Khota Circus

Round Trip Distance: 4 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation: 2139 - 2326 feet
Cellphone: 0 bars
Time: 3 hrs.
Trailhead: Khota Circus
Fee: none
Attractions: petroglyphs

The Khota Circus trail is located in the Gold Butte National Monument south of Mesquite, Nevada. Beginning off of the Black Butte Road the trail leads to numerous panels of petroglyphs, some of which are spectacularly well preserved. Khota is the Punjabi word for 'donkey'. As wild burros can be found in the general area we must assume the Khota Circus literally translates to 'donkey circus'.

From Mesquite travel west on Nevada 170, the South Riverside Road, for about 9 miles and turn left onto the Gold Butte Road. Continue on this very memorable road of broken pavement for 19.7 miles and turn right onto the unmarked Black Butte Road. The road is dirt from here but might seem smoother than the Gold Butte Road. Follow the Black Butte Road for 3.75 miles to the trailhead taking care to stay to the left at each fork. At the last fork there is a brown mylar marker that states 'Route Ends 1.4 miles'. The marker is about a quarter mile from the trailhead. During good conditions most any vehicle with moderate ground clearance and a careful driver should be able to make it to the trailhead. Due to the 20 miles of broken pavement the vehicle of choice would be something like an ATV or side-by-side.

From the parking area the trail heads across the flats and drops down into the wash.

At this point the trail is following an old segment of the Sand Wash Road. It travels mostly in the wash for about a quarter mile before turning a little and heading mostly south. Some places are a little sandy but not deep by any means. Clusters of joshua trees and colorful outcrops of sandstone create a pleasant hiking experience.

Several petroglyphs can be found to the right of the trail near the 0.7 mile point from the trailhead. The higher one is visible from the main trail.

Before reaching where the trail drops into the canyon to the main panels of rock art it crosses a couple of shallow washes.

Near the 1.8 mile point the trail descends into the canyon. The drop is probably gentler than it looks in this photo. Before entering the canyon there are several small panels on both sides of the rocky outcrop on the left side of the trail.

It's easy to understand if the main panels across the wash from the drop in point are capturing a persons full attention but before heading over to them there is a long panel of images down at ground level that are interesting by themselves.

The long panel has scores upon scores of distinct images that appear to relate an extensive history. Rather than the numerous handprints found at many sites in the southwest feet of various sizes are prevalent here. Several bird images reminiscent of a phoenix can be found and even a shaman with a duck head in the same style as those found in southeastern Utah where legend has it that the shaman takes the form of a duck when traveling through the air.

After perusing the many images of the long panel we turned our attention across the wash where we counted about 10 more panels of various sizes scattered all along the cliff. Most of these are in less accessible places that are higher up above the wash.

What we are calling the main panel is one large panel with another panel off to the left side and one on the slanted surface in the front.

The images here are in almost pristine condition.

We met one person while hiking the Khota Circus trail that had started at the Falling Man trailhead and hiked the backcountry trail from there to 21 Goats and then on over to Khota Circus. Since Little Finland is only another couple of miles from the end of the Khota Circus trail it opens some interesting backpacking prospects. The desert scenery is enjoyable, but maybe not for those that aren't prepared for the current conditions, and the petroglyphs are spectacular, making Khota Circus a must do hike in Gold Butte National Monument. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.