Take a Hike – Le Madre Springs Trail

By Tom Pfaendler

One of the roads less traveled at Red Rock is the La Madre Springs trail. To get there, park your car at the Willow Springs picnic area near the old Rocky Gap road. Lace up your boots nice-n-tight and grab lots of water.

This would be a good time to do some slow stretches to loosen up those leg muscles, too. If you have an off-road vehicle it is possible to drive another half-mile or so up to the trailhead. It’s slow going over some pretty rocky terrain, but this is the only place in Red Rock that you’re allowed to use that SUV, so go ahead. Whether you drive or walk up Rocky Gap, be sure to stop and read about the huge Agave Roasting Pit located on the south side of the road.

From the trailhead you’ll hike up a long 10% grade as you wind around the backside of White Rock Mountain. Some relief comes about halfway up to the springs when the trail levels out and you find yourself in a park-like setting with a nice, soft, tree-lined path.

At this junction of the White Rock Loop & La Madre Springs trails there are two flat-topped “sittin” rocks. Pull up a boulder and rest here for a while. This is actually the prettiest point on the hike and some of the best scenery that you’ll find anywhere at Red Rock, and you’ll likely have it all to yourself! From here you are totally surrounded by mountains.

The limestone La Madre range (“The Mother” in Spanish) is right behind you; North Peak and Bridge Mountain are to the West and directly in front is the big dog himself, White Rock: a magnificent three-headed mountain with its impressive alluvial fan spread out at your feet. Believe me, driving by on the scenic loop you just have no clue that White Rock Mountain is this majestic.

Continuing up the trail toward the La Madre Spring you’ll come across two old concrete pads. These are the remnants of the Las Vegas Archery Club that closed in 1975 when the BLM acquired this land for an expansion of Red Rock Canyon NCA. From here it’s a short walk up the road to the springs. A little dam was built here in 1968 creating a nice pond and one of the biggest riparian areas at Red Rock. There are plants and birds and bugs of every description here, and of course this is a popular year-round watering hole for the bighorn sheep, mule deer and other mountain critters.

The pond marks the official end of the trail. The path, however, continues through the wetland and up the ravine into the La Madre Mountains. If you choose to explore beyond this point, be sure to wear long pants for protection from the overgrown plants, bugs and assorted no-see-ums. Your efforts will be rewarded with several small waterfalls and pools as you follow the spring. There’s even an old rock miner’s shelter up here that makes a good spot for a backpack lunch.

Overall, this old jeep trail is a good aerobic workout with a lot of interesting cultural resources to see along the way. The “backside” view of White Rock Mountain is awesome and earns the La Madre Springs trail six out of ten boots!

Disclaimer Of Liability:

With respect to images, data, and narrative posted at this website, Friends of Red Rock Canyon makes no warranty, express or implied, including the warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose, or assumes any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information, apparatus, product, or process disclosed, or represents that its use would not infringe privately owned rights. Friends of Red Rock Canyon shall not be liable in any way for loss or damage, of any kind, to you, or any other person, for any inaccuracy, error, omission, or delay in any information posted or otherwise transmitted over this website.

While the website tries to accurately describe places and routes, conditions change over time and sometimes mistakes are made. If something posted on this site seems wrong, assume it is wrong and tell us that it needs to be fixed. Wildlands are inherently dangerous — always rely on your own good judgment. You are responsible for your own safety.

Take a Hike – Keystone Thrust Trail

By Tom Pfaendler

During the winter months when the days are short, it’s nice to have a few small hikes available that can be enjoyed in just a couple of hours. One of these is the Keystone Thrust Trail. It’s easily accessible, packed with interesting history and a pretty good workout, too!

To find this trail, drive about six miles around the scenic loop until you see a sign announcing White Rock. From here, a rocky dirt road leads north another mile to a fenced parking area that serves the White Rock and Keystone Thrust trails. This will be at least a three-mile hike, depending on the return route that you decide to take, so don’t forget to pack a bottle of water for each person. Even in these cooler winter months it’s important to stay hydrated while you’re in the desert.

At the north end of the parking lot you’ll find an interpretive sign briefly explaining the Keystone Thrust trail. As it turns out, this is a unique and important area for geologists, and they come from all over the world to study this thrust fault.

You’ll discover why as we get a little farther up the trail. Follow the rock-lined path north across the wash until you come to a sign directing you up a picturesque little hill with railroad-tie steps. At the top of the hill the trail intersects an old road. Turn left and follow the road around Hogback Ridge and toward the La Madre Mountains.

Legend has it; in the early days of Las Vegas this remote desert road was a popular place for stolen cars to be stripped. Those old vehicles were removed long ago, but if you look carefully you may be able to spot some small metal parts slowly rusting away among the rocks and shrubs.

