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 – 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!

Take a Hike – Arnight Loop

By Tom Pfaendler

Pop a cork and pour champagne on this issue of The Desert Trumpet to welcome “Boot Tracks”, a monthly look at trails in and around Red Rock Canyon. This month’s subject, The Arnight Loop Trail is really comprised of the Arnight Trail, the Knoll Trail and the North Oak Creek Canyon Trail.

Finding the trail head is easy; just drive about twelve miles around the loop, then take that last bumpy dirt road on the right marked Oak Creek Canyon, and follow it to the parking area. The Arnight trail head is to the north and is well marked. The sign gives this route a difficulty rating of “moderate”, although it’s really somewhat easier than that. It reminds me of the Children’s Discovery Trail, only longer.

The Arnight Trail is built for two, plenty wide with a natural tread that’s not too rocky. There are some nice sandy washes and the grade is an easy 7% so you’ll hardly break a sweat over its 1.6-mile length.

The second and longest leg is the Knoll Trail, which is probably more deserving of the “moderate” rating. The path narrows and is rockier with some grades to 15%. I would still recommend it even to beginning hikers because the trail winds through some heavy vegetation and deeper washes to top out around 300 feet above the parking area. The panoramic view from the top of the rock staircase is really nice and makes a good photo spot. Total length of The Knoll Trail is marked as 1.9 miles.

The last leg of this loop is the North Oak Creek Canyon Trail. If you feel like taking a little side trip, turn right (west) and hike into Oak Creek Canyon; it’s stunningly beautiful. Otherwise turn left for a quick one-mile descent down the old rocky jeep trail back to the parking lot.

The Arnight Loop Trail is one of those wonderful garden areas at Red Rock. At every turn there are new and more beautiful groupings of rocks and cacti. A plethora of Mojave Desert plants are represented along this path. Be sure to allow enough time to enjoy the walk and take in the quiet beauty. Since there isn’t much shelter on this trail, I recommend that you go early in the day, wear a hat, take your camera and of course lots of water. I like the Arnight Loop Trail. While it doesn’t have the jaw dropping beauty of Ice Box Canyon or the sporty fun of the Calico Tank, it does provide a fairly easy and very interesting morning stroll through the desert.

I would give it a rating 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 – Potato Knoll

By Norm Kresge

Potato Knoll is a hike of about 4.5 miles round trip. It’s not a standard out-and-back hike but one that goes to the base of the Potato Knoll, loops around the knoll, and then returns on the same trail to the parking area.

There are a couple of ways to do this hike. The best way is to park along SR 159 at the first dirt parking area past the exit from the Scenic Drive (about ¼ mile past the exit). The trail heads toward the knoll — the Potato Knoll that is sometimes called Wilson’s Pimple.

The first part of the hike is on an old road. About ¾ of a mile out as you head toward Oak Creek, the trail forks to the left. Follow this fork as you hike across the fl at part of this area and then down some steps that bring you to Oak Creek.

There may be water depending on the time of year. After crossing the creek, the trail continues until you come to a large juniper tree where the trail meets another one. Follow the trail to the right and it will bring you around to an area where you’ll have some elevation gain and some rocky going.

Along this part, you’ll pass the remnants of a wooden sled that was used to haul sandstone out of the area when there was a quarrying operation here.  A little later, you’ll pass some petrified wood off the trail on your right side at the crest of this uphill section. For the next part of the hike, you’ll be going along the base of the knoll and the terrain is flat.

When you get to the far side of the knoll, you head to the right as you meet the Oak Creek Trail that comes in from the highway. Keep right and you have a short rise to hike up. In this area, you can see the remnants of a concrete entryway for Rhea’s Quarry operation.  If you’re interested, you can read more about this quarrying in Seekers, Saints & Scoundrels: The
Colorful Characters of Red Rock Canyon.

When you reach the high point on this side of the knoll, you’re at a place that’s good to take a break and have a snack.

