Enjoying the McCullough Wilderness Trails

Walking along the McCullough Hills Trail.Photo by Osie Turner
Walking along the McCullough Hills Trail.
Photo by Osie Turner

As time goes on and the city grows, many areas that used to local’s secrets are becoming less and less secret. The McCullough Wilderness has always been here, but it used to be just that—a vast expanse of open desert a few miles out of town. Now, it has an impressive interconnect trail system leading hikers and nature enthusiasts through the McCullough Mountain Range. Now it is complete with parking lots, restrooms, marked trailheads and even marked trails!

Click here for a Custom Map showing the recommended route for this scenic trip.
(Map provided by RoadTripAmerica.com and built by Tom Herbertson.)

The McCullough Hills Trail official opened to the public on March 9, 2013. Its purpose was to offer an alternative access to the Sloan Canyon Conservation Area without damaging the habitat. Since then, the trail system has only improved and is enjoyed by many of our residents. The trail is 8.2 miles long, and it is not a loop trail. It stretches from the trailhead off of Mission Drive to the Anthem Hills Park, if you continue on the Anthem Hills Trail which overlaps at the end.

While horseback riding and biking are both forbidden in the Sloan Canyon Conservation Area, they are allowed in all other parts of the greater McCullough Wilderness. In some areas of the trail, there are separate paths for hikers and horse riders. This is also an ideal trail to take the dogs on.

A view of Henderson as seen from a ridge along the trail.Photo by Osie Turner
A view of Henderson as seen from a ridge along the trail.
Photo by Osie Turner

The trailhead is sort of a centralized waypoint for many other trails within the wilderness area. Shaded Canyon Trailhead is connected to the beginning of the McCullough Hills Trail via the Amargosa Trail, and the McCullough Hills Trail connects to the Anthem Hills Trail. There are a few other offshoots leading further out into the wilderness as well. The Phainopepla and Trail also begins at the McCullough Hills Trailhead and take you north over Phainopepla Pass. From there you can go back or connect to the Roadrunner Trail and follow it down the other side of the mountain near the Henderson Water Storage Tank. If you are wondering, phainopepla is a type of crested songbird native to the southwest known for their striking black plumage (phainopepla means “shining robe” in Greek).

The trails themselves are what you make of them. You can make a daylong hike or just get half an hour of fresh air striking desert scenery. There are a few uphill and downhill sections, with a maximum incline of 1073. The trail is unpaved, but pretty easy walking. Younger children can be spotted walking it, but probably not the entire distance (kudos if they did). The thing to remember with long trails such as this is that they are to be enjoyed and are not a challenge that must be completed. Unless of course a challenge is what you are looking for!

Possibly a gopher snake spotted on the McCullough Hills Trail.Photo by Danielle Turner
Possibly a gopher snake spotted on the McCullough Hills Trail.
Photo by Danielle Turner

Be mindful of wildlife, this is a wilderness area and any of the normal desert creatures may be encountered along the way. Snakes, scorpions, coyotes, and a variety of spiders all call this area home and can blend in startlingly well—their survival depends on it after all.

Back in June we discovered the improvements and new visitor’s center added to Sloan Canyon, which is also within the McCullough Wilderness Area. If you haven’t visited yet, you will be happy to find the petroglyph canyon is now much easier to get to than it used to be. This time of year is ideal for hiking, so get out and enjoy both before the winter chill sets in.

The address for the McCullough Hills Trailhead is 295 Mission Drive. There are water fountains and restrooms as well as horse tie ups and picnic tables at the trailhead. More info can be found at cityofhenderson.com.