Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Christmas Tree Pass and Grapevine Canyon

Donna and I have been hearing about Grapevine Canyon since we started visiting Laughlin several years ago. On this trip, we finally got around to visiting it. In fact, we decided to kill two birds with one stone and take in Christmas Tree Pass as well.

We left Laughlin and headed all the way to the west end of Christmas Tree Pass Road, which is near the small community of Cal-Nev-Ari on Highway 95, the highway from Needles to Las Vegas. Christmas Tree Pass Road is a dirt-surface road. From Highway 95 to Highway 163 near Laughlin, total distance of this road is just over 16 miles.

Start of the dirt road towards Christmas Tree pass, which is in the notch in the mountains on the horizon. We've just turned off Highway 95 and are heading east.

Nearing the pass, which is more visible now. Road is still in very good condition.

There is a little information kiosk as you turn off the highway just south of Cal-Nev-Ari. Then the dirt road rises due east, heading for a gap in the distant mountains. For the first several miles, the road surface was pretty good, though there were several washboard sections. Near the pass, the road began to narrow and some rutted areas appeared.

The tallest mountain along the route is Spirit Mountain, a sacred mountain to area Native American tribes. Spirit Mountain reaches a height of 5,643 feet and is located north of Christmas Tree Pass Road. We approached the pass after 6 or 7 miles. At the top, numerous juniper trees are decorated with various items. I do not know if the pass is named for the decorated trees or if people began decorating the trees because of the name. We saw a similar thing as we approached Oatman, Arizona, from Fort Mohave.

I believe this is Spirit Mountain, but I'm not absolutely certain.

Juniper tree in the pass with some unusual decorations.

There is some rugged but beautiful country up here.

Looking back west from the pass.

Up to this point, the road was in pretty good shape, but in the pass, it began to deteriorate. For about 2 miles on the east side of the pass, the road deteriorated, with several areas washed out to some degree  by recent rains. I would not recommend low-clearance vehicles travel this road. I have to admit that there were a couple of places when I considered turning around, but I’m glad I did not.

We continued on our route. At just over 14 miles and almost 1 hour of travel, we arrived at Grapevine Canyon. There is a turnoff into a parking area, complete with restrooms of some sort – I can’t tell exactly what type as we did not use them.

We parked at the trailhead. By the way, this is not a maintained trail, so there is no marked trail. Just point towards the mouth of the canyon and head there. You should see lots of tracks of previous visitors. You really need to be down in the wash itself rather than up on the higher shelf.

Mouth of Grapevine Canyon. Petroglyphs are on boulders on both sides of the mouth of the canyon.

There are numerous petroglyphs located on the boulders on both sides of the mouth of the canyon. As I understand, you can follow the canyon farther up to a spring. However, this requires some boulder climbing and, to be quite honest, we just simply were not interested in doing that. So, we turned around, headed to the truck, and made our way back to Laughlin. It was an interesting trip.

Click this picture to enlarge it to more clearly see the petroglyphs.

Click this picture to enlarge it and more clearly see the petroglyphs.

Looking east from the canyon.

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