Joshua Trees at Gold Butte

Gold Butte National Monument

The new Gold Butte National Monument covers nearly 300,000 acres of remote and rugged desert landscape in southeastern Nevada, where dramatically chiseled red sandstone, twisting canyons, and tree-clad mountains punctuate desolate stretches of the Mojave Desert. The brightly hued sandstone provides a stunning canvas for the area’s famously beautiful rock art, and the desert provides critical habitat. The area is popular for outdoor recreation, and visitors to the monument can hike to rock art sites, drive the Gold Butte Backcountry Byway to the area’s namesake mining ghost town, hunt desert bighorn sheep, or tour the area’s peaks and canyons on horseback.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I get there?

Gold Butte is located south of the City of Mesquite, Nevada. It’s often accessed either from River Road in Mesquite, or via Riverside Exit off of Interstate 15. The Gold Butte Road starts south at the Riverside Bridge from State Route 170.

Are there any maps of the area?

A map is available here.

Where can I drive?

Gold Butte has over 600 miles of designated routes, the majority of which are recommended for 4-wheel drive only. The main Gold Butte road to Whitney Pockets is semi-paved and accessible to most vehicles.  Except for the road to Whitney Pockets, routes in Gold Butte are unmaintained dirt.

Can I camp?

Yes, camping is allowed in Gold Butte for a maximum of 14 days in a 30-day period. Most people camp in previously disturbed areas at Whitney Pockets. The future management plan for Gold Butte will identify camping opportunities.

Does Gold Butte have hiking trails?

There are no current designated and marked hiking trails in the Gold Butte area. Hiking opportunities are exploratory at this time.

What can I expect when I visit Gold Butte?

Gold Butte is very rugged and has no amenities. The roads to points of interest are rough and unmaintained. The area has no cell phone service. The temperatures can vary from below freezing in the winter to over 100 degrees F in the summer. Travelers are advised to take plenty of water and let someone know where you have gone and when you expect to return. Please be respectful to private property in the area.

Can I collect artifacts, rocks, and plants in Gold Butte?

Collecting any historic or prehistoric feature is prohibited, including historic corrals, mining remnants, or even historic junk.  Do not touch petroglyphs, as the oils from skin will damage them. Please leave no trace and take only photos. Small amounts of common rocks and plants may be collected. Cactus and yucca are protected and may not be collected or used for firewood.

What animals can I see in Gold Butte?

The northern half of Gold Butte is designated as Critical Habitat for the threatened desert tortoise. Please obey the 25 mile/hour speed limit when driving. Desert bighorn sheep occupy the Virgin Mountains and other rugged ranges in Gold Butte. Hawks, quail, owls and other birds can be viewed.

Are there any tours going into Gold Butte?

At this time there are no permitted tours of Gold Butte. After a management plan has been prepared, tours may be considered.

How do I find out more about Gold Butte?

Go to http:/www.blm.gov/site-page/nevada-gold-butte or Friends of Gold Butte – http://www.friendsofgoldbutte.org/

Route Designations

Backcountry Byway

The byway begins 90 miles northeast of Las Vegas and five miles south of Mesquite/Bunkerville on Interstate 15, exit 112. The 62-mile scenic trip offers opportunities to see desert wildlife, red and white sandstone, sinkholes, petroglyphs, the Muddy Mountains and Lake Mead. The historic mining town of Gold Butte, established in 1908, is along the route. The primary extractions from Gold Butte are copper, gold, lead and zinc. The last 19 miles of the byway should only be traveled by high-clearance vehicles. Primitive camping and hiking are available along the byway.

Safety

To safely enjoy the Gold Butte area, please respect yourselves and others by recognizing the unique challenges that visiting the Mojave Desert presents. Being prepared will make your visit here even more enjoyable.

Desert animals

When placing your hands and feet, use extra caution. Rattlesnakes, scorpions or venomous spiders may be sheltered behind boulders or under rocks and shrubs. Do not touch, collect or try to kill these animals.

Emergencies

Mobile phone coverage in this area is unreliable or non-existent. If you have coverage, please dial 911.  Make sure to leave your name, phone number, location, description of issue, vehicle type and license plate.

Flash Floods

When hiking, avoid canyons during rainstorms and be prepared to move to higher ground. While driving, be alert for water running in the normally dry desert washes and across road dips. Flooding occurs here more quickly due to the topography. Do not walk or drive through flood water flowing across a road.

General safety

Let friends or family members know where you are going and what time you expect to be back. Don’t rely on mobile phones during your visit as coverage in the area can be unreliable or non-existent. Leave your valuables at home. If you leave your car, take your purse or backpack with you and lock your doors. Never leave packages in plain sight where they may tempt someone to break in to your vehicle.

Heat

Temperatures can average more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit during the summer months. The best protection against heat is drinking plenty of water and limiting exposure to the sun during the hottest parts of the day. If you feel dizzy, nauseous or get a headache, immediately get out of the sun and drink plenty of water. Dampen your clothing to lower your body temperature. To be safe, bring more water than you think you will need.

Lightning

Lightning storms frequently occur in the afternoon during the summer months. To prevent lightning from striking you, avoid high places and seek cover in buildings or in vehicles with the windows rolled up. If caught outdoors, crouch down on both feet with your arms wrapped around your knees and wait out the storm.

Water

Bring and drink at least one gallon (four liters) of water per day if you are hiking, the day is hot or the trail is exposed to direct sunlight. Dehydration can happen to hikers even in fall and winter due to low humidity. Water in natural springs has not been tested and should be left for use by native wildlife.

What to Wear

For hiking, select shoes that provide a comfortable fit, ankle stability and protection against cactus spines. Wear clothes that provide protection against the sun, wind and cold temperatures (such as hats, long sleeves, long pants, etc.) and apply sunscreen. Dressing in layers is recommended since fall and winter can bring changeable weather. Rain, hail and snow flurries may occur during winter months, especially in February and March.

Photography

Most visitors take snapshots of their visit. This is considered casual use and does not require a film permit.  It is typified by an individual or group of individuals taking pictures, either still or moving, for personal use. 

In some cases permits may be required.

Still photography requires a film permit when one or more of the following situations apply:

  • Use of models or props which are not part of a site’s natural or cultural resources or administrative facilities are involved. Family or wedding portraits taken by professional photographers would be considered use of “models” as would products placed at the site. Props include reflectors, bounce cards, sound booms, or similar equipment
  • If such photography takes place at locations where members of the public are generally not allowed
  • If it occurs where additional administrative costs are likely

Commercial still photography (photographs of scenery or wildlife) for magazine articles, advertisements, books, calendars, postcards, etc., does not require a film permit if none of the above criteria apply. This includes photographs that may have products or models superimposed on them later.

Moving photography (filming) requires a film permit when documentaries, television programs, feature films; advertisements, wildlife filming, or similar projects result in a commercial product.

Student filming projects do not require a filming permit as long as the activity would not adversely impact public lands.  Students need to submit a proposal in writing, with verification from the educational institution that it is a required project. 

Film/Photography permits need to be acquired in advance.  For more information, please call (702) 515-5000.

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