Lowell Narrows, Anniversary Peak, and Bowl of Fire (Lake Mead NRA)
This hike ranks up there with one of the best I’ve done in the desert. It has a bit of everything to offer – some mine ruins and tunnels, rockhounding, nice canyon narrows to wander through, a nice scrambly desert peak (class 2/3, depending on who is rating it), challenging route finding, and some beautiful red rock. The mileage and elevation gain is not difficult but the hike is not easy and requires cross-country travel with good route finding skills in canyon country. If you’re looking for something a bit less challenging the first half through the narrows is an excellent dayhike without that ‘uh oh’ factor.
Both the beginning and ending of this hike are on roads that would be passable in most vehicles, and definitely our truck, but in order to make a loop of it we left the truck at the junction where the roads meet (see track below). We hiked this in a counter-clockwise direction. If you want to just do the mine ruins and narrows this is the way to go. If you want to do the loop you can go either direction. I’ll describe the full loop in the counter-clockwise direction.
Leave your vehicle at the starting point below – any car should be able to make it here, but if it is washed out or in bad condition there is a giant shoulder parking area where the side road meets the pavement. It will add ~1/3 mile to the round trip hike if you park there – no biggie.
Follow the gravel road across the desert. After about a mile you will come across a sign welcoming you to the Ore Car Mine. It has rock hounding information if you’re into that kind of thing. After another ~3/4 of a mile the road will drop down into a deep wash. You will see tailings piles and old mining roads across the wash, but for the purposes of this hike turn right and follow the wash up the canyon.
For the next ~1.25 miles you’ll work your way up the canyon, first passing a few sets of mining ruins (don’t miss the short tunnels on the canyon walls!) and then into the narrows. The narrows are sandy-bottomed and twist through smooth pink and orange rock. At the three mile point the narrows will widen into the upper wash. If you are not heading for the peak this is a good spot to turn around.
If you are continuing on the loop, stay in the wash for another mile. This is where the attached GPS track becomes very useful. I had a track and followed it very closely, yet still had to make several decisions. In this terrain the topo is not detailed enough to show all of the canyons and ridges and washes snaking through the area, so it was frequently difficult to choose the right line. Basically, you want to get out of the main wash and aim for a clear and obvious ridge that ramps up to the low point on the high ridge. This ramp is big enough to show on the topo maps (see the attached map) and about half way up it a clear use trail appears.
Once on the pass (the low point), follow the ridge south to the high point. But not before enjoying the view! From here you can look down into the Bowl of Fire, a mini-Valley of Fire. The rocks are flaming red and incredible! Okay, now that you’re done enjoying the view start up the ridge.
It’s rocky and scrambly and 100% fun if you like that kind of stuff. I had a blast on this short stretch. It’s difficult to see ahead but just keep going to the high point. I never found it to be more difficult than a Secor class 2 (maybe a Zdon class 3), though you could certainly find more difficult lines. On the summit there is a register naming it as “Anniversary Peak” – there is no official USGS name on the maps.
After a few minutes on the summit we continued down the other side – there is a big gentle south facing slope in this direction (kind of surprise after coming from the northern rocky ridge approach). Again, the route finding got a bit tricky through here and I was thankful for a GPS track. We dropped into a few narrow steep draws and would pop out onto the next plateau. There were a few times where I wanted to go one way based on the terrain but followed the GPS track I had – and in every case the track was right. We would have walled out the other way. This was definitely a hike that messed with my instincts.
Just before the six mile point we reached the beautiful red rock of the Bowl of Fire and started following it down an easy wash. Again, the GPS track I had led us out of this nice and easy terrain and down into a rocky path that was too steep to see how it merged with the wash far below. I almost abandoned my GPS trust (I found this track online from someone who had done the hike many times), but looking back now at the map it was correct to continue into this relatively gnarly terrain – as much as I wanted to go the other way, I know now that we went the right way. The path we were on might have worked but it would have taken us out of the way. This is at the 5.9 mile point on the track below.
After stumbling down this steep chute you’ll find yourself in a rocky wash. Follow it until it connects to a gravel road a bit past the 7 mile mark. Take this road the final ~1/3 mile back to the start. Celebrate a successful and fun day in the desert!