Lake Mead NRA: Owl Canyon Trail Loop

The MAP

Owl Canyon Loop Map - Clockwise Travel
Owl Canyon Loop Map - Clockwise Travel
"In this guide, I'll be sharing the method of turning this short 2.2 mile out-and-back into an enjoyable 4-mile loop."
Owl Canyon Trailhead sign at Lake Mead National Recreation Area
Fig. 01 - Owl Canyon Trail at Lake Mead NRA - The trail starts to the right of these signs

If you've ever hiked the Owl Canyon Trail at Lake Mead NRA and wished there was more to it, here's a quick guide to make it a little longer and add some variety to your trek (in case you're sick of only seeing those incredible slots!). In this guide, I'll be sharing the method of turning this short 2.2 mile out-and-back into an enjoyable 4-mile loop.

Always remember to bring more water than you'll anticipate needing when hiking in the desert, share your route with someone else if heading out alone, and always practice #leavenotrace principles while enjoying our outdoor spaces.


Included in this guide:


The Walkthrough


Hikers gather at the Owl Canyon Trailhead
Hikers gather at the Owl Canyon Trailhead
Culvert 2 & 3 the pass under The River Mountain Loop Trail
Fig. 02 - Culvert 2 & 3 pass under The River Mountain Loop Trail

Above, you'll find a map and directions to the trailhead via Google Maps. Please check the Lake Mead Website for entry fees and times. This is a scenic location with an information kiosk, covered picnic tables, and a single vault toilet (ADA Accessible - however, the trail is not). For the purposes of this guide, please reference the map at the top of this page. Let's get to it...


The trail starts to the right of the "Owl Canyon" sign, the only marker for the trail (Fig. 01). You will be greeted immediately by the steepest section of the hike. The trail here is covered in loose soil, gravel and rocks, so be careful and take your time as you make your way down.


Once you reach the bottom of the incline, you'll be greeted by a large wash. There are lots of use and wildlife trails to your right - follow the first ones to make your way to the shoreline if you're up for some exploration and birdwatching. Otherwise, stay to your left / straight ahead and make your way to the slot canyon that gives Owl Canyon it's name. Stick to the traditional route, winding your way through the slots until you pass through the double culverts that cut underneath the River Mountain Loop Trail (Fig. 02). After passing through either of these and leaving the slots, start looking to your right for a trail that has been lined with rocks (Figs. 03 & 04).


Rock formation and desert flora of Owl Canyon, Lake Mead NRA
Fig. 03 - After leaving the double culverts, look for this rock formation on your right for the trail out of the wash
Path with arrow showing route to River Mountain Loop Trail
Fig. 04 - The clearly marked path will take you up and out of the wash to join the River Mountain Loop Trail
Top-down of Owl Canyon from the River Mountain Loop Trail
Fig. 05 - Top-down of Owl Canyon from the River Mountain Loop Trail
River Mountain Loop Trail, facing NW
Fig. 06 - River Mountain Loop Trail, facing NW. Notice the two distinct surfaces.
The path leaving the River Mountain Loop Trail
Fig. 07 - The path leaving the River Mountain Loop Trail

Now that you've reached the River Mountain Trail, you'll be greeted by a spectacular top-down view of Owl Canyon with the waters of Lake Mead finally making an appearance in the distance (Fig. 05). Watch for cyclists on this paved trail - sticking to the right here is your best bet since riders tend to ride the smoother surface on your left (Fig. 06).</