Spa Days

Lake Mead National Recre­ation Area, Ne­vada/Ari­zona

Backpacker - - PLAY LIST - BY KATHY KYLE

I’m only 30 miles from the neon lights of Sin City, but this strip is bet­ter. In­stead of sky­scrapers, si­enna sand­stone walls tower 800 feet over­head, con­trast­ing with the blues and greens of the Colorado River. We put in be­low Hoover Dam and nav­i­gate flat­wa­ter the en­tire 11.6 miles through Black Canyon in a wooden ca­noe. The easy go­ing means we can load our boat with lux­u­ries like home­made lasagna and stop of­ten, en­joy­ing wa­ter­melon and mixed drinks on rocky beaches. We check out caves and soak in hid­den hot springs and cold pools be­fore spend­ing the night on a sandy shore be­neath a three-tiered, 105¡ F soaker. The light from the low-hang­ing sun plays off the cathe­dral’s rock walls, cre­at­ing yet an­other new shade of color on our trip: this time, a deep honey. It’s not the Bel­la­gio, but it’s def­i­nitely five stars.

Turn-by-turn From Hoover Dam

1 After se­cur­ing ac­cess to the re­stricted area be­low the dam (see Do It for de­tails), launch from the west (Ne­vada) bank of the Colorado River near the Bureau of Recla­ma­tion of­fice and head 3.8 miles down­stream.

2 Pull ashore on the Ari­zona side (east) just past the large mile marker 60 to make camp slightly up­river from Ari­zona Hot

Springs . 3 Put in and con­tinue 8 miles down the Colorado to the ma­rina at Wil­low Beach on the Ari­zona side to find your car or pick up your shut­tle.

Camp­site Ari­zona Hot Springs (mile 3.8)

Most peo­ple who do this trip will camp just after the mild Ring­bolt Rapid, where there’s a privy; in­stead, se­cure soli­tude by pulling ashore on the Ari­zona side just be­fore. There’s a quiet beach (make camp above the high-wa­ter line) near an un­named, re­li­able stream. From here, it’s about .1 mile down­river to the slot canyon, where 130°F wa­ter col­lects and cools in three sep­a­rate pools called Ari­zona Hot Springs. (Sites are free; first­come, first-serve.)

Nat­u­ral sauna

Just after launch­ing from Hoover Dam, re­ward your­self with a cel­e­bra­tory soak in 50-foot­long Sauna Cave, a rock tun­nel filled with warm wa­ter. Find it .2 mile be­low the put-in on the Ne­vada side. (Pull ashore onto a gravel spit.)

Side trips

On day one, bud­get time for Ne­vada Hot Spring (west side), Palm Tree Hot Spring (east), and Boy Scout Canyon Hot Spring

(west), in that or­der. Day two brings easy-ac­cess caves, in­clud­ing one con­tain­ing arches and falls near mile marker 59 on the Ne­vada side. (Scan for desert bighorn sheep on rocky ledges.)

DO IT SHUT­TLE CAR 35.869925, -114.659363; 25 miles south­east of Boul­der City, NV, on Wil­low Beach Rd. TRAIL­HEAD 36.010962, -114.743206; 36 min­utes north of Wil­low Beach off NV 172 SEA­SON Septem­ber to May PER­MIT Re­quired to overnight in Black Canyon ($22); ob­tain from National Park Ser­vice. To gain ac­cess to the Hoover Dam launch (and a shut­tle), you must use a pri­vate ven­dor (start­ing at $180). Find a list of them at bit.do/black-canyon­wa­ter-trail-ven­dors. CUS­TOM MAP bit.do/BPmapBlack­Canyon ($15)

CON­TACT nps.gov/lake

Kayak­ers float through Black Canyon, just north of the take­out at Wil­low Beach. HOOVER DAM TH SAUNA CAVE ARI­ZONA HOT SPRINGS BLACK CANYON WA­TER TRAIL WIL­LOW BEACH

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