February 4, 2024

Lake Mead: Ultimate Hot Springs Loop

 Robert had concocted this hot springs loop over a year ago. We were all set to give it a go, but while he was overseas on vacation, he had an accident, breaking his leg. Thankfully, all healed fine and the calendar flipped forward a year. We rounded up some of the usual suspects for this potentially sketchy ride outing. Robert would lead the way since he scouted the entire route on foot, myself, Mike W. and Mike S, aka Sowers.

We had a plan, now we needed to see if we could indeed pull it off with bikes. Robert & Mike W met Sowers & I at Frey's Mexican in Kingman before we checked out the new trails at the White Cliffs trail system. Then it was on to our luxurious roadside car camp. Slightly up a wash from the Arizona Hot Springs parking area within eyesight & earshot of the bustling US93. While it wasn't a quiet night, it was steady and really didn't bother me. White noise effect I suppose.

The goal of the trip, aside from determining if bikes were a good or bad idea, was to visit two of the area hot springs, check out some side canyons either via bike or foot and be back to the cars by Sunday afternoon. The total mileage was somewhere around 27 miles. Seems easy, right? Hehe, silly question.

Plenty of wide open flat spots in White Rock Canyon.

Temps dropping quickly as the sun dips. Photo by Mike W.

Looking up canyon in golden hour.

Tomorrow, we ride.

Pre-built fire pit with chimney worked quite well.
There was some speculation about potential showers moving into the area on Saturday night / Sunday morning, so I opted to carry my tent - just in case, rain jacket as well. That just about guarantees it won't rain, right?

Mike W. cruising down the wash on the south side of US93 under bluebird skies.

How far up the trail can we ride? Sowers shows the limit.

We reached the saddle, where in front of us was nothing but shear ruggedness.

Down the hatch we go!!
The downhill portion was actually pretty good and sections were beautiful singletrack and others required hiking, but overall I'm glad we had bikes and the hikers we passed weren't quite sure what to think.

We soon reached our first side canyon excursion and we may have confused some hikers by not continuing on the direct path to the hot spring, but they figured it out quickly.

It didn't take us long to find our first surprise: a pile of boulders covered in petroglyphs!!

Time to explore. Photo by Robert.

Alien heads??

Ahh, yes, the ancient Shake-weight!!

We continued up the canyon to see what we could find...

Time to leave the bikes behind.

Same shot, but from the top. Photo by Sowers.

Looks like a good spot to turn around.

It was surprising to find a stray official trail marker.

Checking out just how big the BIG DROP OFF was. Photo by Mike W.

Yep, it's BIG, but manageable.

Leave your helmet in the wild out here and in no time it becomes a cairn.

Back on bikes, we rode up another side canyon and found some cool slot canyon sections. Photo by Sowers.

Sowers on flat ground.

Making our way back to the main route.

The washes were mostly packed gravel and rode fine.

Back on the main trail, looking up from where we came.

Continuing downward.

The canyon walls tighten as we go.

Some sections are smoother than others. Photo by Sowers.

The final pinch.

Arizona Hot Spring!! Aka: Ringbolt Spring. Upper pool of three.
The first thing we noticed upon arrival were the two naked guys walking around, but then realized they were working on rebuilding the lower, third, pool as someone had vandalized the sandbags. There were a couple other folks there, but otherwise quiet. The pools ranged roughly 111º - 104º.

Mike W. & Robert soaking in the middle pool while the third pool slowly refills.
Robert was telling me about a steep ladder below the third pool used by folks who access the hot springs from the Colorado River. I had to go check it out.
It's now dubbed the fire escape, huge metal framework for the ladder replacing an older more janky edition.
I followed the canyon for a short bit, didn't reach the river, but noticed the water was still nice and warm as it trickled through.
Back at the top where the water oozes from the rock walls into the spring.
It was time to get moving after our soak. It sure felt nice to kick back an relax for an hour or so. Robert gave us our upcoming route warning: Tough 15 minute hike-a-bike coming. Our task was to traverse up & over the adjacent ridgeline and find a good path down to the Colorado River.

Up we go following a primitive game trail. The upper section in the light colored rock was incredibly steep. Footing was tenuous.

Up top a sprawling view of the Colorado River as it cuts through Black Canyon.

The rugged beauty of Arizona & Nevada was on full display.

