several miles
(Fig. 31) - Part of Elbow Canyon
(Fig. 32)
(Fig. 33) - On the way down to Highway 93