In front of you is a view of Oak Creek Canyon and the area has a lot of juniper and some pine. Continuing on the trail, you’ll see it fork to the right. Take that right turn and follow it and you’ll join a trail that comes from Oak Creek. Stay to your right and keep going around the knoll.

You will cross Oak Creek two or three times. This part of the creek is more likely to have water in the spring. After another mile or so, you come back to that juniper tree you saw when you came to the trail junctions. Turn left here and this will bring you back to the old road where you make a right and head back to your car.

This is a cooler weather hike with some shade at the snack area. Remember to take enough water.

Hiking boots are best for this trail although I’ve seen people hike it in sneakers.

One of the bonuses of this hike is you don’t have to drive the Scenic Drive after you’re done to get back to Las Vegas. It’s also a less used trail and you’re not as likely to see many other people.

Happy Hiking!

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 – Half Wilson Trail

By Norm Kresge

If you’re looking for a four-mile-loop hike that is relatively easy, Half Wilson Trail is just the hike for you. The trail head is along Calico Basin Road. The trail is for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding and I’ve seen all three on the trail.

Starting from the trail head, there are two options—one is to go up the hill almost straight ahead. The easier way is to take the trail that goes off to the right and then up a gradual incline to the top of the ridge. The trail continues, descending to a wash below.

Here you’ll meet a trail coming from the left. Stay to the right and follow the trail along a ridge called Peak 3844. The name of this ridge is simply the elevation. There is a wide variety of desert   flora including cholla, yucca, black brush and creosote bushes.

As you round Peak 3844, there will be an option for a side trip. If you follow the trail that goes to the right across the wash, it will ascend a short section. From the top of that ridge, you’ll have a view of Las Vegas in the distance. Return the same way you came and rejoin the Half Wilson Trail when you get back to the wash.

The trail crosses the power line road that goes into Calico Basin but don’t follow the road. If you watch, you’ll see the trail follow the west side of Peak 3844. The trail rises gently for most of the way, but there are a couple of less gentle hills to ascend before the last one that brings you back to your car.

Besides the desert plants, especially nice in the spring when the yucca are blooming and there are some desert marigolds, you will have good views of the escarpment at Red Rock Canyon, Calico Basin, Gateway Canyon and Kraft Mountain.

The easy nature of this loop makes it a perfect place to hike with the less experienced person or someone who doesn’t want to be challenged too much. As a side note, I didn’t know this trail had an official name. If you look on Google Maps, you can see the trail and plan your route.

Getting to the trailhead:

Follow SR 159, Charleston Boulevard, toward Red Rock Canyon and turn right onto Calico Basin Road. In about 1/3 mile, you’ll come to a wash. Park on the right side. There is ample parking. You’ll know you’re at the trail head when you see a large boulder and a Carsonite sign that says Area Closed to motorized vehicles.

Happy hiking!

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.

Red Rock Canyon’s Scenic Drive

Bureau of Land Management

Red Rock Canyon’s 13-Mile Scenic Drive doubles as a back country byway. It is a 13-mile, paved, one-way scenic drive that passes through arid desert landscapes, red and buff colored rock formations, beautiful sandstone and limestone cliffs that reach elevations of 7,000 feet.

Not only is the scenic drive beautiful for visitors in motorized vehicles it is also very popular for bicyclists, photographers, joggers and walkers. The road allows for safe travel as it is very wide and traffic is required to travel one-way. Many pull outs provide parking so you can explore the desert on one of the many trails Red Rock has to offer. You may also see visitors getting ready to backpack into the back country, go horseback riding, or traversing the many rock formations by rock climbing.  Watching the rock climbers has enthused and entertained many visitors over the years.

The scenic drive opens at 6 a.m. every day of the year unless Mother Nature provides a flash flood from seasonal rainstorms or the occasional snow storm. The scenic drive closes around sunset – 5 p.m. November through February; 7 p.m. March and October and 8 p.m. April through September 30.

