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Muddy Mountains Wilderness

General Location Maps Contacts Area Management Wilderness Laws Trip Planning Images
Red sandstone towers behind sunray flowers.
Library image #4088: Red sandstone towers behind sunray flowers in gentle repose.


The United States Congress designated the Muddy Mountains Wilderness (map) in 2002 and it now has a total of 48,154 acres. All of this wilderness is located in Nevada and is managed by the Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service.


Just an hour north of Las Vegas, Nevada lies the Muddy Mountains Wilderness, a place of wonder and mystery, an area of outrageous geology and colorful Mojave Desert habitat. This region of shadowy slot canyon, striking geological formations and expansive views of Lake Mead is jointly managed by the Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service.

The Muddy Mountains tower over the red, magenta, and tan colored sandstone exposed through a limestone "window" at Bowl of Fire, Anniversary Narrows, and Hidden Valley. These folded and faulted lands are dominated by a thrust fault of gray limestone over Aztec sandstone. Purple and white mudstone hills and gypsum bearing soils of brown and red hues are present in the lowest elevations.

Water has carved an extraordinary 600-foot deep slot canyon through upturned multi-colored stone at Anniversary Narrows. Conglomerate rock forms light brown cliffs at the Gale Hills — a great place to find solitude as it requires route-finding skills and receives less use than other locations.

People have lived in and passed through these mountains for thousands of years. They have left behind rock art, artifacts, agave roasting pits, and rock shelters.

Although hundreds of miles inland, the geology of the Muddy Mountains region gives an informative glimpse into geologic time. About 300 million years ago, this area was sediment at the bottom of the sea. Today, that sea floor comprises the limestone peaks that jut 5,400 feet into the sky. Scattered among the peaks are fossilized sand dunes that have eroded into galleries and canyons, intricately carved and painted in shade of red, orange and yellow. The unusual sandstone formations of Hidden Valley were exposed through the limestone by erosion. The conglomerate of the Gale Hills Formation is evident in cliffs, the highest being the 600-foot West End Wash Cliffs.

The landscape, ranging from 1,700 to 5,400 feet in elevation, displays a thriving Mojave Desert filled with waist-high creosote bush, black brush, yucca, beavertail cactus, catclaw acacia and desert willow. Las Vegas buckwheat and Las Vegas bearpoppy are rare plants that occur in the gypsum soils in the area. You may glimpse desert bighorn sheep, kit fox, jack rabbits and coyotes, desert tortoise, chuckwalla, Great Basin whiptails, rock wren, phainopepla and red-tailed hawks.

Planning to Visit the Muddy Mountains Wilderness?

Leave No Trace

How to follow the seven standard Leave No Trace principles differs in different parts of the country (desert vs. Rocky Mountains). Click on any of the principles listed below to learn more about how they apply in the Muddy Mountains Wilderness.
  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
  2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  3. Dispose of Waste Properly
  4. Leave What You Find
  5. Minimize Campfire Impacts
  6. Respect Wildlife
  7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors
For more information on Leave No Trace, Visit the Leave No Trace, Inc. website.

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