Once you’ve passed Hogback Ridge you’ll come to another sign directing you toward the Keystone Thrust. This is the highest point of the trail and the views are really nice with Turtlehead Peak and the Calicos to the east, the La Madre Mountains to the north, and White Rock Mountain to the west.

The trail now leaves the old road, turns sharply east and descends into a wide red and gray canyon. This is what the geologists go bonkers over. Two exposed tectonic plates! These are gigantic slabs of the earth’s crust that move around to create earthquakes, mountains and continents. It’s actually possible to stand with a foot on each plate. Keystone Thrust Fault is one of the only places on earth where this can be done!

Normally, this kind of exciting rock action is taking place miles underground. Even for the non-geologist, it’s interesting to see the red sandstone on the west side of the canyon smashing into the grey limestone on the east side forming new mountains before our very eyes. Try to think in rock-years to get the big picture.

For most people, this is the grand finale. Time to turn around, hike back the way you came in and call it a day. But as a Boot Tracks reader, you’ll want to know that there are some hidden treasures to be found just a little farther south and deeper into the canyon.

The rocks become very dramatic and in the winter you’ll find pools of water reflecting the sky and trees. The jagged east side of the Hogback looms darkly overhead. Pick your way around a high waterfall area and carefully follow the canyon through dense shrubs and colorful boulders until the canyon slowly gives way to the open desert. The wash eventually leads back to the scenic loop drive, depositing you about a mile east of the White Rock turnoff.

If you decide to take this route, please stay in the wash and avoid shortcutting across the desert to your car. This is sensitive ground with areas of active cryptobiotic (living) soils. Use your tread lightly skills and be sure to leave no trace!

The three-mile round trip to the Keystone Thrust is a fun outing and a good workout with a major educational bonus at the end. It deserves six boots all on its own, but if you have the extra time and inclination, exploring the canyon a little deeper “thrusts” the overall rating to seven boots!

Disclaimer Of Liability:

With respect to images, data, and narrative posted at this website, Friends of Red Rock Canyon makes no warranty, express or implied, including the warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose, or assumes any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information, apparatus, product, or process disclosed, or represents that its use would not infringe privately owned rights. Friends of Red Rock Canyon shall not be liable in any way for loss or damage, of any kind, to you, or any other person, for any inaccuracy, error, omission, or delay in any information posted or otherwise transmitted over this website.

While the website tries to accurately describe places and routes, conditions change over time and sometimes mistakes are made. If something posted on this site seems wrong, assume it is wrong and tell us that it needs to be fixed. Wildlands are inherently dangerous — always rely on your own good judgment. You are responsible for your own safety.

Take a Hike – Ice Box Trail

By Tom Pfaendler

This month we’re going to review one of my favorite hikes, Ice Box Canyon, a challenging, beautiful and really fun trail! I believe that if you were to survey all of the local hikers you would find that Ice Box Canyon is one of the top trails on everyone’s list. To get there, drive eight miles around the scenic loop and park at the well-marked trailhead. Be sure to wear your favorite hat and some sturdy high-top hiking boots for good ankle support. As always take plenty of water along with you.

This trail is posted as being 2.5 miles long and is rated “difficult”. I really hope that the difficult rating won’t scare you away from enjoying one of the best hikes at Red Rock. Ice Box Canyon is essentially two separate hiking experiences. OK, three if you’re a rock climber but I’ll let someone else review that part! The trail leads from the parking lot down into Red Rock Wash. This would be a good spot to walk around and explore, even if you didn’t go any farther. The path winds through a grove of beautiful desert willow and lots of nicely water-rounded boulders. At the end of the willow garden you’ll find some wide stone steps that will lead you out of the wash for the remainder of the trek toward the canyon. The grade on this trail averages an easy 2 to 5%, and there’s plenty of desert life along the way to keep things interesting. Be sure to check out the narrowing canyon with the big pine trees below and Bridge Mountain looming above. Rock climbers call the large black wall on the left “The Necromancer”; you’ll call it beautiful. However, this is only a prelude to what lies ahead in part two of the Ice Box Canyon trail!

Just short of a mile, the path dips sharply toward the bottom of the canyon. This would be a terrific place to turn back and keep your hike rated PG (for pretty & good), although you might be missing out, because the really good stuff lies just ahead. If you do go down into the canyon, it’s a good idea to drop some mental breadcrumbs so that you can find your way back up later. That river of boulders ahead of you is now the trail.

