Canyoneering Route Description

Keyhole Canyon - 3A I
Lake Mead Nat. Rec. Area, Nevada.

Quick Facts

10-16-10, 2 people, 1 Day (Travel time in route 3 hours) Pictures Icon
02-09-10, 6 people, 1 Day (Travel time in route 3.6 hours)

Time Required - 2 to 3 hours
Distance - 1.6 miles Total, 0.7 miles Technical
Rappels - 4 Rappels, Longest Rappel 100 feet.
Elevation Range - 2850- 3560 Feet
Shuttle Required - No Vehicle - High Clearance Permit Required - No

Gear Used for Canyon

Rappelling and anchor gear, Ropes and or pull cords for rappels up to 100 feet and 50 feet of 1 inch webbing for sling placement.

General Comments

Keyhole Canyon is located at the base of the Eldorado Mountains along highway 95 about 20 or 30 miles south east of Las Vegas NV.  Keyhole is a short fun route if you are in the Vegas Area and just want a quick day out in a canyon.   Keyhole Canyon is just outside the Lake Mead National Recreation area but due to proximity I consider it in the same area.

Note / Warning 1:
There are anchors in this canyon made from chain and held together with standard hardware nuts and bolts.  Do not trust the bolts to support weight!  The chain is super heavy duty but the weak points are the standard nuts and bolts.  Use a standard rapid to join the chain links and bypass the nuts and bolts to keep things safe.   Some of the anchors in this canyon resemble a hardware chain - crane hook up - anchor thingy - reinforced with a rapid.  Be careful out there.  

Note / Warning 2:
There are also a lot of bees at the bottom of some of the rappels.  They are apparently after the water that seeps through the floor of the canyon.  If you are allergic to bees or just plain do not want to be stung try not to stir them up.  Be courteous to them for your own safety.  

Keyhole Canyon is also a place where climbers have been hanging out for years.  In the canyon you will find various bolted anchors, pitons, and various other forms of protection.  Some make sense others so not.

Driving Directions

To get to the Trailhead

From Las Vegas, travel south on highway 93/95 through Henderson then toward Boulder City.  About 2 miles before reaching Boulder City, Highways 93 and 95 part ways.   

At the junction of Highways 93 and 95 turn south onto Highway 95 toward Searchlight and Laughlin Nevada.  Drive 9.9 miles south on Highway 95 to the turn off for Highway 165 toward Nelson.  Continue south on Highway 95 another 5.9 miles to a turn off to a dirt road on the left (east) side of the highway (extKeyHoleCyn).  This dirt road is not named but shown on most maps.  

After turning off onto the dirt road (extKeyHoleCyn), drive east about 2.1 miles on the dirt road until it ends and at an intersection with another road (wKeyholeDP-01).   

Note:
At the end of the road are two power line roads running north to south crossing the road you drove in on from the high way.  These two roads are about 600 feet apart and run parallel to one another.  You want the road farthest from the highway and at the end of the road you took from the highway.  

At the junction (wKeyholeDP-01) turn right (south) onto the power line road.  Drive 1.8 miles to a dirt road on the left (east).  Turn left onto the dirt road (wKeyholeDP-02) and drive 0.3 miles to the gate at the bottom of Keyhole Canyon (yKeyholeCynBt).  On maps the area is labeled as Keyhole Canyon Archeological Site.

To leave the Exit Vehicle / Escape Pod

No exit vehicle required.  This is done as a loop route.

Maps

GPS coordinate information listed at the bottom.  For information about waypoint naming and map symbols, refer to the Glossary page.

Map Link Icon
Click the links for maps of the route.
Map of the drive into the route.
Map of the route.

Details

The Approach:
From the parking at the bottom of Keyhole Canyon (yKeyholeCynBt) walk north along the base of the hill about 500 feet to a ravine type of drainage to hike up (wKeyholeRP-01).  

About 400 feet up the ravine will be a section of rock to scramble up (wKeyholeRP-02).  Above this rock section the ravine levels off a little but continues to climb.   

A little over 400 more feet up the ravine will be another section of rock to scramble up (wKeyholeRP-03).  

From the top of the second rock section you can see another small rock section ahead in the ravine and the ravine has started to level off.  When you have reached the top of the second rock section (wKeyholeRP-03), turn right (south) and hike up out of the ravine.  