Follow posted speed limits so you can be safe as well as protect other visitors and wildlife. If parking lots are full please do not create your own parking spot by parking off the road and onto vegetation. These plants are native to the arid Mojave Desert of Red Rock and can take decades to regrow. We recommend that you continue to a new parking area or enjoy the drive in its entirety and enter later in the day as your amenity fee receipts are good for the entire day.

Be Safe Hiking the Trails of Red Rock Canyon

Bureau of Land Management 

This primer from BLM is a great introduction to the major trails, especially along the Scenic Loop.

But before hiking, please consider these key safety recommendations:

Please stay on established trails in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. Cutting across switchbacks damages soils and plants, and severely damages the trail. Thin black crusts of moss and lichen cover open areas and protect desert soils from wind and rain erosion; any foot traffic quickly destroys the crusts which heal very slowly.  If is it necessary to hike off trail, hikers should spread out in small groups, and hike on rock areas as much as possible. 

Each year people are lost, injured, and sometimes killed while visiting Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. For your safety, please follow these simple rules: 

  • When hiking, stay on established trails and watch your footing at all times.  Steep slopes and cliff edges are dangerous. 
  • Do not roll or throw rocks and other items from high places; other visitors may be below you. 
  • Watch for snakes on the rocks. 
  • Temperatures can exceed 110 °F (41 °C) in Red Rock Canyon.  Drink four liters of water per day in the summer, but do not drink untreated water as it may be contaminated. Carry water on your hike, at least a gallon per person per day in the summer. 
  • Avoid drainages after thunderstorms or severe weather because of flash floods. Stay away from high points during thunderstorms; lightning can kill. 
  • Wildlife may appear to be tame, but may attack if threatened.  Stay a safe distance away while observing animals. 
  • Watch children closely; they often do not recognize potential dangers. 
  • The burros at Red Rock Canyon are not domesticated animals and can be dangerous.  Do not feed or pet the burros.  Feeding burros encourages these animals to congregate on roadways where many have been killed and injured by vehicles.  To observe these animals safely: pick a safe place to stop; pull completely off the roadway, observe the burros from a distance.  Staying in your car is the safest way to photograph and observe the burros. 
  • To protect resources, please do not collect plants, rock specimens, fossils, or disturb the wildlife. 
  • Let someone know where you will be hiking. There is a voluntary hiker’s registration at the visitor center. 
  • Dress appropriately; wear footwear suitable for hiking and consider wearing a hat. 
  • Be aware of the weather.  Mountain thunderstorms can cause flash flooding in the canyons and nearby washes. 
  • Please, if you pack it in, pack it out and dispose of properly. 
  • Be aware of the closure hours for the scenic drive. 

The following is a brief list of the more popular hikes in the area. It is best to carry a map of the area.  Maps of the Red Rock Canyon  are available for sale at the bookstore in the visitor center.  

You also now can access a Georeferenced PDF maps. Download them in advance, because most of the trails may not have Internet access.  Click here for instructions.

To reserve space for guided hikes by our partner, Southern Nevada Conservancy, click here.

 

HIKING TRAILS IN THE SCENIC DRIVE VICINITY  

 

  1. MOENKOPI LOOP: Triassic fossils and various desert flora can be seen on this open country trail which starts at the visitor center just west of the weather monitoring station and traverses a prominent limestone ridge. In addition to panoramic views of the Wilson Cliffs, there are connecting trails to the Calico Hills area (2 mileloop, easy). 

 

  1. CALICO HILLS: This trail runs along the base of the Calico Rocks from Calico Basin to Sandstone Quarry. Distance is variable since the trail can be accessed at either end or from either of the two Calico parking areas. A side trail runs from the fee booth parking lot and connects with this trail (distance variable, easy to moderate).