Rock scrambling… and I mean first class-bouldering is about to begin. Just pick your path and go, remembering that there are usually several solutions to every puzzle that you may encounter. You will soon find yourself in a deep canyon with towering black walls on both sides. The main problem with rock scrambling is that you’re always looking at your feet, so pause frequently to take in the beauty above and around you. It’s really astonishing.

Along the way you’ll meet some giant butterscotch-scented Ponderosa Pine trees. Be sure to stop and hug them, as they are the ancient guardians of this canyon (and they like hugs). When you get to the end of this rocky path you’ll be rewarded by a spectacular echoing canyon replete with seasonal waterfall. Just above you and out of sight are two natural tanks that are usually full of water. Please use extreme caution if you climb up to these tanks, as the slick rock is treacherous. You may also discover how this area got its name; it can actually get quite cold back here, which makes Ice Box one of my favorite summer hikes.

The first part of this outing is very nice and would rate five boots all by itself, but it’s the second and more difficult half that earns Ice Box Canyon a total of 8 out of 10 boots.

Disclaimer Of Liability:

With respect to images, data, and narrative posted at this website, Friends of Red Rock Canyon makes no warranty, express or implied, including the warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose, or assumes any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information, apparatus, product, or process disclosed, or represents that its use would not infringe privately owned rights. Friends of Red Rock Canyon shall not be liable in any way for loss or damage, of any kind, to you, or any other person, for any inaccuracy, error, omission, or delay in any information posted or otherwise transmitted over this website.

While the website tries to accurately describe places and routes, conditions change over time and sometimes mistakes are made. If something posted on this site seems wrong, assume it is wrong and tell us that it needs to be fixed. Wildlands are inherently dangerous — always rely on your own good judgment. You are responsible for your own safety.

Take a Hike – Grand Circle Adventure 2

By Tom Pfaendler

Last month, I left you stranded about six miles out, halfway around the Grand Circle Adventure in the White Rock parking lot. I know it’s been a long wait and I hope that you didn’t run out of food, but with this edition of Boot Tracks I can now tell you how to get back to the Red Rock Canyon visitor’s center. Hopefully, you’ve got about a half-gallon of water left over from part one of this little trek, so slap on a fresh coat of sunscreen, grab your hat and let’s go!

We’ll begin by hiking south a half-mile along the gravel road that leads from the parking lot toward the scenic loop drive. If the careening, gravel-spitting SUV’s on this road don’t scare you, then the evil scenic drive crossing is waiting just ahead. You may recall my warning last month about the kamikaze drivers on this road. You’re not paranoid; they really are out to get you, so please be careful.

Once you get across the road you’ll quickly leave civilization behind as the trail drops down into a surprisingly tranquil desert meadow with several varieties of flowers and cacti. This portion of the trail is lightly traveled so you’ll find that it’s quite natural and undisturbed for the next couple of miles. The path takes you over several hills and valleys in miniature basin-and-range topography. It’s interesting to see how everything adapts to its environment from the tops of these ridges to the lush washes below. Except for one more hair-raising scenic loop crossing, it’s pretty nice out here, and chances are good that you’ll have this portion of the trail all to yourself.

As you approach the Sandstone quarry area from the west, look for the soil to suddenly turn dark grey. This is a clue that the area was once an agave roasting pit. For some reason there are several trails at Red Rock that bisect these ancient cultural sites, so when you cross one please tread lightly to preserve what’s left of these irreplaceable historical records. Once you arrive at Sandstone Quarry you’ll probably be overrun by crowds of people and a seeming crush of humanity that will completely shatter the serenity of the previous hour’s hike. But, this is a popular recreation area, so try to enjoy the good vibes from all the happy people while you rest your legs for a while.

The trail picks up again near the entrance to the Sandstone Quarry parking lot and leads you east along the edge of the Calicos. The up close and personal view of these red sandstone mountains is really impressive, and at certain times of the year you’ll even see several small tenajas, or natural water tanks that have formed in the rocks holding their precious cache of rainwater. If you enjoy petroglyphs, Calico II features a table-sized stone literally covered with the ancient rock art. As pretty as the calicos are from the scenic drive, it just doesn’t compare to the rich experience of hiking down in the canyon, right next to them.

Between the Calico II and Calico I parking areas, the trail becomes a little braided and difficult to follow. You’ll need to use your best route-finding skills to find your way through the rocks and to stay on the proper trail. Once you climb out of the canyon and up to the Calico I parking lot you’ll have a choice of routes for that last mile back to the visitor’s center. You can follow the “official” trail to the east, or cross the scenic loop drive and take the somewhat nicer Calico I trail toward Moenkopi and then back to the visitor’s center. Either way the distance is about the same and frankly by now your legs won’t care. By this time they’ll just want to go for a long soak in the nearest bubbling hot tub.

