Keyhole Canyon

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Keyhole Canyon is an amazing archaeological area with many petroglyphs and a few pictographs. Most of the petroglyphs are geometric symbols rather than representations of physical things, but a few petroglyphs depict bighorn sheep, lizards, and humans. In most petroglyphs sites, the rock art is fairly close to the ground, but here they are unusual because so many are very high on the cliffs.

Keyhole Canyon cuts into a ridge of hard granitic rock that juts so abruptly out of the desert flats that you can drive right up to the edge of cliffs at the base of the mountain. The mouth of the canyon, about 50 yards wide, opens onto the parking area. About 175 yards up the canyon, a 50-ft, water-sculpted and polished pour-over blocks easy progress up the canyon. The short canyon creates the feeling of being in a deep alcove in the cliffs rather than being in a canyon in the mountains.


From Las Vegas, drive south on Highway 93/95 towards Boulder City. Turn right onto Hwy 95 and drive south towards Searchlight for 15.5 miles to an unnamed road (Keyhole Access Road) to the left. Keyhole Access Road is 5.8 miles south of Hwy 165 to Nelson, and 3.2 miles south of El Dorado Valley Road (the last named road). Watch for a highway sign indicating a road intersection. The road goes through the barbwire fence at a white cattle guard with a "designated roadway" sign. There are no other roads in the vicinity.

Turn left onto Keyhole Access Road and drive east for 2.1 miles to a T-intersection between the second and third sets of high-tension power lines. The first mile or so of this road is a bit bouncy, but there are few rocks. At the T-intersection, turn right onto the powerline road (a private road; note the sign about public use), and drive south on the well-maintained road for 1.8 miles to the first of three roads that fork off to the left. This point is less than 0.35 miles from the petroglyphs; read about the three choices before picking one.

The first road runs southeast for 0.35 miles to the parking area at the mouth of the canyon. This road has some loose gravel and crosses Keyhole Wash at the mouth of the canyon before gaining higher and firmer ground of the parking area on the south side of the wash.

The second road, 0.15 miles south of the first road, runs right up the gravel along Keyhole Wash; the loose gravel is fine for driving downhill, but loose gravel always make me nervous. This road also gains the higher and firmer ground of the parking area on the south side of the wash.

The third road, 0.25 miles south of the first road (across Keyhole Wash), is narrow and rocky, but it is the firmest of the three. There is no loose gravel, but someone might need to walk ahead of a sedan and kick the larger rocks off the road. This road ends at the parking area and does not go into the loose gravel.


This area is always open and is a well-used camping area. There is no established campground, but several large campfire rings are scattered about, and there is an outhouse at the parking area (bring your own paper).



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