 

  1. CALICO TANKS: From Sandstone Quarry the trail heads north from its junction with the Turtlehead Peak Trail to just past the Agave roasting pit site. Just beyond this site, the trail veers up a side canyon to the right where it follows ascending rock terraces to a large natural water tank (tinaja). Water may be present in the tanks after seasonal rains. (2.5 miles round trip, moderately strenuous, rock scrambling androute finding skills recommended). 

 

  1. TURTLEHEAD PEAK: From Sandstone Quarry the trail heads north over a narrow rise, in and out of a wash, then continues for a short distance along the northwest side of Turtlehead Peak. Scramble up a ravine to the saddle and follow the steep ridge to the top. The trail is intermittent and composed of loose rock. (5 miles round trip, very strenuous).

 

  1. KEYSTONE THRUST: From upper White Rock Springs parking lot take the trail north across the wash, and up the hill. The Keystone Thrust trail ” T’s” off the La Madre Springs loop to the right approximately 1/4 mile from the parking lot. Take the right fork up the stairs to where it then joins an old jeep road, continuing uphill to the left. The trail traverses a low ridge, heads down into a small canyon, onto the Keystone Thrust Fault where the gray limestone meets the red and tan sandstone. (2.2 miles round trip, moderate hike).

 

  1. WHITE ROCK TO WILLOW SPRINGS: From the upper parking lot at White Rock Springs, take the trail on the west side to where it splits. The trail to the right descends to a guzzler (man madewater hole). The trail to the left heads downhill and through a wash, then climbs over a ridge and drops you into the Lost Creek area (2 miles). From there it is only a short distance to Willow Springs. Starting from Willow Springs, just reverse the previous instructions. (4.4 miles round trip, easy to moderate hike). 

 

  1. 7. WHITE ROCK/LA MADRE SPRINGS LOOP: This trail can be started at White Rock Springs or WillowSprings, andcan be done in either direction. By starting at Willow Springs, hikers can deal with the steep climb to White Rock near the beginning of the hike, rather than at the end. When you come to a fork with a sign reading “White Rock Springs 2.2 miles”, take the uphill trail to the left. Follow it to White Rock upper parking lot, continuing east from the lot. When the trail forks, go left and follow the trail until it intersects an old dirt road. Follow that road downhill to where it forks to the left, returning you to Willow Springs, or right to La Madre Spring. (6 miles round trip, moderate). 

 

  1. LOST CREEK CHILDREN’S DISCOVERY TRAIL: From the Lost Creek parking area, take the trail to the right. The Willow Springs Loop intersects this trail and shares it until it splits off at Site #3. Continue on this loop until just beyond Site #4, where another path heads uphill to a seasonal waterfall. Return by the same route. This popular trail may be crowded at times as it is used by many school groups. (.7 mileround trip, easy). 

 

  1. WILLOW SPRINGS LOOP: From the parking lot, follow the trail by the pit toilets south. This takes you past a pictograph site and Agave roasting pits, to the Lost Creek Parking lot. There the trail heads to the right to where the two trails fork, at Site #3. Bear to the right and continue to the Willow Springs Parking lot. Part of this trail is paved and is readily accessible from the parking lot. (1. 5 miles round trip, easy).

 

  1. LA MADRE SPRINGS: From the Willow Springs Parking lot, walk the dirt road west up the canyon, cross a wash and go to the right when the road splits. Continue uphill to the dam, then follow the foot trail to the springs. Return to Willow Springs the same way. (3 miles round trip, moderate).

 

  1. SMYC TRAIL: This trail can be accessed from either Lost Creek or Ice Box Trail. It follows the terrain at the base of the escarpment and connects the two trails mentioned above. (2. 2 miles round trip, moderate).

 

  1. 12. ICE BOX CANYON: From the parking lot, the trail heads down across the wash and up the other side toward the canyon. The trail is well defined as it leads you up the side of the canyon for approximately 1/4 of a mile. It then drops into the bottom of the canyon. From this point the trail becomes a route over or around boulders as it continues upstream. The official trail ends at the large ponderosa pine tree in the bottom of the canyon (2. 5 miles round trip). To reach the upper pool filled by a seasonal waterfall, be prepared for some tricky wall scrambling, and a3 mileround trip. Return to the parking lot the same way. (moderately strenuous). 