So, you’ve done it! In one outing, you’ve experienced more of Red Rock canyon’s diversity than most visitors can even imagine. You can be very proud of yourself for accepting this personal challenge and hiking “The Big One”. It probably won’t be today, but you’ll hike this trail again. How far is eleven and a half miles? Just a spin around the Grand Circle Adventure. I give it seven out of ten boots!

Disclaimer Of Liability:

With respect to images, data, and narrative posted at this website, Friends of Red Rock Canyon makes no warranty, express or implied, including the warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose, or assumes any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information, apparatus, product, or process disclosed, or represents that its use would not infringe privately owned rights. Friends of Red Rock Canyon shall not be liable in any way for loss or damage, of any kind, to you, or any other person, for any inaccuracy, error, omission, or delay in any information posted or otherwise transmitted over this website.

While the website tries to accurately describe places and routes, conditions change over time and sometimes mistakes are made. If something posted on this site seems wrong, assume it is wrong and tell us that it needs to be fixed. Wildlands are inherently dangerous — always rely on your own good judgment. You are responsible for your own safety.

Take a Hike – Grand Circle Adventure 1

By Tom Pfaendler

Just how far is eleven and a half miles?

Well, let’s see; if you were standing in front of the volcano at the Mirage and started walking south along Las Vegas Boulevard, you would end up at the airport… that would be the Henderson airport across from Wheeler RV. A much better choice for a nice long walk would be the Grand Circle Adventure at Red Rock Canyon!

The idea of hiking the “Grand Loop” can be a bit intimidating at first, but it’s really just a long, enjoyable walk through the desert. Don’t worry, it doesn’t take a marathon athlete to do this; all it takes is a little planning. Keep in mind that the hike will take six or seven hours to complete, so a morning start is probably a good idea.

A hat and sunscreen are essential items since you’ll be in direct sun all day. Your feet will be doing a lot of work so make sure that you’re wearing good comfy hiking boots. Remember to pack a light lunch, and of course LOTS of water, about a gallon per person ought to be about right. Pick up a handy trail map at the front desk of the visitor’s center, and be sure to take advantage of their indoor plumbing before you begin… the next restroom is about six miles away. OK, now that you’re prepared, let’s go hiking!

Since this is a loop trail, you can start near the southwest corner of the tortoise habitat and go in either direction. Both ways are fine and provide somewhat different views so it’s entirely up to you. My preference is to take the south fork and hike clockwise around the loop. This route takes you west for about three miles on an old jeep trail past the Moenkopi ridge and through Red Rock Wash.

This bumpy, rutted road was once the main drag out here, and part of it is still in use today as Rocky Gap road. Nature is reclaiming some of this jeep trail after several decades of non-use. It’s interesting to think about the impact that was made from this road and how long it takes the desert to recover.

If you’re out here in the morning light you’ll have a spectacular panoramic view of the Wilson Cliffs, but for a special treat, look downward along the edges of the old road to find delicate cryptobiotic (living) soils that are forming there. Hiking Tip: you can usually see and experience much more when you hike slowly and quietly. Always take plenty of time to connect with and enjoy being a part of your environment, that way you can get the most out of your time on the trail.

A good photo stop would be at the unique “high-point” view of Ice Box Canyon, and then it’s on to the end of the old jeep trail where it finally intersects with the scenic loop drive. You’ll need to cross the perilous scenic loop drive four times during this hike, so please use extreme caution. Once you’ve crossed the road the trail continues north toward the Willow Springs junction and then follows the beautiful foothills of White Rock Mountain.

You may find a secluded spot for lunch down in the wash among the pine and juniper trees, or maybe take a short side trail to White Rock Spring and enjoy a picnic on the park bench next to the “Guzzler”, a small watercress filled catchment that is vitally important to all of the wildlife in this area. After lunch, it’s a short walk up the hill to the halfway point, the White Rock parking lot and long awaited restroom!

We’ll continue with part two of the Grand Circle Adventure next month. Until then, I’ll see you on the trails!

Disclaimer Of Liability:

With respect to images, data, and narrative posted at this website, Friends of Red Rock Canyon makes no warranty, express or implied, including the warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose, or assumes any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information, apparatus, product, or process disclosed, or represents that its use would not infringe privately owned rights. Friends of Red Rock Canyon shall not be liable in any way for loss or damage, of any kind, to you, or any other person, for any inaccuracy, error, omission, or delay in any information posted or otherwise transmitted over this website.

While the website tries to accurately describe places and routes, conditions change over time and sometimes mistakes are made. If something posted on this site seems wrong, assume it is wrong and tell us that it needs to be fixed. Wildlands are inherently dangerous — always rely on your own good judgment. You are responsible for your own safety.

