Saturday, September 26, 2015

Elbow Canyon 4WD Trail

East of Mesquite, NV, across the state line in Arizona, Elbow Canyon (BLM Route 1299) ascends into the Virgin Mountains.  The road meets up with BLM Route 1004 where you can take an easy way back to Mesquite by turning south on 1004 and west to Mesquite on Routes 101/242.

This is a fun 4WD trail.  It's not easy, but it's not super hard.  Just hard enough to keep your attention for a while.  The hard part is about 8 miles long.

Here's the view from the sign looking west toward Mesquite.

Four years ago I drove down the canyon.  That was a fun drive.  But I've always wanted to drive the other direction; uphill.  I prefer to drive uphill on boulder covered trails.  I'd rather crawl slowly up and over the boulders than ride my brakes and slide down them.  I just feel like I have more control going uphill.

The bottom part of the trail is easy and fun.  The terrain changes from embedded rocks to crossing almost dry creeks and then the boulders slowly start to get bigger.

I didn't complete the trail on this trip.  I had a flat tire right as the trail was becoming more difficult.  Right when it was getting fun; when I have to take more care in picking my line.  My GPS track on the map above shows where my run ended.  

The sidewall on one of my front tires had an inch-long gash in it.  I could hear the air blowing out with each revolution of the wheel.  I'm glad I had my windows open.  That gave me more warning and more options.  I was on a hill covered in small boulders and didn't want to change the tire there.  I had plenty of time to turn around (with a 6-point turn) and retreat to a flat spot in a dry creek bed 50 yards back.

After changing the tire, I had a decision to make.  I had driven about 4 miles from the sign announcing 8 miles of fun.  So I still had another 4 miles of hard trail, plus a few more miles to reach BLM 1004.  I was driving on the stock Continental tires with 7000 miles on them.  I had a second spare with me, but I decided not to gamble.  I turned back.  I'll return with a new set of better off-road tires.

I suspect that the dopey 19 inch wheels contribute to sidewall weakness when driving off road.  I can mount 18 inch wheels, but that's a can-of-worms familiar to most LR4 owners that I don't have time to explain here.  After I get the new tires (also 19s), I'll be watching the wear and sidewall damage carefully.

To drive the Elbow Canyon trail from Mesquite, head east to Scenic Blvd and drive south to Red Hawk Road.  Turn east on Red Hawk Road and it ends at the start of the trail.

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