A little over 500 feet after leaving the ravine you will find yourself on the crest of a ridge (wKeyholeRP-04).  If you look around you will find faint game trails continuing south over the other side of the ridge.  From the ridge you get good views over the desert you drove in on and a peak down into part of Keyhole Canyon to the south.  The section of Keyhole you can see from here is the long wash walk just before the last rappel.  

Continue south following game trails (which will fade away to nothing) sweeping southeast.  Continue south east along the top rim of a minor drainage.  About 800 feet from the crest of the ridge the drainage will be shallow enough for you to cross (yKeyholeMiniTp).  This drainage is referred to by some as the Mini Keyhole Canyon.  

Cross over the Mini Keyhole drainage and continue south up the other side almost 400 feet to the crest of another ridge (wKeyholeRP-05).  

Continue south down to another minor drainage and cross over it (wKeyholeRP-06) about 300 feet from the crest of the last ridge.  

After crossing the drainage continue south up the other side.  A little over 700 feet after crossing the drainage you will be on the crest of another ridge (wKeyholeRP-07).  This is at the high point of the route.  

From the ridge continue south down the other side about 450 feet to the wash of Keyhole Canyon (yKeyholeCynTp).  The point marked is where the wide open wash above starts to narrow up with some rock features forming on each side.

The Canyoneering / Technical Section:
When you drop into Keyhole Canyon (yKeyholeCynTp) turn right (west) and walk down canyon.  

A little over 500 feet down canyon are 2 quick easy down climbs of about 5 feet each leading to the top of rap 1.  

Rap 1 (dKeyholeNVR1) is anchored from a rock embedded in the canyon floor about 15 feet back from the top of the rap or from a bolted hanger up high on the LDC side.  The rock has a horn like shape and the undercut on the up canyon side of the rock lends itself well for use as an anchor.  When placing webbing or rope around this rock it might be a good idea to place another rock behind it to keep the rope or webbing from pulling up.  If you simply loop the rope around the rock as we did be sure to do a test pull before the last person goes down.  Rap 1 drops about 40 feet down a smooth wall. 

At the bottom of rap 1 the canyon takes a hard left then a hard right.  Follow it down about 100 feet to the top of rap 2.  

Rap 2 (dKeyholeNVR2) is anchored from a pinch point between rocks and drops about 50 feet down another smooth wall.  

Down canyon of rap 2 are a few short down climbs.  The layout of the down climbs is not difficult but the rock in this area is very slick making it awkward.   One of the drops is about 20 feet but can easily be down climbed about half way.  The lower half is sloped and makes a fun slide if you are ok with being out of control for a moment, othersise a hand line might be a good idea.  

Rap 3 (dKeyholeNVR3) is about 300 feet down canyon of rap 2.  Rap 3 is anchored from a Mesquite tree RDC and drops about 50 feet.  You can rap down a fluted water course but the rope pull may get your rope stuck.  The last person should rap from the Mesquite tree in the down canyon direction over a vertical wall.  

Down canyon of rap 3 it is a long easy wash walk in wide open canyon.   

About 250 feet down canyon is a quick down climb around a large boulder (wKeyholeRP-08) before continuing the long walk.  You can down climb around either side but the LDC side is easier.  After the boulder down climb continue the long easy walk for about 0.4 miles to the top of rap 4.  

Rap 4 (dKeyholeNVR4) has a couple of anchor options.  Option one is from a rock wedged in a crack LDC of the rap and back about 15 feet.  Option two is from a rock wedged under the boulder at the top of the rap.   To get to the second option you will need to climb down to it.  Rap 4 drops 100 feet (if the anchor under the boulder is used it will be a little less) down a smooth slightly sloped dry water fall.  Along rap 4 you will see various climbing anchors from many years past.  

After rap 4, walk down canyon about 600 feet to your car.

The Exit:
No exit route.  Your vehicle should be parked at the exit of the canyon.

GPS Waypoint Information

GPX Files Available for DOWNLOAD.
Downloadable GPX files for many of the canyons listed here are now available at the BG-Gear Store.  In addition to the waypoints, the GPX files also offer routes and tracks for the canyon.  Over time more GPX files will be added.

If you want to avoid manually adding waypoints into your GPS or mapping software, want the additional routes and tracks or simply want to support the efforts put into BluuGnome, head over to the BG-Gear Store and grab the files that interest you.

Elevations are approximate.  Waypoints with no elevation data will display NaN in place of the elevation.

For information about my waypoint naming convention and map symbols, refer to the Glossary page.