Take a Hike – First Creek Trail

By Tom Pfaendler

One of the great things about First Creek Canyon is that you don’t have to drive around the 13-mile scenic loop to get to it. But you’ll soon find that there are many great things about this hike, including a hidden waterfall! To get to the trailhead, drive west 4.2 miles past the visitor’s center on highway 159. Look for a dirt parking area carved alongside the road and a small sign announcing First Creek Canyon. Take extra caution to lock and secure your car, since it will be exposed to the highway for a couple of hours. This is an easy 3-mile hike and is suitable for the whole family.

The trail begins at an X-shaped burro gate designed to keep these beloved critters off of the highway. This is burro country and you are more than likely going to see some out here. Just remember the rules; no feeding or petting, these guys can kick, bite and spit! Once through the gate, you’ll cross a rocky wash and be on your way. The well-defined trail winds through the open desert, slowly making it’s way toward the canyon that is being cut by First Creek and then beyond to the rugged south side of Mt. Wilson. This area is widely used by the trail-ride folks, so don’t be surprised if you cross paths with a dusty-looking cowboy leading a rag-tag group of tourists on horseback.

Like Area 51, First Creek Canyon is home to a very well known secret: the waterfall. But most people will never see it because it’s quite well hidden. Of course, you’ll be able to find it because I’m going to tell you how to get there. After hiking for a mile or so you’ll notice that the trail comes much closer to the canyon. At that point, you’ll want to head toward the first big pine tree that you see growing along the canyon rim. Next to this tree you’ll find a little unmarked trail leading into the canyon, toward a couple of big diamond-shaped composite rocks, and then downward to the waterfall.

For the high-tech hiker, this trail head is located at N36° 04.827’ W115° 27.920’. After a quick descent, you’ll find yourself deep in a rocky grotto that is covered with delicate green ferns and tall shady trees fed by a large pool at the base of a waterfall. This is a very serene spot, a complete departure from the dry desert environment just above and a nice preview of more good things to come a little farther up the trail.

Once you’ve had your fill of the renewing “waterfall energy” and picked up any litter that might have been lying around, you can retrace your steps and head back up to the main trail. A little farther west you’ll come to a sign marking the end of the official trail and the beginning of the wilderness study area (WSA). Here, the trail forks. The South route goes up to the top of a ridge and continues west toward Mt. Wilson.

This is a popular area for rock climbing and you can usually spot a few people dangling from the cliffs. The North fork will lead you along the creek with several opportunities to stop and explore. Just pull up one of the big rocks in the middle of the streambed and relax under a canopy of trees. Sit quietly and listen to the water bubbling around you. Close your eyes and feel the cool air brush against your face. A dragonfly lights on a moss-covered stone. The sun glints off of the rippling water. It’s amazing, that this lush green place can exist here in the middle of the desert.

Of all the trails at Red Rock, I’ve hiked this one the most frequently, probably because of the easy access, but also because of its great diversity and beauty. And there’s something about a waterfall in the middle of the desert that is unexpected and delightful. During the spring months when the water is flowing and the desert is blooming, First Creek Canyon delivers a solid eight boots out of ten on my “Hikeometer”.

Disclaimer Of Liability:

With respect to images, data, and narrative posted at this website, Friends of Red Rock Canyon makes no warranty, express or implied, including the warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose, or assumes any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information, apparatus, product, or process disclosed, or represents that its use would not infringe privately owned rights. Friends of Red Rock Canyon shall not be liable in any way for loss or damage, of any kind, to you, or any other person, for any inaccuracy, error, omission, or delay in any information posted or otherwise transmitted over this website.

While the website tries to accurately describe places and routes, conditions change over time and sometimes mistakes are made. If something posted on this site seems wrong, assume it is wrong and tell us that it needs to be fixed. Wildlands are inherently dangerous — always rely on your own good judgment. You are responsible for your own safety.

Take a Hike – Dale’s Trail

By Tom Pfaendler

We explore the lengthy Escarpment Base Trail by hiking along the middle segment known as Dale’s Trail, which could have been named for it’s hill-and-dale topography, but was really named after Dale Morrison, who led a group of three Eagle Scout troops and the National Outdoor Leadership School in its construction back in 1996.

You can access Dale’s Trail from either Ice Box Canyon, where it intersects with the SMYC trail, or along the Pine Creek trail across from the remains of the old Wilson Homestead gate. This two-mile route around Bridge Mountain is rated moderate, but I would bump that up to strenuous in the summer months. If you go, take all the water you can carry, and if there’s any room left, take your camera, you’re going to want it!

