Climbing to the top of Turtlehead Peak was a highlight during my visit to Red Rock Canyon.
Located only a half-hour outside of Las Vegas, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area was well worth the stop. After spending a day hiking its trails, I only wished we had planned more time there.
CALICO TANKS TRAIL
Calico Tanks trail mileage: 2.6 miles roundtrip
To start off the day, my partner and I drove from Las Vegas to the park entrance where we had to present our entry permit. The park requires timed entry permits that can be booked in advance to limit overcrowding from October through May. We were visiting in January and there were ample permits available when I booked ahead online.
From the visitor center we drove a short distance to the trailhead for Calico Tanks Trail. This short hike wound through a wash and into the beautiful red rocks. Eventually the trail ended at a natural tank (tinaja) where seasonal water was stored, though the tank was frozen despite the comfortable temperatures. Just past the tank was an amazing vista overlooking the Las Vegas valley.
The trail was only 2.5 miles round trip and we made short work heading back the way we came. As we hiked back, we were treated to a stunning view of Turtlehead Peak looming in the distance.
Turtlehead Peak mileage: 4.5 miles (7.2km) roundtrip
Elevation: 6,323 ft (1,927m)
Just before returning to the parking lot, we came upon the junction for Turtlehead Peak. I wasn’t sure we had the time for a 4-mile roundtrip hike but my partner insisted. I wasn’t used to hiking in the desert. Did we have enough water? Nevertheless, I was persuaded and we set off.
We followed an even larger wash across the desert and enjoyed stunning views of mountains all around.
Eventually we began the real ascent and climbed up into a ravine. The sun blazed down on us and the trail was harder to see at times amidst all the rocks and desert flora.
The views continued getting better and better as we reached the saddle. From this ridge it was an easy traverse toward the summit.
After traipsing across some light snow we reached the summit at last at 6,323ft. The panoramic views were gorgeous with Las Vegas in the distance and the colorful red rocks below us. I had been to Las Vegas before but never realized how beautiful the surrounding area is.
From the summit I enjoyed a Subway sandwich I had deliberately brought along. It’s always a nice treat to have some good food to reward yourself on a hike. After soaking in the views for a while, we began our descent the way we’d came. As we hiked down, La Madre Mountain stood impressively in the distance.
Quickly we made our way back to the wash and cruised along toward the car park. The sun sank low and the colors of Red Rock Canyon really began to glow.
Overall, it was a very enjoyable day in Red Rock Canyon. I was extremely impressed with this wilderness area and felt it deserved National Park status. The two hikes we accomplished were short and rewarding. There were more hikes on the other side of the valley that we wished attempt but we were out of daylight and had only planned for one day in the area. In hindsight, I could have stayed for two.
I highly recommend a visit to Red Rock Canyon if you make your way to Las Vegas. It is well worth the short drive. The main reason we decided to travel to Vegas was because of its close proximity to Red Rock Canyon, Death Valley, Zion, and Valley of Fire. It’s a nice jumping off point for visits to so many amazing natural areas. Stay tuned for my next video and blog post as we set off to visit Death Valley!
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