Near the Hoover Dam and the Black Mountains in Lake Mead sits Fortification Hill, an ancient flow-capped mesa that came into existence roughly 13 million years ago as the crust around present day Lake Mead was stretched thin. Magma welled up and poured out of the crust and gradually cooled into basalt, a darkly colored extrusive volcanic rock.
The hike to the summit of Fortification Hill begins in a sandy wash that wanders through the Mojave Desert life zone, and the area is characterized by low growing shrubs such as creosote bush, broom snakeweed, burrobush, white bursage, and brittlebush. The trail is rather worn and easy to follow, and it climbs out of the wash toward the eastern side of the mesa. On the climb up, the trail begins to steepen near the visible basalt band around the upper third of the mesa. After a short section of third-class scrambling through the band of basalt, the trail flattens out and gains the top of the mesa. Take in the views and take a few moments to rest and enjoy the brilliantly colored lichen that covers the exposed basalt. After catching your breath, follow the trail as it bends back west around the caldera toward the summit cairn on the northwestern side of the peak.
On clear days, the summit of Fortification Hill offers perfect views of the western half of Lake Mead, the Muddy Mountains, the Spring Mountains, and the Virgin Mountains to the northwest. A register and a U.S. flag exist at the USGS summit marker, so be sure to let Old Glory fly as you take in the scenic vistas of Lake Mead.
Hiking the trail early in the morning or evening offers brilliant sunrises and sunsets across the rugged mountains of Southern Nevada. During the late spring and summer months, hiking during the cooler times of day is vital for staying comfortable while hiking in the Mojave Desert.