The first thing that strikes you about Dale’s Trail is the solitude. Chances are really good that you will be the only hiker out here. This is a very lightly traveled path, probably because it lacks its own parking lot, or doesn’t seem to have a unique point of interest (actually it does), so the tourists go elsewhere and the locals just tend to ignore it.

Fine! Sometimes life is good.

I’ll say flatly that this is one of the very best hiking trails at Red Rock! It offers diversity, great beauty, challenge and a certain pristine feeling that is somehow missing on the more popular trails. Along the way you will find four wooden benches strategically located for you to relax and enjoy the views. Amazingly, none of these benches have been vandalized! The second thing that strikes you about Dale’s Trail is the terrific design work. 90% of this trail was laid out perfectly with comfortable grades and genuine Kodak moments around every turn.

Bridge Mountain, with its distinctive red stripe is majestic from any angle, but once you’re out on Dale’s Trail, you’ll gain a new appreciation of the mountain’s spirit. As you relax by yourself on a little wooden bench in one of many park-like settings, the only sounds you’re likely to hear are the occasional rustling of little critters in the brush and the wind moving down the mountain from Ice Box Canyon. You can see pine trees and grass bending in the distance, the wind, moving quickly across the base of the mountain suddenly grabs you, and then it’s gone.

Another good resting spot is scout leader Jacob Clayton’s memorial bench, situated high above Pine Creek Canyon, which features panoramic views of the escarpment, scenic drive and even Las Vegas in the distance. You’ll need these little resting places because this trail is a series of climbs in and out of six major ravines, some of which are fairly steep.

But that’s part of what makes Dale’s Trail so great–the unexpected vistas as you crest each hill and the lush canyon gardens in the washes below. Remember that I mentioned a unique point of interest? Dale’s Trail is home to Skull Rock. This huge boulder looks like it came directly from Treasure Island and landed out here in the Mojave Desert! If you haven’t seen this, it alone is worth the trip, and makes a perfect picnic spot with plenty of nice shady areas and another little wooden bench.

Dale’s Trail is delightful. It offers just about everything you could want in a hike: magnificent scenery, solitude, abundant wildlife, seasonal water and beautiful desert gardens. Remember to pack a hundred gallons of water and get ready for one of the best hikes at Red Rock Canyon. Dale’s Trail scores a full eight boots out of ten!

Disclaimer Of Liability:

With respect to images, data, and narrative posted at this website, Friends of Red Rock Canyon makes no warranty, express or implied, including the warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose, or assumes any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information, apparatus, product, or process disclosed, or represents that its use would not infringe privately owned rights. Friends of Red Rock Canyon shall not be liable in any way for loss or damage, of any kind, to you, or any other person, for any inaccuracy, error, omission, or delay in any information posted or otherwise transmitted over this website.

While the website tries to accurately describe places and routes, conditions change over time and sometimes mistakes are made. If something posted on this site seems wrong, assume it is wrong and tell us that it needs to be fixed. Wildlands are inherently dangerous — always rely on your own good judgment. You are responsible for your own safety.

Take a Hike – Children’s Discovery and Willow Springs Trails

friends of red rock canyon

By Tom Pfaendler

Chances are pretty good that your first hike in Red Rock Canyon was at Lost Creek. Well, this month we’re going to “kick it up a notch” and explore a trio of trails in this beautiful area. Your first stop however, should be at the visitors’ center to pick up your free copy of the Children’s Discovery Trail guide. Then, load up Aunt Edna and the kids in the mini-van and drive about seven miles around the loop until you find the Willow Springs turnoff and the Lost Creek parking lot.

The half-mile Children’s Discovery Trail that loops through this canyon is very diverse and accessible. You’ll also find that this is an incredibly popular area, but don’t let the crowds deter you from enjoying the rich experiences that lie just ahead. No special hiking gear is required for this easy walk, but remember, you are in the desert and each person should carry a bottle of water. OK, grab your trail guide and head out into the wash.

This is “hiking by the numbers” and you’ll be looking for guidepost #1. Even though this trail is rated “G” and is suitable for all ages, there is still plenty of good stuff for grown-ups, too. See if you can identify some of the plants and wildlife that are illustrated in the trail guide, and be sure to read the helpful interpretive signs that are posted along the way.

You’ll want to follow the “Lost Creek Route” near guidepost #5 that winds through a picturesque little grotto complete with a wooden park bench shaded by a huge Ponderosa pine tree. The path continues through a rock “tunnel” that takes you into a box canyon with a seasonal waterfall. If you’re careful, you can hike around behind the waterfall and then back down to the rock tunnel. Once you’re back on the main trail you’ll find yourself at guidepost #6 and entering the new boardwalk.

