Hike to the Hidden Forest Cabin

Rate this Adventure 11.37 miles 2110 ft gain  - Out-and-Back Trail

Added by Joshua Contois

A moderate hike that leads to a historic cabin nestled beneath a mountain spring.

Straddling the Mojave and Great Basin Deserts, the Desert National Wildlife Refuge protects a wide variety of ecosystems across a diverse landscape. The refuge was established in 1936 in order to provide habitat for the desert bighorn sheep and other desert wildlife. Today, it is the largest wildlife refuge outside of Alaska. All told, it protects hundreds of different species of plants & animals across 7 different life zones. 

The hike to the hidden forest cabin is favorite among Las Vegas locals because it transports the hiker from mid-elevation Joshua tree forest, through pinyon/juniper woodland, into higher elevation ponderosa pine forest. It is rare to find a moderate hike that traverses multiple life zones. The cabin's origin is unclear. Some reports claim it is an old bootlegger cabin, others state that is belonged to an early game warden, while others still believe it to have been built by early Mormon settlers to the state. Regardless, it provides a welcome respite to weary hikers and an engaging spot to explore. A small spring provides the only reliable water source outside of the visitor center, but the flows vary. Be sure to bring your preferred water treatment source.

TO GET THERE: Begin at the Corn Creek Visitor Center. Drive north on Alamo Road (high clearance or 4WD required) for 15 miles, then turn right on Hidden Forest Road. The road ends in Deadman Canyon at the trailhead. 

NOTE: The entirety of this trail follows a canyon wash. Expect loose gravel & unstable footing.

The trail begins along Deadman Wash, an area that once served as an old two-track roadbed. Shade is sparse, but in the spring expect to be treated with multiple desert blooms from plants such as desert paintbrush, apache ploom, and mormon tea. This is a good area to spot birds such as rock wrens and black-throated sparrows. Keep an eye out for small caves and crevices to explore as you ascend.

At times the route becomes confusing between the wash and old roadbed. The canyon is narrow and it is impossible to get lost, so hike whichever you find easiest or most enjoyable. As the vegetation changes to the pinyon-juniper woodland, the trail footing becomes a bit more stable. Keep an eye out for western tanagers, pinon jays, and hermit thrushes. 

At about 3.7 miles, the first ponderosa pines appear. They remain the dominant vegetation all the way to the cabin, at mile 5.6. A few groves of isolated quaking aspens are present, as are some fir trees. From here, you can enjoy some time exploring the surrounding hills, eat a picnic lunch at one of the picnic tables, or prepare for the steep, 2-mile ascent to Hayford Peak, the highest peak in the Sheep Mountains. To exit, simply follow your route back down the canyon.

NOTE: Backpacking and camping are allowed, but fires are prohibited. Please do not construct rock rings or collect wood. You may use gas stoves.

ADDENDUM: The cabin is on the register of historic places. Please do not graffiti the walls or carve your name. Please do not leave anything inside the cabin. It might be tempting to leave some spare gas or food for the next hiker, but all this does is accumulate and create waste that rangers are forced to pack out. 

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