If you were a horse thief in the 1830s, you probably wanted to avoid the Old Spanish Trail, the popular route through the American Southwest. Like outlaws everywhere, you wanted to stay off the main roads. But even thieves need water, especially in the middle of the desert. The springs around the current site of the Spring Mountain Ranch State Park thus became a popular stop for the shady citizenry of a previous age. Today, the historic buildings at Spring Mountain Ranch are on the National Register of Historic Places.
Spring Mountain Ranch is within the boundaries of the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. It is located just off Nevada State Route 159, between the Red Rock Canyon Scenic Loop and Bonnie Springs Ranch. Visitors can explore the park’s historic buildings, including the main ranch house, which was once owned by a series of notable people, like millionaire Howard Hughes. Of the ranch’s famous residents, German actress Vera Krupp lived in the home the longest, from 1955-1967. Krupp once owned the 33-carat Krupp diamond that Elizabeth Taylor now has; Krupp also had it set in a ring. In April of 1959, three men forced their way inside the ranch house and took the ring from Krupp’s finger. The diamond was later recovered in New Jersey.
The park frequently hosts living history programs, and during summer is the home of Super Summer Theater, an series of outdoor plays popular with Las Vegas residents. Visitors will find plenty of picnic tables and grills in the large field next to the main ranch house. According to the park, some of the trees in the picnic area are over 400 years old (so no climbing, please). The little bit of extra altitude in the Spring Mountains means temperatures there are about ten degrees cooler than in Las Vegas, making the idea of a picnic much more appealing. Visitors can take tours of the homes, and docents are always available to answer questions.
Visitors who want to take a drive and see something beyond the glitz of the Las Vegas Strip will see a totally different side of Vegas at Spring Mountain Ranch. The Wilson Cliffs, right in back of the ranch, are the most colorful things around—no neon in sight. Here you’ll find friendly horses, plenty of hiking trails, and some interesting history, all for far less than most visitors will leave in the casino: $9 per car load at the gate.
Photographs courtesy of Terrisa Meeks