This structure was recently built to protect the fragile riparian area around Lost Creek, which incidentally is home to two very rare freshwater snails that are only found here in the Spring Mountain range! This new boardwalk actually blocks access to the area described by guidepost #7, so please respect this restriction and don’t try to go around the fences. Unfortunately, all of Lost Creek has been loved to death, and is now struggling to recover.

Those with a little more time who might like to explore this area further should go back to guidepost #3 and slide between the two big rocks to hike along the Willow Springs Trail. This is a higher path that follows the wash and offers some great views of White Rock Mountain. After a mile or so of easy and much less crowded hiking, you’ll end up in the popular Willow Springs picnic area, where you’ll find The Petroglyph Wall trailhead. This quick little tenth-mile trek leads to a nicely varnished wall that is adorned with a variety of petroglyphs and pictographs. This actually used to be a rock climbing area known as “Peaches”. The climbing route has been closed to protect the rock art but the name Peaches still “clings.”

The scenery in Lost Creek and Willow Springs is spectacular. I can only imagine what this place might have been like hundreds of years ago, before airplanes and SUV’s, before boom boxes and spray paint. It was probably as sweet and serene as anywhere on earth. Travel across time now. Pull up a rock along the trail, close your eyes, and fill your lungs with the sage and juniper scented air. Life is good here, no wonder it’s a popular place! Experience Lost Creek and have a very enjoyable day with family and friends. The hiking is pleasant and really not challenging at all. I would give the Lost Creek / Willow Springs experience a total score of five boots out of ten.

Disclaimer Of Liability:

With respect to images, data, and narrative posted at this website, Friends of Red Rock Canyon makes no warranty, express or implied, including the warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose, or assumes any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information, apparatus, product, or process disclosed, or represents that its use would not infringe privately owned rights. Friends of Red Rock Canyon shall not be liable in any way for loss or damage, of any kind, to you, or any other person, for any inaccuracy, error, omission, or delay in any information posted or otherwise transmitted over this website.

While the website tries to accurately describe places and routes, conditions change over time and sometimes mistakes are made. If something posted on this site seems wrong, assume it is wrong and tell us that it needs to be fixed. Wildlands are inherently dangerous — always rely on your own good judgment. You are responsible for your own safety.

Take a Hike – Caves Trail

By Tom Pfaendler

Have you ever wished that you could go back in time and hike a beautiful trail at Red Rock before anyone else found out about it? Well, keep reading and I’ll let you in on a “secret” trail. But first we must explore the famous “Caves Trail”.

One mile past the Red Rock entrance on Hwy 159 is a small parking lot for horseback riding and BLM day use. Park there, grab your hat, water and camera and hike up the hill toward the horse stables.

The trail turns into a dirt road as you approach the horses and you can follow the road to tip your hat to the cowboys or drop down into the wash and go around the stable if you prefer. As you continue over the culvert and along the hill you’ll notice a distinct black mountain directly ahead of you.

This is an important landmark so be sure to make a mental note of it. You might see a (faux) cave entrance high on your left crowned with colorful graffiti, and you may be tempted to climb up there to check it out. Don’t. Except for some broken middens it’s not worth it; save your energy for better things.

About ½ mile from the parking lot you will come to a rough staircase. Put your legs in four-wheel drive and start climbing… there are 102 wooden steps. There used to be 103 but for a recent “campfire”.

Once you get to the top, turn around and enjoy the unique view of Red Rock while you catch your breath (Kodak moment). Just beyond this point is a large grouping of rocks, which used to have a terrific pictograph of Bart Simpson until some energetic volunteers attempted to clean this place up. The main cave entrance is near the base of these rocks. Native Americans were not spelunkers because they didn’t see any reason to go down into the underworld. I personally tend to agree.

But if you’re determined to explore this cave (and there are several levels down there), you’ll need to crawl in with flashlights. BLM officials have told me that this cave has been completely destroyed by vandals at every level.

A little farther up the trail is the largest “cave” opening (and the scene of the campfire) as well as more graffiti and numerous beer bottles. Be sure to look up toward the top of this opening, and you’ll see a huge pack rat midden securely keeping its important historical records against all odds. If you decide to keep hiking around to the east wall there are some nice petrified tree stumps and other fossils to be discovered in the limestone.

Unfortunately, the “party” set has pretty much ruined this area for the rest of us; therefore the Caves Trail can barely muster a three-boot rating. However…

Remember the mental landmark? Scoot back down the hill until you’re standing in front of the black mountain. Look carefully; you’ll see another little trail going to the west around the mountain. Shhh… this is the secret trail. Follow it into the magnificent ravines of Blue Diamond Hill. This is a wonderful hike with lots of birds and perfect little cactus gardens. There is no graffiti, no litter, and no people! I can’t wait to go back. There is some moderate rock scrambling required but it’s oh, so worth it.

