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A volcano split in two
The elevation gain is minor compared to a typical summit, but Hamblin Mtn offers amazing views extending into Utah, Arizona and California. A wide variety of rock types coexist in this part of the Black Mountains, all mixed together by major volcanic activity. Some fairly easy route-finding is required - there are sporatic use trails when you are not following major washes. The ease of following the use trails depends largely on how long it has been since significant rainfall.
Hamblin Mountain is not very high, so all of the warnings related to low desert hiking apply. There is almost no shade, so this hike is not recommended during summer. Three minor pourovers require shoes with decent grip.
The Black Mountains, of which Hamblin Mountain is a part, are volcanic. Some 13 million years ago, the Hamblin-Cleopatra Volcano was split by the Hamblin Bay Fault. During the next 3-8 million years, Cleopatra Mountain shifted to the east, while Hamblin Mountain shifted to the west. Hamblin Mountain and Cleopatra Mountain are now approx 12 miles apart!
Start out by walking to the west end of the parking pullout and crossing Northshore Road. Follow a well-defined use trail across the desert pavement toward Cottonwood Wash, shortly dropping down into the wash. Walk upwash (south) for approx 1 mi to Cottonwood Spring. Along the way, keep a sharp eye out for fossils and cactus gardens on the wash walls and rare gypsum-loving plant species on the hills surrounding the wash. The wash is broad and the slope gradual, making the hike to Cottonwood Spring suitable for anyone including younger children.
When you reach Cottonwood Spring, there are 2 cottonwoods growing on the edge of a mequite thicket. To continue on toward Hamblin peak, aim for the cottonwoods and scramble up the pourover directly behind them. Continue up the wash, sticking to the main stem (side washes offer short exploratory diversions), until you come to a major fork at the base of a ridge with a red sandstone base topped by darker grey conglomerate cliffs. Shortly before reaching this fork, the wash passes through an area of high gypsum content. Turn right at this fork and follow the wash around the west side of the ridge to a second fork at the southwestern toe of the ridge. Bear right again and continue up the main wash.
As you hike up the wash, you will notice a low saddle more or less straight ahead on the horizon - this is where you are headed. Just below the saddle, you encounter a pourover with an acacia at the top. Climb up the pourover and skirt the acacia (they are painful to push through), making an immediate right beyond the acacia to cut up to the saddle. At the saddle, look west (right) to spot your next goal - a broad wash approx 200-300 yards away. A spider web of use trails head toward the wash, but following any one is difficult.
Dropping into the wash, hike uphill less than 1/2 mi until you reach a small box canyon. On the west side of this box, climb up a pourover and continue up-wash. Above this point, the wash becomes increasingly narrow and rocky, and the use trail becomes more defined. The easiest choice to climb up out of the wash is the first use trail you find heading east. This use trail is well-defined, heading to the saddle on the summit ridge and your first views down to Lake Mead. From the saddle, hike west and uphill to the summit, with steep drop-offs on either side.
The summit is not marked, but there is a USGS benchmark ("Pinto") a few feet west. Enjoy the amazing views in all directions, then head back. Some of your best views occur on the way down, when you can fully appreciate the wide array of rock colors and textures in this area.
You pass Cottonwood Spring approx 1 mi into this hike, but there is rarely surface water. You might be able to dig for water, but you're only 1 mi from your car at this point.
In Lake Mead NRA, you can camp anywhere in the backcountry that is 0.5 mi away from roads, 100 ft. from water, and not specifically signed as "No Camping." There are no established or informal campsites along this route, and the peak ridge itself is too narrow to camp on. There are some areas off the route where you could set up a site, but it requires camping back down off the summit area. Follow Leave No Trace priciples in selecting your campsite, and do not camp on the gypsum hills, which harbor 2 rare plant species.
Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.