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Pine Creek Canyon offers some of the best of the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area–beautiful and diverse plant communities nestled at the bottom of monolithic canyon walls. The ponderosa pine forest at the mouth of the canyon is a remnant from the last Ice Age, but it survives here thanks to the cool air and water flowing down Pine Creek Canyon.
The trail runs up the north side of Pine Creek to the first fork in Pine Creek Canyon. The trail then crosses the seasonal stream and runs back down the south side of the canyon until rejoining the original route near the remains of the Wilson homestead.
This area is interesting because it harbors a great botanical diversity of Mojave Desert Scrub vegetation with a relict population of ponderosa pines that normally are found at higher elevations. The canyon gets some full sun, especially early in the day, but generally it is a nice cool place to hike. The round-trip is about 2.5 miles, but from the top of the loop, hikers can scramble and boulder hop up the canyons into the Rainbow Mountain Wilderness Area for as far as they want.
From the Pine Creek trailhead (Table 1, Waypoint 01), which sits atop a bench overlooking Pine Creek Wash, the well-worn trail runs south, cutting down and across a steep sidehill. Near the trailhead, the vegetation is fairly sparse and dominated by only a few species, including blackbrush, Mojave yucca, banana yucca, and Utah juniper.
After dropping across the hillside, the trail turns right onto the broad flats along Pine Creek Wash. Here, the soil moisture is higher, and the vegetation abruptly changes to include shrub live oak, big sagebrush, Utah juniper, desert willow, and buckhorn cholla.
The trail runs west and shortly intersects the start of the Fire Ecology Trail (Wpt. 03). After only 45 yards, the main trail intersects the end of the Fire Ecology Trail (Wpt. 04). The Fire Ecology Trail makes a figure-8 loop over to Pine Creek where signs discuss efforts to control wildfire risk in the canyon.
Continuing, the trail passes historic concrete and stone structures that used to mark the entrance to the Wilson Ranch. This is also the junction with Dale's Trail (Wpt. 05). The vegetation here is much thicker and diverse; manzanita and yerba santa join the species mix, and ponderosa pines are nearby, however, a fire burned the north side of the trail a few years ago.
The trail continues west towards a grove of ponderosa pine, a seasonal stream, and the remains of Horace Wilson's old homestead (Wpt. 06), which is just off the left side of the main trail. Old-man Wilson built his home in the early 1920s. He lived here for about 10 years and planted a big garden and orchard. Only the foundation of the house and some fruit trees remain. He left the canyon in 1933 and moved to Las Vegas where life was easier.