First Creek Grotto

First Creek Downstream from Grotto

North Cottonwood Valley

Indigo Bush at Burro Fence near Trailhead

Down in the valley, today, seven hikers spent Mother's Day morning in the beautiful desert loaded with flowers, nuts, bees and butterflies. The indigo blooms are out right now! The Joshua trees and other various yuccas are filled with nut clusters where the blooms used to be. There are still several hedgehog blooms around and the skies were blue! The rain we had last week is still flowing strongly down the washes and our quest was to take a look at the First Creek Grotto Waterfall. To add a little distance to our stroll, we started at the Oak Creek Trailhead on SR 159 and used the Valley Trail to connect over to the First Creek Trail.

Joshua Tree Nut Cluster

The official Oak Creek Trailhead is found approximately 1.4 miles south of the Scenic Loop Exit on SR 159. There is another one on the Scenic Loop and a couple more from SR 159 that are unsigned.

Painted Lady on Indigo

Years ago, this Oak Creek Trailhead had a campground. SR 159 was a simple dirt road. When Las Vegans would want to visit Red Rock Canyon, they would have to travel this dirt road that ultimately arrived at the White Rock Hills. Rocky Gap Road would take them over the ridge leading them to Pahrump.

Heading up the Oak Creek Trail

Hiking the Valley Trail

Times have changed. The dirt road is now partly a busy paved highway and partly the Grand Circle Trail. Rocky Gap Road is only travelled by the absolute toughest of cars. And, the park is now a conservation area. Who knows what the coming years will bring to the landscape. Anyway, we left the trailhead to follow the road through the abandoned campground area, past the gate and across the Oak Creek Wash. About a third of a mile from the TH, the road/trail forks. A third option turns a sharp left up the hill to the top of a small ridge. This is part of the Valley Trail that leads from the Scenic Loop Exit TH to Spring Mountain Ranch State Park.

First Creek Trail Crossing

We turned left and followed the trail until it dropped down the ridge. Soon, it junctioned with a cross trail at the First Creek wash. We turned right to follow the trail down and across the wash.

First Creek and Wilson Peak

There was a lot of water in the wash but a few stepping stones helped us across. (See photos above.)

Indigo Bush with Rainbow Peak, Bridge Mountain, and Bridgepoint Peak

Hiking up First Creek Trail

The trail continued toward the First Creek Trail and soon, we were there. First Creek Trail is obvious, very large and usually has other hikers about. We turned right onto the large trail and chose the right fork at most opportunities so that we didn't get too far from the canyon wash. Today, we couldn't remember the correct landmarks for the Grotto trail. (In retrospect, John's first guess was the correct one!) So, some of us hiked up the trail until the trail met the wash. Nope. We passed it somewhere way back! Anyway, we added some healthy mileage and returned to the Grotto area that we had passed earlier.

Blooming Hedgehog Cactus

The maps and statistics below indicate the corrected route. (Someday, I'll remember the landmarks.) … Or not.

Male and Female Side-blotched Lizards

Finally, we zeroed in on the Grotto by first finding the overlook above it. After a couple of photos, we climbed up to the beginning of the spur trail that heads down into the canyon.

First Creek Canyon

Top of Grotto Waterfall

Look for a tall tree to the south of the main trail, turn north and look for a bunch of embedded flat rocks. Follow the spur trail down to the left. Wow! Today, the waterfall was flowing very strong! And, the lagoon was filled almost to capacity. We were the only ones down there at the time and we enjoyed taking photos and eating a snack on the side of the pool. Very nice respite! As more hikers started intruding on our revery, we got up to leave taking the well-learned scramble up next to the wall. At the top, we placed a couple of cairns but, really, we don't expect the cairns to be there next year! … Tall tree and flat rocks.

First Creek Waterfall from Top

Two of today's hikers scooted on down the trail without us. Probably had Mother's Day plans.

Start of Grotto Spur Trail into Canyon

The remaining five club members hiked at a decent pace down to the Valley Trail junction and turned left.

Small Waterfall in First Creek

Taking a Break at the Grotto

The Valley Trail was easy to follow on the return and then we turned right onto the Oak Creek Trail, again an easily recognizable large trail that forked in the immediate vicinity of the Valley Trail junction. On the way back from the Grotto, we enjoyed the beautiful desert landscape and the majesty of the Red Rock escarpment. We had started early and now it was getting hot. Time to go home. Great hike!
<4 miles; 325 feet elevation gain; 2 hours; average moving speed 1.5 mph

Gunsight to Waterfall

Enjoying a Prime Location

Returning the way we Came