Snow day! If you hail from anywhere that produces snow, as a child you probably loved those days. No school and a chance to go play! People may not realize, but beyond the neon lights of Las Vegas, you can find snow in the winter months. Let’s drive into wild desert country for this Annual Snow Day Road Trip.
This neon to nature itinerary designed by Las Vegas resident, April Ballard, offers easy to moderate and difficult trails to navigate in an off-road vehicle with 4-wheel drive. It’s kid friendly, free, and 55 miles from The Strip. Located in the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area, we will explore an unincorporated area called Cold Creek, Nevada.
Historical fact: In the 1930s, the area served as a dude ranch, which was popular in Nevada after the law for quickie divorces was passed. Women would stay there for six weeks in order to establish residency and be eligible for a divorce. The facility called Cold Creek Ranch, now exists as a historic site.
The area is a recreational haven for enthusiasts of all-terrain vehicles and off-road motorcycles. There are hiking, camping and horseback riding opportunities as well. You can visit Cold Creek all year around but to catch some snow, late December or early January is best.
Tip: Vegas Jeep Tours can help travelers with 4-wheel drive rentals.
“We love how close it is, it’s free, not overcrowded, and easy to access,” Ballard says.
She describes the drive as a relaxed one while traveling amongst the serene tree lined landscape with a sense of curiosity to what animals will appear. The area is surrounded by mountains, trees and wildlife. On any given drive you might see elk, wild horses, burrows, and large birds.
Tip: Make sure the camera is charged, and keep your nose out of the phone, so you don’t regret the chance to capture photos of wildlife and beautiful spaces.
The dirt Cold Creek Road, which is occasionally graded runs south and up into the mountains. It is about 14 miles from the U.S. 95 highway. At the picturesque trailhead, the mountains offer a breathtaking backdrop. Then about a third of the way through the trail there are some areas that you can pull off and get some pictures of some beautiful trees including Pinyon Pine, Utah Juniper, and Mountain Mahogany. Towards the end of the trail there’s much Ponderosa Pine and White Fir.
“Later in the trail I feel adventurous as the landscape gets a little bit more challenging to navigate,” Ballard says.
The family likes to arrive at 11am., and noted the trailhead has free and plenty of parking to get out and wander. Once driving along the trail, Ballard noted when stopping to play or grab photos, be sure to lookout for private property signs and respect the no parking signs. About 200 homes can be found in this country feeling area where the desert transitions to mountains.
On this adventure, food is not available so be sure to pack snacks. April says: “we pack a lunch, hot chocolate, water, bags to bring back trash.”
Ballard loves the quiet and peacefulness of the area and said lovers of fishing can find a few ponds with surrounding wildlife in the Cold Creek Picnic Area (after about 13.1 miles of travel on Cold Creek Road, a dirt turnoff).
Tip: No restroom facilities so go before you go.
For more advanced off-roading enthusiasts, Ballard said adventurers should take the turn to Wheeler’s Pass with access from Cold Creek. This path travels into Nevada Silver Trails Territory to the town of Pahrump, located 63 miles from The Strip. This trail is 31 miles and rated difficult.
Tip: For camping, Willow Creek Campground is located west of Cold Creek and accessible via Wheeler Pass Road.
Cold Creek, near Indian Springs, Nevada
Distance from The Strip
Directions from The Strip
U.S. Route 95 North
Cold Creek exit
Turn left and drive approximately 14 miles
No commercial development in the area