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With easy access from Las Vegas, Calico Tanks is a great hike for families and hikers of all ages and abilities. This trail offers a short but interesting hike through the Calico Hills. Calico Tanks Trail includes some fun, and fairly easy scrambling over beautiful red sandstone formations. At the end of the trail, depending on the season, there may be water present in a Tinaja (natural water tank). There are great views from the tank but you can continue to scramble up to Calico Tanks Peak for an even better view of Red Rock Canyon. We hope you enjoy your adventure!
Time Required: 1-2 Hours
Location: 27km (17 miles) west of the Las Vegas Strip in Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area
Distance: 4km (2.5 miles) round trip
Highest Elevation: 1500m (4921ft)
Elevation Gain: 140m (450ft)
Season: Year round
Additional Requirements: N/A
From Las Vegas: Take Nevada State Route 159 5.5 miles west from the Las Vegas city limits and turn right onto Red Rock Canyon Scenic Loop Dr. The fee to enter the Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area is $7 dollar per vehicle. Once you have entered the Conservation Area, the Visitor’s Center is on your left. Drive along Scenic Loop Dr. approximately 4 miles and park at the Sandstone Quarry parking lot.
WHAT TO BRING
- Comfortable Footwear: A good comfortable pair of running shoes is all you need for this hike.
- Water: A couple bottles of water per hiker should suffice as this hike isn’t too long or strenuous.
- Snacks: Bring some of your favorite snacks to enjoy along the hike. Some of our favorite snacks are trail mix, bananas, beef jerky and licorice.
- Weather appropriate clothing: Temperatures can get up to 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) in the summertime. Shorts, a breathable long sleeve shirt, and a hat can help protect you from the sun and heat. In the winter, the temperature can drop below freezing and it is possible there will be snow. Check the weather forecast and plan accordingly.
- Sunscreen: If it is sunny, and you’re like Mattson, who easily burns, bring sunscreen!
- Camera: There are numerous photo opportunities you won’t want to miss along the way.
- This Guide: Print a copy of this guide to reference throughout the hike.
Wildlife: Watch where you put your hands and feet! Rattlesnakes, scorpions and venomous spiders may be taking shelter under rocks and shrubs where you can’t see. Never try to touch, collect or kill these animals.
Heat and Dehydration: In Red Rock Canyon there is little shade and the days can be very hot. Limit sun exposure during the hottest parts of the day. Appropriate clothing such as a hat and long sleeve shirt can protect your skin from the sun as well as reduce the risk of dehydration. The hot weather increases your need for fluid intake. Ensure you are hydrating throughout the day, don’t wait until you’re thirsty to start drinking.
Flash Floods: Avoid hiking in canyons during rainstorms and move to higher ground. Due to the topography of the area, flash flooding can occur very quickly. Do not attempt to drive or walk through water flowing across a road or trail.
Leave No Trace: It is important that we enjoy the outdoors responsibly and sustainably. Some key principles to consider when hiking to “Leave No Trace” are:
- Plan ahead and prepare: Proper planning allows adventurers to hike safely while minimizing damage to the land.
- Travel on durable surfaces: Stick to the trail when possible. If there is no trail, or you must travel off trail, stay on durable surfaces to reduce your impact.
- Dispose of waste properly: Pack it in, pack it out.
- Leave what you find: Leave rocks, plants, archaeological artifacts and other objects of interest as you find them.
- Respect wildlife: Observe wildlife from a distance. Never feed wild animals.
- Be considerate of other visitors: Be courteous to others to allow everyone to enjoy their outdoor experience.
To learn more about “Leave No Trace” visit http://www.leavenotrace.ca
Summary: Calico Tanks Trail starts off at the Sandstone Quarry Parking Lot. The hike heads north from the parking lot to a signed fork in the trail. From the fork, the Calico Tanks Trail heads into the Calico Hills where it winds overtop and through unique sandstone formations. The official trail ends at an overlook of a large natural water tank but you can scramble from there to the summit of Calico Tanks Peak.
From the Sandstone Quarry Parking Lot (Route marker #1 on the map), follow the trail from the north side of the lot.
The trail is well signed. After about 2km (1.3 miles) there will be a fork in the trail splitting the Calico Tanks Trail from Turtlehead Peak (Route marker #2 on the map). Stay right and follow the Calico Tanks Trail east.
The trail becomes less defined as you make your way into the Calico Hills. There are a few sandstone ramps and stairs as you make your way along the intermittent trail. You will need to partake in some basic scrambling and climbing over rocks which adds to the enjoyment of this beautiful hike.
After a bit of climbing, the Tinaja (natural water tank) will come into view (Route marker #3 on the map). The amount of water in the tank depends on the season, it can be dry in the summer months or frozen in the winter.
The tank is a great spot to take a break, have a snack, and enjoy the vantage point. The view looking back to the west (the direction you came from) is especially spectacular.
The Tinaja is the end of the official Calico Tanks Trail. If you’re up for an additional challenge and some more adventuring you can scramble to the summit of Calico Tanks Peak. From the Tinaja, there is no marked trail to the summit. The easiest route is to head northeast around the tank and begin scrambling up the sandstone face.
An American Flag marks the summit (Route marker #4 on the map). At the flag, a box containing a “Sign In Registry” and a collection of items left by previous hikers await you. Sign in and enjoy the scenic vista before returning to Sandstone Quarry Parking Lot by retracing your steps back down the same trail.
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Have fun out there!