There are many ways to see Las Vegas, and most of them involve parting with a lot of money. This drive won’t cost you anything but a few gallons of gas and an entrance fee to Lake Mead National Recreation Area, which protects 1.5 million acres in and around the massive reservoir in Arizona and Nevada. And along the way, you’ll see reminders of the area’s prehistory and some later attempts to strike it rich the old-fashioned way.
From U.S. Route 93 northwest of Kingman, head north on Temple Bar Road, a paved two-lane route that eventually leads to its namesake, the only developed visitor area on the Arizona side of Lake Mead. At the “T” intersection where the paved road curves to the east, reset your trip odometer as you continue straight onto Bonelli Landing Road, a fairly smooth dirt route to a site named for an early Colorado River ferry operator.
You’ll get glimpses of the lake, Bonelli Peak on the Nevada side and the Grand Wash Cliffs to the east before turning left, at Mile 4, onto Cohenour Loop Road and rolling into the northern reaches of the Black Mountains. This road is narrow and rutted in parts, but it’s suitable for just about any truck or SUV in good weather. Keep an eye out for the area’s wild horses and burros amid the generally sparse desert vegetation.
Around Mile 6.5, you’ll enter Petroglyph Wash, which is appropriately named. On volcanic rocks that line the left side of the road, you’ll spot countless etchings made by people who inhabited the area several hundred years ago. The petroglyphs continue for a half-mile or so until you reach the fork where Cohenour Loop Road becomes a loop. The road is better to the north, so go right.
After a couple of miles, you’ll pass spoil piles and diggings from the long-gone Cohenour Mine, where copper was the main attraction. Then, just past the mine, you’ll crest a hill and descend before coming to an intersection with Gilbert Canyon Road. Turn left to stay on the loop road and continue to another intersection; this time, bear right to head west on Pope Mine Road. After about 2 miles through a rocky landscape, you’ll make one last little climb, crest another hill and get the view you came all this way to see.
From here, atop Indian Pass, you’ll see Fortification Hill to the west and Lake Mead’s Las Vegas Bay just below it. Look farther west, though, for what makes this overlook really special: On a clear day, it might be the only drivable place in Arizona from which you can see the Las Vegas Strip. The Luxor, the MGM Grand, Caesars Palace … they’re all there. And if you arrive around sunset and wait until it gets dark, you can glimpse them in all their neon glory. Behind the city is imposing Mount Charleston, which often is capped with snow.
The view to the east is incredible, too, and includes the Grand Wash Cliffs, the Temple Bar area and more of the nation’s largest human-made lake. And a short walk to the northeast leads to what’s left of the Old Pope Mine, another place where people once tried to get rich in the desert. Today, what’s left isn’t much. But the view from up here is a jackpot — one that comes a lot cheaper than an evening in Sin City.
Our thanks to Cecilia and Curt Elmore, dedicated volunteers at Lake Mead National Recreation Area, for sharing this drive with us.
Note: Mileages are approximate.
Length: 14.5 miles one way (from Temple Bar Road)
Directions: From Kingman, go northwest on U.S. Route 93 for 51.5 miles to Temple Bar Road. Turn right (north) onto Temple Bar Road and continue 13 miles to where the road curves to the right. Go straight, onto Bonelli Landing Road (Park Road 74), and continue 4 miles to Cohenour Loop Road (Park Road 71). Turn left onto Cohenour Loop Road and continue 3 miles to a “Y” intersection. Bear right, onto the northern section of the loop road, and continue 5.4 miles to another “Y” intersection. Bear right, onto Pope Mine Road (Park Road 72), and continue 2.1 miles to the Lake Mead overlook at Indian Pass.
Vehicle requirements: A high-clearance vehicle, such as an SUV or truck, is required, but four-wheel-drive is not necessary in good weather. The southern portion of Cohenour Loop Road, which is not part of this route, requires four-wheel-drive in places.
Special consideration: National Park Service fees apply.
WARNING: Back-road travel can be hazardous, so be aware of weather and road conditions. Carry plenty of water. Don’t travel alone, and let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return.
Information: Lake Mead National Recreation Area, 702-293-8990 or nps.gov/lake