Demonstrating proper product placement. Orange Fanta FTW. Photo by Robert.
We were getting ready to leave and the three of us not named Robert, were scanning our surroundings perplexed on how we were going to find a suitable 'bike' route down to the river. We trusted Robert's scouting mission and followed his lead.
A rideable ridgeline to begin with was nice.

It almost looks like an actual mountain biking trail!!

That radness was short lived as we now began picking our way across the unforgiving landscape. Foot placement and awareness were crucial, no place for a misstep as the consequences were high. Some areas were made easier utilizing the two-person hand down.

We just need to get down to the wash, then on to the next challenge. Photo by Mike W.

The slow going paid dividends and we reached the Colorado River without too much fuss. Amazeballs.

Put this on the Lake Mead Nat'l Recreation brochure!!

Sowers taking it in. Photo by Mike W.

Looks almost tropical.

Next was a connection to the adjacent wash up a canyon and there was almost a riverside trail we could ride...almost. Photo by Robert.


Water filter break for the Chumba Sendero. Photo by Mike W.

Almost dead center, there's a beach when boaters access the hot spring.

The slow pedal up the next wash.

Look at that!?! A trail sign and singletrack!!

Get the magnifying glass out, there are three bighorn sheep near the center of the frame.

See them now?

We rounded a corner and spotted the remnants of an old mining operation.

Mike checking out the remaining structure.

Abandoned mine at the top.
We met a group of hikers nearby who were rather amazed to see a group of mountain bikers roaming around.
Fair bit of downhill payoff for the effort.

Mike cruises across the Martian landscape.

Money shot of Liberty Bell Arch.

Mike O'Callaghan - Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge.
We saw the bridge a few times, but never caught a glimpse of Hoover Dam as it was always tucked behind the corner.

Liberty Bell Arch.

The fellas action shots with the Arch - Sowers first.

Mike rolls on by.

Robert hot on their tails!!

And here's me, in downhill hike-a-bike mode!! Photo by Robert.

Have I mentioned how rugged the terrain was??

Could be an old Pink Floyd album cover, Umma Gumma style.

Popping through the window. Photo by Mike W.

Teamwork!! One bike at a time was key.

Palm trees come into view, we're getting close!!

Cool trail routing here.

Warm water was seeping from the rock.

Colorado River comes into view.

Amazeballs!! This was 50' from my camp. Win.

Our home for the night, Lone Palm Hotspring. All to ourselves.

Spotted this tiny arch from camp.

Enjoyed a lengthy early evening / night soak.

The small upper pool on the left was a bit hot - soakable though, but the lower pool was perfect.

Farther downstream, a third pool.

It resides next to the river, but up a bit.

Small waterfall cascades to the river.

Mike filter water and found the waterfall from below. Photo by Mike W.

The hike up / down was a bit sketch, using the roots as a handhold. Photo by Mike W.

Hotspring view from near camp.
When we made camp it was a clear, starry night. Wonderful star gazing. Sometime around daybreak I began hearing a stray raindrop on my sleeping bag. Yep, I left the tent on the bike. The light rain never really increased, it was getting close to wake-up time anyway and if the bag got wet, it didn't matter as this was our last day. The other thing I noticed upon waking was my scratchy throat. Ugh. It wasn't bad per se, but noticeable. It seemed to clear up over the next few hours, but it would begin a month+ long battle with sinus crud. So sucky.

The skies remained overcast and the rains stayed away. We knew we had a fairly good hike-a-bike effort right out of camp, but those are usually welcome as they keep you warm on cool mornings.
But first, some downhill hike-a-bike. The Mike's demonstrate.

Sowers riding by the oozing rock from earlier.

Oof. Up we go.

Robert pointing back towards camp as the Colorado River reappears. Photo by Mike W.

A distant Liberty Bell Arch on the left horizon.

Where's Waldo? (Trail & Mike)

Found him!!

There's a hint of a trail...

Our payoff for topping out? Some sketchy downhill hike-a-bike!!

Follow the path of least resistance to the wash below.
We rode up the wash a bit then found a side canyon for our first detour of the day. We ditched the bikes when the canyon narrowed and we had to scramble, climb down a series of tree limbs.

Mike makes his way into the canyon.

Our hike ended when rappelling gear was needed. Cool slot canyon though.

Sowers making easy work of the wash. They were more rocky than sandy, which was a good thing for riding.

Hmmm, what to do now? Meanwhile, Robert found a go-around.

One of the many tight slots we could ride through.

