By Tom Pfaendler
This month we continue exploring the lengthy Escarpment Base Trail by hiking along the middle segment known as Daleís Trail, which could have been named for itís hill-and-dale topography, but was really named after Dale Morrison, who led a group of three Eagle Scout troops and the National Outdoor Leadership School in its construction back in 1996. You can access Daleís Trail from either Ice Box Canyon, where it intersects with the SMYC trail, or along the Pine Creek trail across from the remains of the old Wilson Homestead gate. This two-mile route around Bridge Mountain is rated moderate, but I would bump that up to strenuous in the summer months. If you go, take all the water you can carry, and if thereís any room left, take your camera, youíre going to want it!
The first thing that strikes you about Daleís Trail is the solitude. Chances are really good that you will be the only hiker out here. This is a very lightly traveled path, probably because it lacks its own parking lot, or doesnít seem to have a unique point of interest (actually it does), so the tourists go elsewhere and the locals just tend to ignore it. Fine! Sometimes life is good. Iíll say flatly that this is one of the very best hiking trails at Red Rock! It offers diversity, great beauty, challenge and a certain pristine feeling that is somehow missing on the more popular trails. Along the way you will find four wooden benches strategically located for you to relax and enjoy the views. Amazingly, none of these benches have been vandalized! The second thing that strikes you about Daleís Trail is the terrific design work. 90% of this trail was laid out perfectly with comfortable grades and genuine Kodak moments around every turn.
Bridge Mountain, with its distinctive red stripe is majestic from any angle, but once youíre out on Daleís Trail, youíll gain a new appreciation of the mountainís spirit. As you relax by yourself on a little wooden bench in one of many park-like settings, the only sounds youíre likely to hear are the occasional rustling of little critters in the brush and the wind moving down the mountain from Ice Box Canyon. You can see pine trees and grass bending in the distance, the wind, moving quickly across the base of the mountain suddenly grabs you, and then itís gone.
Another good resting spot is scout leader Jacob Claytonís memorial bench, situated high above Pine Creek Canyon, which features panoramic views of the escarpment, scenic drive and even Las Vegas in the distance. Youíll need these little resting places because this trail is a series of climbs in and out of six major ravines, some of which are fairly steep. But thatís part of what makes Daleís Trail so great--the unexpected vistas as you crest each hill and the lush canyon gardens in the washes below. Remember that I mentioned a unique point of interest? Daleís Trail is home to Skull Rock. This huge boulder looks like it came directly from Treasure Island and landed out here in the Mojave Desert! If you havenít seen this, it alone is worth the trip, and makes a perfect picnic spot with plenty of nice shady areas and another little wooden bench.
Daleís Trail is delightful. It offers just about everything you could want in a hike: magnificent scenery, solitude, abundant wildlife, seasonal water and beautiful desert gardens. Remember to pack a hundred gallons of water and get ready for one of the best hikes at Red Rock Canyon. Daleís Trail scores a full eight boots out of ten! le'