By Tom Pfaendler
Have you ever wished that you could go back in time and hike a beautiful trail at Red Rock before anyone else found out about it? Well, keep reading and I’ll let you in on a “secret” trail. But first we must explore the famous “Caves Trail”. One mile past the Red Rock entrance on Hwy 159 is a small parking lot for horseback riding and BLM day use. Park there, grab your hat, water and camera and hike up the hill toward the horse stables. The trail turns into a dirt road as you approach the horses and you can follow the road to tip your hat to the cowboys or drop down into the wash and go around the stable if you prefer. As you continue over the culvert and along the hill you’ll notice a distinct black mountain directly ahead of you. This is an important landmark so be sure to make a mental note of it. You might see a (faux) cave entrance high on your left crowned with colorful graffiti, and you may be tempted to climb up there to check it out. Don’t. Except for some broken middens it’s not worth it; save your energy for better things.
About ½ mile from the parking lot you will come to a rough staircase. Put your legs in four-wheel drive and start climbing… there are 102 wooden steps. There used to be 103 but for a recent “campfire”. Once you get to the top, turn around and enjoy the unique view of Red Rock while you catch your breath (Kodak moment). Just beyond this point is a large grouping of rocks, which used to have a terrific pictograph of Bart Simpson until some energetic volunteers attempted to clean this place up. The main cave entrance is near the base of these rocks. Native Americans were not spelunkers because they didn’t see any reason to go down into the underworld. I personally tend to agree. But if you’re determined to explore this cave (and there are several levels down there), you’ll need to crawl in with flashlights. BLM officials have told me that this cave has been completely destroyed by vandals at every level.
A little farther up the trail is the largest “cave” opening (and the scene of the campfire) as well as more graffiti and numerous beer bottles. Be sure to look up toward the top of this opening, and you’ll see a huge pack rat midden securely keeping its important historical records against all odds. If you decide to keep hiking around to the east wall there are some nice petrified tree stumps and other fossils to be discovered in the limestone. Unfortunately, the “party” set has pretty much ruined this area for the rest of us; therefore the Caves Trail can barely muster a three-boot rating. However…
Remember the mental landmark? Scoot back down the hill until you’re standing in front of the black mountain. Look carefully; you’ll see another little trail going to the west around the mountain. Shhh… this is the secret trail. Follow it into the magnificent ravines of Blue Diamond Hill. This is a wonderful hike with lots of birds and perfect little cactus gardens. There is no graffiti, no litter, and no people! I can’t wait to go back. There is some moderate rock scrambling required but it’s oh, so worth it. Just remember, don’t tell anyone about our secret seven-boot trail!