Notes for GPS information:
BEFORE
entering coordinates from this website, please ensure your system (GPS or mapping software) is set to the same datum used here.  Waypoint coordinates are listed with WGS84 datum and in Lat/Lon hddd.ddddd° format.  Entering coordinate information with inconsistent datum's can result in the waypoints being off by hundreds of feet.  It is important to keep this in mind when entering waypoints from any source.

Keyhole (Eld) 1 - Drive in to Route
  1. extKeyHoleCyn          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 35.74401   W -114.95523        Elev: 2,230 Feet
    Turn off onto a dirt road toward Keyhole Canyon.
  2. wKeyholeDP-01          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 35.74311   W -114.91908        Elev: 2,850 Feet
    On the drive into Keyhole Canyon turn right (south) onto this power line road.
  3. wKeyholeDP-02          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 35.71891   W -114.92976        Elev: 2,745 Feet
    On the drive into Keyhole Canyon turn left (east) and follow the road to the gate across the bottom of Keyhole Canyon.
  4. yKeyholeCynBt          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 35.71545   W -114.92661        Elev: 2,850 Feet
    Bottom exit of Keyhole Canyon. Thre is a gate here to keep people from driving into the canyon.
Keyhole (Eld) 2 - Approach
  1. yKeyholeCynBt          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 35.71545   W -114.92661        Elev: 2,850 Feet
    Bottom exit of Keyhole Canyon. Thre is a gate here to keep people from driving into the canyon.
  2. wKeyholeRP-011          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 35.71671   W -114.92604        Elev: NaN Feet
    Bottom of a ravine like drainage to start hiking up.
  3. wKeyholeRP-021          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 35.71708   W -114.92486        Elev: NaN Feet
    Section of rock to scramble up on the way up the ravine.
  4. wKeyholeRP-031          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 35.71736   W -114.92346        Elev: 3,080 Feet
    At the top of another rock section in the ravine to scramble up. At the top of this rock section turn right (south) and hike up out of the ravine.
  5. wKeyholeRP-041          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 35.71589   W -114.92342        Elev: 3,220 Feet
    On the crest of a ridge after climbing up out of the ravine.
  6. yKeyholeMiniTp          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 35.71462   W -114.92146        Elev: 3,305 Feet
    Top of what some have called the Mini Keyhole Canyon.
  7. wKeyholeRP-051          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 35.71382   W -114.92118        Elev: NaN Feet
    Crest of the ridge south of the Mini Keyhole Drainage.
  8. wKeyholeRP-06          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 35.71315   W -114.92083        Elev: NaN Feet
    Cross over this drainage which is south of the Mini Keyhole Drainage and the main Keyhole Canyon.
  9. wKeyholeRP-07          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 35.71135   W -114.92070        Elev: 3,570 Feet
    Crest of the ridge just before dropping down to the main Keyhole Canyon.
  10. yKeyholeCynTp          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 35.71034   W -114.92012        Elev: 3,450 Feet
    Top entry for Keyhole Canyon.
Keyhole (Eld) 3 The Canyon and Exit
  1. yKeyholeCynTp          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 35.71034   W -114.92012        Elev: 3,450 Feet
    Top entry for Keyhole Canyon.
  2. dKeyholeNVR1          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 35.70978   W -114.92187        Elev: 3,380 Feet
    Rap 1 - Keyhole Canyon. Anchored from a rock embedded in the wash about 15 feet back or from a bolted hanger up high on the LDC side and drops about 40 feet.
  3. dKeyholeNVR2          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 35.70975   W -114.92219        Elev: NaN Feet
    Rap 2 - Keyhole Canyon. Anchored from a pinch point between rocks and drops about 50 feet down a smooth wall.
  4. dKeyholeNVR3          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 35.70996   W -114.92312        Elev: NaN Feet
    Rap 3 - Keyhole Canyon. Acnhored from a Mesquite tree RDC and drops about 50 feet.
  5. wKeyholeRP-08          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 35.71054   W -114.92365        Elev: NaN Feet
    Down climb around a large boulder in the wash. Can go eitehr side but LDC is a bit easier.
  6. dKeyholeNVR4          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 35.71466   W -114.92500        Elev: 2,980 Feet
    Rap 4 - Keyhole Canyon. Anchored from a rock wedged in a crack LDC and drops about 100 feet down a slick slightly sloped dry water fall.
  7. yKeyholeCynBt          Lat/Lon (WGS84):  N 35.71545   W -114.92661        Elev: 2,850 Feet
    Bottom exit of Keyhole Canyon. Thre is a gate here to keep people from driving into the canyon.