Striped Arch and Hidden Valley, Nevada

Categories: Desert

Hidden Valley is a very generic name but in this case it’s well suited for the location. The valley is deep in the middle of the Muddy Mountains Wilderness, south of Valley of Fire. It’s a rough, hour long rocky drive from the nearest pavement and requires high clearance. Ringed on all sides by mountains it’s roughly rectangular on the southeast half and roughly triangular on the northwest half. To add the irregularity, the top half of the mountains are made up of dolostones of the Muddy Mountains while the bottom half is made of Aztec Sandstone. The transition between the two stones is sudden. Scattered across the 3 mile long valley are numerous outcroppings of the Aztec Sandstone, and a visit to the valley involves hiking from one set of rocks to another, sometimes with considerable distance between stops.

Beautiful colors and curves of Striped Arch

The valley is full of isolated pockets of whimsical sandstone.

A jumble of pockmarked cliffs. I wanted to explore them but they were to complicated for too early in the day. They looked fun though.

I continued on from the arch up this striped stream bed. 

Some nice colors in the bed rock.

The most popular destination seems to be Striped Arch. That arch is very cool, and larger than I expected. In fact, it might not look like it in the photo at the top of this post, but you can walk under it, not crawl! After I enjoyed that arch I had no trouble finding other places to go for the entire rest of the day. I personally found High Arch to be more impressive than Striped Arch, due to its size, but there are many arches all over the place. I ended up hiking more than 6.5 miles, mostly cross country. I could easily spend another day exploring, although the drive is demotivating compared to other nearby areas with even more stunning rock.

This wash was fun, and pleasant walking. Again, I was tempted to just spend the day here, but I had more distant places to go. It’s worth it’s own trip, though.

High-Arch became highly-visible over a mile away. It took some time to get to it. The weather went from initially blue sky to non-commital white glare to fairly gloomy, but it kept the temperature down.

One whole side of the valley is a jumble of cliffs and slots more akin to Valley of Fire. I did not have time to explore that area at all. Instead, I followed one of the two main washes until I saw High Arch from a great distance, and made my way over there. My roundabout route between the first two arches was 2 miles, so it  took some time. I had lunch on the way. From High Arch I continued cross country across numerous gullies, fighting the lay of the terrain, to get to several outcroppings of colored sandstone. I slowly made a big loop as the day passed by.

I managed to scramble up to being level with High Arch. It was much bigger than I expected. The large boulder in the arch is probably 8 feet tall. 

One of the most delicate and unlikely arches I’ve seen in a couple of years.

I’ve only seen this arch photographed one other time, and that person rightfully did not disclose the coordinates. It didn’t seem quite right when I found it so I went back and looked up those other photos and it’s clear the arch has been damaged in the time since. It looked like a someone probably decided to climb on it despite how obviously delicate it is, and broke off a big wing of rock that stuck out about a foot. Sandstone this thin is extremely delicate and cannot support the weight of even a child, nor be used as a handhold. Please stay off it.

I had lunch at the arch on the left. At that time it was sunny and making shade over a perfect place to sit. Both of these arches seem to be made from collapsing blocks of rock. The one of the right is far from the first one but I thought it was interesting that the slope of the roof matches the slope of the distant mountain.

One of the places I did want to see were a couple of what they call “tenajas”. They are natural cisterns in the sandstone. I’ve seen photos of them with a few feet of water, but despite recent rains they were completely dry during my visit.

A couple of more tenajas. One was deep! The other had a camera trap at one end. The shallow grassy one above the deep hole also had a camera installed.

I arrived at an area where chunks of the Muddy Mountains were scattered across the sandstone and in the gullies.

These grey rocks everywhere were razor sharp like coral, from chemical and mechanical weathering.

This dolostone boulder was taller than me, and balanced on three narrow sandstone nubs underneath.

Another interesting arch, this one looked like a gingerbread man brandishing a club or something.

On the right, the floor of the lower arch cavity was a false floor. I hole in the middle of it revealed it was only two or three millimeters thick.

Late in the day I spotted this distant arch, right of center, and it looked sizable and I’d had my fill of sandstone for the day so…

I scrambled up the hillside and it did indeed look large enough to stand up in.

Inside the arch was a sort of room full of holes on all sides. 

I climbed down the other side of it and decided to head towards the peak above it. From this vantage it looks like a Sleeping Dragon with a glowing eye cavity.

From higher up and close to sunset, an intriguing view into the next valley and beyond.

Inspired by Tenth Muse Design

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