 

  1. 13. DALE’S TRAIL: This trail can be accessed from either Ice Box Trail or Pine Creek Trail. It follows the terrain at the base of the escarpment and connects the two above mentioned trails. (4.4 mileround trip, moderate). 

 

  1. PINE CREEK CANYON: Take the trail downhill from the parking lot, following it toward the canyon. The trail is intersected twice by the Fire Ecology Trail and by Dale’s Trail, then forks near the old Wilson homestead foundation. This part of the trail is a loop and is easier to follow to the left where it goes downhill, across a stream, then uphill to the intersection of theArnight Trail. Continue up the canyon crossing the wash, and eventually return to the main trail on the opposite side of the homestead. Follow it back to the parking lot. (2. 9 mile round trip, moderate). 

 

  1. 15. FIRE ECOLOGY TRAIL: This double-loop trail, accessed via the Pine Creek Trail, exits and enters the Pine Creek Trail from the south. Take the trail to the left heading toward the escarpment, across a bridge and over a rise to enter the second loop. Return across the same bridge and follow the trail back to the Pine Creek Trail. (.75 miles round trip, easy).

 

  1. OAK CREEK CANYON TRAIL: Take the Oak Creek turnoff from the scenic loop drive to a small parking lot. The trail heads across the open desert to the mouth of Oak Creek Canyon. (2 miles round trip, easy).

 

  1. ARNIGHT TRAIL: TheArnight Trail connects the Oak Creek parking lot with the end loop on Pine Creek Trail. Starting at the parking lot, across from the Oak Creek Trail head, it heads toward the escarpment gaining elevation until it joins the Pine Creek Trail just above the loop junction. Approximately 1/2 mile before the trail connects with Pine Creek, another trail called the Knoll Trail intersects it on the left. (2. 4 miles round trip, moderate). 

 

  1. KNOLL TRAIL: This trail links the upper sections of theArnight Trail and the Oak Creek Trail, following the base of the escarpment and will eventually connect with First Creek Trail. (1.9 mile one-way, easy to moderate). You can combine this trail with the Oak Creek and Arnight Trails for a 3. 5 mile round trip, moderate hike. 

 

  1. FIRST CREEK CANYON TRAIL: Take Charleston Blvd. (State Route 159), south of the scenic loop terminus, for 2.6 miles to the First Creek Trailhead. The trail leads to the mouth of the canyon, following the left side of the wash for a distance; some rock scrambling is required thereafter. Seasonal waterfalls can be found in the canyon. (2 .5 miles round trip, moderately strenuous).

 

  1. GRAND CIRCLE ADVENTURE: This trail starts at the fee booth parking area, heads toward the Calico Hills Trail and onto Sandstone Quarry, then continues on to the White Rock Springs upper parking lot. From there, it heads down the hill toward Willow Springs, but veers to the left at a junction on top of the ridge. It then crosses the scenic loop drive and continues downhill to the visitor center. (11 miles round trip, strenuous).

 

  1. ESCARPMENT BASE TRAIL: A combination of the SMYC, Dale’s andArnight trails, this is a good one-way hike or a more adventurous round-trip. The one-way version requires parking a vehicle in Lost Creek and car pooling down to the Oak Creek parking area. (5. 2 miles one way; moderate). The round trip version can be done from either end. (10. 4 miles round trip, strenuous). 

 

  1. OVERLOOK TRAIL: This paved path leads to the top of a small hill behind the helicopter pad, and is easily accessible from the parking lot, providing a marvelous view of Red Rock Canyon and the escarpment. (.25 mileround trip, easy to moderate, wheelchair accessible). 

 

  1. BRIDGE MOUNTAIN TRAIL: This difficult trail is accessed from the summit of Rocky Gap Road.  4X4 vehicle is required.