Just remember, don’t tell anyone about our secret seven-boot trail!

Disclaimer Of Liability:

With respect to images, data, and narrative posted at this website, Friends of Red Rock Canyon makes no warranty, express or implied, including the warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose, or assumes any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information, apparatus, product, or process disclosed, or represents that its use would not infringe privately owned rights. Friends of Red Rock Canyon shall not be liable in any way for loss or damage, of any kind, to you, or any other person, for any inaccuracy, error, omission, or delay in any information posted or otherwise transmitted over this website.

While the website tries to accurately describe places and routes, conditions change over time and sometimes mistakes are made. If something posted on this site seems wrong, assume it is wrong and tell us that it needs to be fixed. Wildlands are inherently dangerous — always rely on your own good judgment. You are responsible for your own safety.

Take a Hike – Calico Tank

By Tom Pfaendler

They were the wrong shoes. I really didn’t intend to hike to the Calico Tank on this particular day, so I wasn’t wearing my hundred-dollar, high-tech, waterproof, ankle-hugging hiking boots.

Nope, I was just standing there in my old scruffy Reeboks and official BLM volunteer wear, inspecting some fresh graffiti near the Sandstone Quarry parking lot, when a nice couple visiting from the Twin Cities struck up a conversation.

They were both teachers and keenly interested in everything Red Rock. The old hike leader instinct fired up and I started telling them the whole story beginning with the ancient sand dunes and ending with the modern graffiti we were standing on. From the parking lot we walked a short distance to the old sandstone quarry to see a big pile of 10-ton blocks that were quarried here in the early 1900’s.

There are beautiful red and white sandstone mountains, scented green pines and hardy desert oak surrounding the quarry. I discovered that this is really an excellent place to bring first time visitors because it’s easy to access, the scenery is gorgeous, the rocks are fun to climb and there is an abundance of horticultural, historical and cultural areas of interest. The Sandstone Quarry offers a terrific interpretive opportunity for a long-winded desert rat like me.

Of course I had to show my new friends the “prehistoric kitchen”, which is just northwest of the quarry. This is a well preserved agave roasting pit used centuries ago by the Native Americans. I explained how the large bowl-shaped pit was similar to the natural Tinaja’s (water tanks) in the Calico Hills just one mile to the east… and up a little bit. I did have plenty of water with me, so I thought it would be nice to lead them along the Calico Tank trail, which begins in the wash and heads east along a pine tree lined path directly into the heart of the Calico’s. After all, I didn’t want them to get lost!

This portion of the trail is well marked and incredibly beautiful with constantly changing colors and textures. The gravel path gives way to white sand, which eventually becomes red sand and finally leads to the deep red stones that serve as steps up to the tanks. If you were wearing the wrong shoes like me, this would be a pretty good spot to turn around, unless you were being encouraged by a couple of insatiable mid-westerners to “get to the tank”. It probably didn’t help that I had told them about a particularly nice petroglyph “up there”.

From this point on, the navigation of the hike can be a little tricky, but that’s a big part of the fun. If you take some time and use your best route-finding skills, you’ll be able to follow carefully crafted stone steps all the way to the top. If you happen to miss the “official” trail, it’s easy enough to pick your way along the sandstone toward the top of the hill. You’ll eventually wind up back on the proper route. Keep a sharp eye on the north wall about halfway to the top and you might spot the “sun” petroglyph. There’s something about a petroglyph that is magical to me. When I stop and study one, I always imagine the ancient artist standing in the same spot. He reaches out over time and space to look directly at me, and I just stand there looking back.

The persistent steps that are beginning to feel like a StairMaster workout, take you past the “Holiday Wall”. This is a shear and overhanging rock formation that is popular with the “ropes & bolts” set. You’ll know it by the various chalk marks all over its face. Lacing my sneakers up nice and tight, I lead my “group” on the final push toward the summit. Once at the top, the trail drops sharply down into a huge tinaja, which can be full of water, so enter and explore this area with caution. Alternatively, there is a high, wide shelf just above you and to the south that provides an easy walk to an overlook of Red Springs and the entire Las Vegas valley. This might be the perfect spot for a backpack picnic; plenty of room to stretch out, a great view, Turtlehead Peak looming overhead, and the knowledge that it’s all downhill from here!

I love the Calico Tank trail and hike here often in spite of the 15% to 20% grades. You don’t even need your fancy boots to do it. In fact, I have good information that the Native Americans came up here wearing only moccasins. This is a great outing and fully deserves a seven-boot (or seven-sneaker) rating!