Got a day to kill in Las Vegas? Let me recommend a trip out to Tecopa, CA for a hike to a slot canyon, fresh dates, and a soak in a natural, free hot spring!
Start with a lovely drive from Las Vegas over to Tecopa, CA via the Old Mormon Trail. Head to China Ranch Date Farm. The short drive on their road is quite stunning itself! Through some narrow turns on a dirt road with high canyon walls. Totally passable for a standard car, no worries! Once at China Ranch, head to the back corner of their parking lot where the picnic tables are. This is the trail entrance. (FYI - the farm offers free public restrooms, so even if you don't end up buying anything from them, leave them a tip for the maintenance!)
The Amargosa Trail begins at the sign. In fact, there are lots of fun markers and signs along the way. Stop to read them and learn about the local history. Most of the hike is well marked with either rocks outlining the edges of the trail or trail marker signs along the path. Once you get to the river overlook sign, the trail markings disappear. Head down the hill, cross the river, and head into the wide, dry river bed. When you look up at the mountains you're walking towards, you'll notice a darker spot - that's the slot canyon. Just keep walking up the river bed until it narrows and you're there. Besides the sand and gravel in the river bed, most of the trail is hard packed dirt. Round trip it was 3.38 miles for us and took 1 hour 45 minutes (we did some goofing around in the slot canyon). I would rate this as easy with a touch of moderate scrambling up/down river bed.
After the hike swing by the date farm store for a snack! They make excellent date bread and muffins (and will even ship them!), but I recommend grabbing yourself a milk shake. I went with the coffee date shake. Fantastic! Also, if you're interested in hippie stuff, their gift shop is actually quite fun! I was surprised by this, for sure.
From the date farm we headed to the natural hot springs hot tub. It's completely free and on a dirt road out in the middle of the desert. I'm not going to tell you the location of it on the blog.. but if you're really going to check it out, feel free to email me! =D When we soaked, on Thanksgiving Day, there wasn't a single person there. NOTE: the hot springs (the tub and the marsh) are clothing optional. After we had our private soak, we ventured along to find the hot springs marsh. This is where the hot springs natural pools are. Often people will soak AND cover their bodies with the mud from the bottom for healing purposes.
The trip to Tecopa is a perfect day trip from Las Vegas to get in some exercise, sweet treats, and a healing (and free) spa experience. Just note, the desert gets VERY hot. Tecopa is located on the edge of Death Valley. I would NOT recommend this hike in the summer, or even the summer adjacent months. It's open desert hiking, except for the short bit exploring the canyon. Regardless of what season you do visit, bring MORE water than you think you need. It's still the desert, even when it's 50 degrees!
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