Hill? More like a Mesa!
Fortification Hill is a prominent landmark for visitors to Lake Mead National Recreation Area. It is easily recognizable and not too far from the Hoover Dam. It is probably accurate to see that millions gaze at Fortification Hill every year, whereas only a few hundred actually take the time to climb it.
Fortification Hill is a Mesa on the Arizona side of the lake which is composed of dark basalt. It is imposing and easy to recognize from most places on the west side of Lake Mead.
From the trail head follow the trail which starts just behind the park service sign advising you that travel beyond this point is at your own risk. At first follow the wash for about 1/2 mile as it gently climbs toward the imposing hill. Although Fortification Hill can be seen from the Hoover Dam and Boulder City, it feels like a world away when you are climbing it. You are walking through Mojave Desert scrub. It is dominated by creosote bushes, with some Indian Tea and cholla mixed in. Yucca will make guest appearances from time to time. After about 1/2 to 3/4 mile the trail exits the wash (usually cairned), and climbs onto a ridge. The trail runs along this ridge until you get to the steep face of Fortification Hill. The trail goes pretty much straight up, you pass through some scree before you reach the face of the mountain.
Once you reach the face of Fortification Hill the trail turns right and leads you to a boulder pile you will have to scramble up in order to reach the peak. Its easy scrambling, but please stay on the trail. People have died trying to climb up the sheer face of this hill when they could have easily scrambled their way up if they stayed on the trail. After this scramble the trail keeps climbing, but you shouldn't need your hands to often from here to the top. Eventually you reach the top of the hill, but the real summit of the mesa is still a 5-10 minute walk away. The trail is very pleasant in this area, as you will see much more Yucca, Barrel Cactus, and Cholla than you saw on the rest of the hike up.
The trail ends at the summit of Fortification Hill. There is a large rock pile and a summit register. Sign in, eat lunch, and enjoy the views before you turn around and head back. Use care when down climbing as the loose rock can be slippery, and as always remember to leave no trace! Some hikers like to follow the ridge all the way down on the way back instead of hiking in the wash. I like this option as new scenery is always nice, and the ridge offers great views of the surrounding desert.
Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.
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