Teamwork makes the hike-a-bike work!!

Our closest view of the bridge.

Nice kitty.

Random directional arrow.

Reaching the US93 underpass.

Great place for lunch. Photo by Mike W.

Really cool graffiti in here.

You never know when or where life's answers come from.

These murals were amazing, It was so dark in the underpass because it curved, yet these spanned the full height.

Everyone remembers 2020.

What is this? A normal looking dirt road?? The miles were coming fast now.

Passing by the bridge. Hoover Dam is just to the right, out of view.

This guy. Rode from Death Valley. We gave him route suggestions on getting to the popular hot spring.

Our second detour of the day took us down a side canyon to views of Lake Mead. Crazy to see how low the lake level is. I recall seeing it full back in the 90's.

Life finding a way.

We scrambled up this outcropping hoping to get a better lake view, but nada.

Once again, we turned around when the drop into the slot was too big.

Found this pet cemetery on the ride back to the dirt road.

Start of a long descent towards Lake Mead. Photo by Robert.

The geology in this area is mesmerizing.

I'd like to see this on a sunny day.

The foothill's intricacies are unveiled upon approach. 

What planet are we riding on?

I'm now under water in Lake Mead circa 1992...

Has a very Valley of Fire SP feel to it and it matches my framebag!!

Grinding up the long, steady grade by Fortification Hill.

Looking back, we've gained a bunch of elevation since the lake.
I was starting to fall back from the fellas, mild bonk mode in effect. Bleh. I stopped to jam some calories in my face and they were felt almost immediately.
Dr. Seuss would be proud.

The grade kept going, the gravel was getting deep too.
It got to a point where I was expending a lot of energy to pedal, so I opted to walk. I was feeling the effects of all the climbing. I was about ready to be done. Only a few more miles to go and the final ones were downhill if memory served me right.

What is this nonsense?? It's like the Earth has an open sore and Sowers is about to get sucked in!!
I had dropped way behind and was beginning to get frustrated at the lack of riding at the moment. It was more effort than I wanted, just keep moving. I eventually caught up to the guys and kept going, trying to make up for a bit of lost time.

I reached a fork in the road, an equal split around a hill. Left or right? I knew the car was generally to the right, Robert agreed, but also admitted he couldn't quite recall which way he went during his scouting mission. We pushed on to the right, but I fell behind again and when I rejoined the group, Robert was in full hike-a-bike mode. He was grinding up an incredibly steep pitch to the left, now realizing we should have taken the left fork!! Ugh, it was the last thing I wanted to be doing at the moment, but up I went - with some help from the Mikes. We got up and over the hill without too much trouble, now in the proper wash and we were all in push mode now. Our target? The 'Secret Burro Singletrack' Robert had named. Hmmmm.
Finally. The others join in the hike-a-bike.

One final push!! Photo by Mike W.

What's the saying? If you're not hike-a-biking, the views probably suck. Indeed.

The Secret Burro Singletrack was paying dividends immediately!! Hell yeah!!

Aren't ridgelines the best?? Wild views up here.

Sowers taking a spicy route down. Nailed it.

Our choice down wasn't as fun as Sower's pick, but we all ended up in the correct drainage to lead us out and back to camp.

Mike and I cruising along...
Mike passed by me while I was snapping his photo. I was following his line through the wash when a rather large thorny bush approached on the right. I tend to remove whatever hand could make contact with said perpetrator to avoid unnecessary slashings, but in this case when I did, my bars turned in the deep gravel. My attempt to regain control failed when I missed my grip with my right hand. Ruh-roh. Instantly, my weight shifted forward, back end started to rise, I was going down. Don't fight it, prepare for impact!! Terra firma was rapidly approaching and to the left I saw a good sized imbedded boulder in the sand that my grill was targeting. Recalculating....somehow, I managed to shift my body to the right at the last second and land 'mostly' soft in the sand. A quick body and bike check revealed a small cut on my left pinky. Whoa, that was close!!

Barely 10 minutes later we were done, back at the car cracking open a cold brew and toasting a mighty fine adventure. In the end, we all agreed, bikes were indeed the correct choice for this outing. I'd do it again.

Huge props to Robert for scouting this route. We were all amazed he did it solo as there are quite a few tricky areas even when you have friends lending a hand.

Post ride grub at Frey's in Kingman.

'You'll shoot your eye out!!'

Strava route.

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