CHILDREN’S DISCOVERY & WILLOW SPRINGS TRAILS
By Tom Pfaendler
Chances are pretty good that your first hike in Red Rock Canyon was at Lost Creek. Well, this month we’re going to “kick it up a notch” and explore a trio of trails in this beautiful area. Your first stop however, should be at the visitors’ center to pick up your free copy of the Children’s Discovery Trail guide. Then, load up Aunt Edna and the kids in the mini-van and drive about seven miles around the loop until you find the Willow Springs turnoff and the Lost Creek parking lot.
The half-mile Children’s Discovery Trail that loops through this canyon is very diverse and accessible. You’ll also find that this is an incredibly popular area, but don’t let the crowds deter you from enjoying the rich experiences that lie just ahead. No special hiking gear is required for this easy walk, but remember, you are in the desert and each person should carry a bottle of water. OK, grab your trail guide and head out into the wash. This is “hiking by the numbers” and you’ll be looking for guidepost #1. Even though this trail is rated “G” and is suitable for all ages, there is still plenty of good stuff for grown-ups, too. See if you can identify some of the plants and wildlife that are illustrated in the trail guide, and be sure to read the helpful interpretive signs that are posted along the way.
You’ll want to follow the “Lost Creek Route” near guidepost #5 that winds through a picturesque little grotto complete with a wooden park bench shaded by a huge Ponderosa pine tree. The path continues through a rock “tunnel” that takes you into a box canyon with a seasonal waterfall. If you’re careful, you can hike around behind the waterfall and then back down to the rock tunnel. Once you’re back on the main trail you’ll find yourself at guidepost #6 and entering the new boardwalk. This structure was recently built to protect the fragile riparian area around Lost Creek, which incidentally is home to two very rare freshwater snails that are only found here in the Spring Mountain range! This new boardwalk actually blocks access to the area described by guidepost #7, so please respect this restriction and don’t try to go around the fences. Unfortunately, all of Lost Creek has been loved to death, and is now struggling to recover.
Those with a little more time who might like to explore this area further should go back to guidepost #3 and slide between the two big rocks to hike along the Willow Springs Trail. This is a higher path that follows the wash and offers some great views of White Rock Mountain. After a mile or so of easy and much less crowded hiking, you’ll end up in the popular Willow Springs picnic area, where you’ll find The Petroglyph Wall trailhead. This quick little tenth-mile trek leads to a nicely varnished wall that is adorned with a variety of petroglyphs and pictographs. This actually used to be a rock climbing area known as “Peaches”. The climbing route has been closed to protect the rock art but the name Peaches still “clings.”
The scenery in Lost Creek and Willow Springs is spectacular. I can only imagine what this place might have been like hundreds of years ago, before airplanes and SUV’s, before boom boxes and spray paint. It was probably as sweet and serene as anywhere on earth. Travel across time now. Pull up a rock along the trail, close your eyes, and fill your lungs with the sage and juniper scented air. Life is good here, no wonder it’s a popular place! Experience Lost Creek and have a very enjoyable day with family and friends. The hiking is pleasant and really not challenging at all. I would give the Lost Creek / Willow Springs experience a total score of five boots out of ten.