Mar 10 2018

Little Finland

A Journey to an Alien World

Categories: Hiking, Nevada, Road Trips

I’m not sure anywhere I’ve been is as alien looking as Gold Butte’s Little Finland area. Roaming around the endless variety of forms in the acid and wind tortured rocks, one half expects Riddick to be staring at you from a dark recess high above, or to have the silence broken by approach of a drop ship full of space marines. Older names for the area are Hobgoblin’s Playground and Devil’s Fire. The area is so dense with detail that even after deleting everything I can bear, I’m still left with 130 pictures of this tiny area, after a single visit. It was extremely difficult for me to narrow it down to even the jumbo sized post you can read below.


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What happened here? It looks like the aftermath of a major battle with sci-fi weapons. Unfortunately, I did not find any alien blood, nor any unoccupied shuttle craft that would get me off this blasted planet.

Along the drive you might spot these faded petroglyphs.

From the Black Spring oozed an ominous feeling. Only the dead can grow around it.

It think it might be cursed with strong magic. Some say that those who drink it’s waters have their memories permanently stained.


The palms that grow along the bench are native. As weird as it may be, it’a a true oasis. You won’t see any more for a very long distance (unless there are palms in the bottom of Lake Mead).

The whole area in front of Red Springs has been seriously damaged by uncontrolled motor vehicles. Some tire tracks were even going into the springs themselves, collapsing the banks only a few feet from their sources.

When you visit, the weather and the time of day will greatly affect the look of the rocks and how you perceive it. When we were there the day started off sunny but slowly got more gloomy as time went on. I personally love cloudy days in the harsh desert. Shortly before sunset the sun briefly peaked out under the low clouds.

Little Finland is in the new Gold Butte National Monument. If you know where to look it’s clearly visible from just outside Valley of Fire State Park, and it’s made of the same stone. Despite being so close it takes several hours of driving to get there and it usually requires a high clearance 4×4. Those without a 4×4 who are looking for a larger adventure and who are in good shape can easily devise a long loop that connects Little Finland with several other areas of interest, including the Falling Man Petroglyphs, or even White Pockets.

Originally I read it was called Little Finland because the shapes were as complex as a map of the lakes of Finland but more recently I heard a better explanation: that it’s due to how so many of the formations have been carved into  “fins” of rock.

Water passing through the rocks play an important role in what you are seeing. Minerals accumulate and react in joints between the rock, forming harder layers that resist erosion. Some of these layers are actually calcite. Additionally the “painted” white material is a salt that has it’s own caustic effect on the erosion process. This is known as “salt weathering”. These two process cause different parts of the same rock to erode at different rates. Frequent windstorms sandblast what’s left into even more surreal shapes and pits.

Here you can see a better example the thinner but harder, calcium rich plates that protect the underlying rock until it is gone, leaving the plates lying around. Undoubtedly some of them have been broken by people climbing around, as they have been for hundreds of years.

I have no idea how Kona got up there.

There is a main area and then other groups of cliffs across short distances of desert.

To get to Little Finland I recommend studying maps and follow directions to the monument from I-15 Exit 112, following the paved Gold Butte Road to Whitney Pockets. Due to being largely lawless and unmanaged for several years this is the worst paved road I’ve been on anywhere in the United States that wasn’t already abandoned long ago. It’s worse than a maintained dirt road. In fact, despite the short milage I would plan for two hours of driving after you leave the Interstate. Maps on the BLM Site are terrible, so I’d check several sources for information, like Bird and Hike. It might even be useful to make GPS waypoints beforehand. Most of the drive after Whitney Pockets is down dry washes that alternate between rocky and sandy. I remember one rock shelf near the end that definitely required high clearance.

A window that was at ground level on the other side.

The sun shines through a door on the right, while mud wash road hides behind those more distant red rocks.

More alien planet and psychedelia. I think the whole place may have been secreted rather than eroded.

We entered an area of interesting hallways and hidden coves that made finding our way a little more challenging.

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In some areas world class sculptures are encountered every five feet.

Even though there are a ton of pictures here, the Little Finland was our last destination of the day. I had seriously over optimistic aspirations to drive all the way to the eastern arm of Lake Mead via the old Scanlan Ferry Road, but after more than 3 hours of driving all the way to, and several miles past, the old Gold Butte townsite I realized that was a full day journey that probably required camping. So we turned around. Although there are areas of interest here and there in the Monument, the areas from Whitney Pockets to Little Finland are by far the most scenic of what I have seen so far.

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This is just ridiculous. The only thing missing are 100-story tall harmonic crystals sticking out of the ground.

The styles of geologic patterns change from one area to the next, like perusing different rooms in a museum.

I started to think I was going to get perfect sunset light but I was merely being teased over and over. This was about as strong as the sunlight ever got.

It was a long drive back but we had one last surprise in store after the we thought the day was over.

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