Trails

Desert NWR is an excellent place to visit whether you are looking to take a leisurely walk, engage in some birding, or explore vast wilderness qualities on one of the rugged backcountry roads. If you’re looking for a longer visit, camping and hiking opportunities abound.

Coyote Loop Trail

As you walk west from the Jackrabbit Loop, you will follow the edge of the pond to a bench overlooking the water. Here, you can watch for water birds stopping to rest as they migrate along the Pacific flyway.

As you continue, the trail follows the stream after it exits the pond. It passes the orchard, originally planted by the Richardson family, who ranched at Corn Creek from 1916 to 1936. Using Corn Creek for irrigation, they grew fruit and nut trees including apple, peach, mulberry, pomegranate, almond, and pecan. These trees make this trail a favorite stop for migratory birds.

Follow the trail to the refugium, an aquarium-like building housing the endangered Pahrump poolfish. A spur from the trail leads up to a historic railroad tie cabin, which was built in the 1920s by the Richardson family. While some restoration has been done to preserve the cabin, the railroad ties are largely original and bear the scars of railroad spikes.
Trail Length (mi)
0.35
Trail Difficulty
Difficulty Meter / introductory
Easy
Estimated Time
20 minutes
Route Type
Loop
Trail Activities
Accessible trails
Birding
Dog walking
Education programs
Fish viewing
Photography
Picnicking
Ranger-led programs
Wildlife watching
Suitability
Dog friendly
Kid friendly
Wheelchair friendly
View Trail

Birdsong Loop Trail

The single track of the Birdsong Loop is known for its quietness and solitude. The trail begins among mesquite trees laden with mistletoe.

As you walk the eastern side of the trail, you are treated with views of both the Sheep Range and the Spring Mountains. Tall, grassy phragmites (frag-MY-tees) rustle in the wind throughout the steep washes bordering the trail.

As you descend upon the western half of the trail, the vista opens up into a saltbush and creosote landscape. To your right you will see the rolling dunes and mesquite bosques that follow the Corn Creek fault - evidence of water's proximity to the surface. You may even notice sand beginning to pile around the plants in the playa.

At the maintenance yard, the trail follows the service road back to the Coyote Loop Trail.
Trail Length (mi)
0.38
Trail Difficulty
Difficulty Meter / introductory
Easy
Estimated Time
20 minutes
Route Type
Loop
Trail Activities
Birding
Wildlife watching
Suitability
Dog friendly
Kid friendly
View Trail

Whispering Ben Trail

This short trail follows a wash that is a reminder of ferocious flash floods that occur during the summer months. The path leads to a limestone mortar that the Nuwuvi (Southern Paiute) used to grind grains and mesquite pods. Just past the end of the spur, a Mojave yucca grows among the saltbush.

Corn Creek has long served as a home for the Nuwuvi. Radiocarbon dating of a hearth places their earliest habitation to 8,200 years ago. As early as 3,200 years ago, they were using earth ovens (roasting pits) to cook meats and desert succulents. Around 1,200 years ago, the Nuwuvi later planted crops such as maize and squash In addition to harvesting mesquite.

The Nuwuvi continued to use the area regularly until the early 1900s and continue to maintain their connections to Corn Creek today.

As a reminder - please do not sit or stand on the mortar. It is a cultural artifact.
Trail Length (mi)
0.07
Trail Difficulty
Difficulty Meter / introductory
Easy
Estimated Time
5 minutes
Route Type
Out & back
Trail Activities
Cultural heritage
Wildlife watching
Suitability
Dog friendly
Kid friendly
View Trail

Jackrabbit Loop Trail

As you begin the trail, look to the right to see Gass Peak just south of the foothills of the Sheep Range.

After walking on the bridge and under the shade of the trees and arrow weed, turn right. A few steps down the path, you can see the pool where the water of Corn Creek rises to the surface from the aquifer below. Gravity pulls water into the channel that bubbles beneath the bridge, beginning its short journey above ground. You may hear dragonflies buzzing around, looking for smaller insects to eat.

Turning left, your walk will take you past the pond that is one of the few places to find the endangered Pahrump poolfish. As you circle back to the visitor center, look for pollinators taking advantage of the thistle plants that grow along the path.
Trail Length (mi)
0.14
Trail Difficulty
Difficulty Meter / introductory
Easy
Estimated Time
5 Minutes
Route Type
Loop
Trail Activities
Accessible trails
Wildlife watching
Suitability
Dog friendly
Kid friendly
Wheelchair friendly
View Trail

Bighorn Loop Trail

The Bighorn Loop takes you out into the open desert. As the eastern side of the trail leads away from the Corn Creek spring head, it follows a line of mesquite trees partially covered wish mistletoe grown from seeds deposited by phainopepla.

Past the trees, the view opens to the foothills of the Sheep Range, named for the bighorn sheep that call the range home. During the colder months, snow is visible on the range's higher peaks. The Sheep Range also beautifully displays Nevada's geologic past in its multicolored layers. If you stop at the overlook, you can learn about this geologic history.

In the north end of the trail, you will be surrounded by saltbush and creosote with the occasional hedgehog or beavertail cactus.

The western side of the trail passes by a fence from the days when refuge biologists studied bighorn sheep in an enclosure at Corn Creek. The Bighorn Loop connects with the Coyote Loop near the picnic area.
Trail Length (mi)
0.35
Trail Difficulty
Difficulty Meter / introductory
Easy
Estimated Time
20 minutes
Route Type
Loop
Trail Activities
Accessible trails
Cultural heritage
Education programs
Photography
Ranger-led programs
Wildlife watching
Suitability
Dog friendly
Kid friendly
Wheelchair friendly
View Trail