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Ice Box Canyon is a great hike for a hot summer day. The narrow walls of the canyon stand hundreds of feet high and provide shade that keeps the canyon cooler than the surrounding desert. Depending on the season, Ice Box Canyon can contain beautiful streams and waterfalls flowing down the back of the canyon. The view looking through the canyon back toward Red Rock Conservation Area is unique and really highlights the distant red colored rock of the Calico Hills. As you hike through the canyon, there is boulder hopping and scrambling opportunities that make this hike both challenging and enjoyable.
Time Required: 2-4 Hours
Location: 27km (17 miles) west of the Las Vegas Strip in Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area
Distance: 5km (2.5 miles) round trip
Highest Elevation: 1532m (5026ft)
Elevation Gain: 352m (1154ft)
Difficulty: 6+/10 – Boulder hopping and scrambling are required to get to the pools. Very advanced technical scrambling is required to climb higher in the Canyon.
Season: Year round (December to March for best views of waterfall)
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: Hiking shoes. Make sure your shoes are broken in prior to tackling this hike to prevent unexpected blisters. You could get away with runners but having extra grip on the rock surfaces will definitely come in handy!
- Water: Bring two bottles of water per person to stay hydrated while you explore the canyon.
- 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.
Scrambling: Walking or climbing up steep terrain that requires the use of ones hands is considered scrambling. Scrambling does not require the use of specific climbing equipment such as ropes or harnesses and for this reason exposed scrambling can be very dangerous. Stay within your limits when scrambling, and always keep in mind that it is often easier to scramble up a rock face then climb back down it.
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: The starting point for this hike is at the Ice Box Canyon Parking Lot. From there a well-travelled trail heads west across the desert to the mouth of the canyon. Once inside the canyon, the trail gets a little more difficult to follow. You will have to climb over large boulders and crouch under some low hanging tree branches as you head deeper into the canyon. At the far end of the Canyon, depending on season, you will come to a series of waterfalls and pools. From here there is the ability to scramble higher up in the Canyon to get an extraordinary view looking back toward where you came from.
The trail begins at mile 8 on the 13-Mile Scenic Drive at the Ice Box Canyon Parking Lot (Route marker #1 on the map). From the lot follow the well-traveled trail that heads west towards the mountains. It’s best to start this hike early in the day as you are exposed to the hot sun until you enter the canyon.
Once in the canyon, the trail gets more difficult to follow and there is some tricky rock hopping required. The trail isn’t well marked but if you stay in the wash weaving your way around boulders west into the canyon, you’re headed the right direction. A large fallen Ponderosa Pine is a landmark (Route marker #2 on the map) along the trial that will let you know you’re headed the right way.
From the Ponderosa Pine the canyon forks left (south) and right (north). Stay left on the trail and after about a 5-minute walk you will reach a small pool of water. The rocks around the pool have been polished by water for hundreds of year and are very slippery so watch your footing.
Continue around the first pool as there is another pool and waterfall a short scramble above (Route marker #3 on the map). At this point the trail hits a dead end but it is a scenic spot to enjoy a snack, take a break and enjoy the view looking back at the canyon.
If you are extra adventurous and an experienced scrambler, you can trace your way back to the Ponderose Pine and head north. Not far from the Ponderosa Pine on the north side of the canyon there are some ropes anchored in place (Route marker #4 on the map). These can be of assistance on the way down if you choose to continue climbing up the canyon wall.
From here on there is no marked route higher up the canyon wall. If you enjoy free climbing, there is the ability to get above the waterfall at the pools visited earlier, but it requires some very technical climbing. DO NOT climb higher than what you feel comfortable with and keep in mind that it is often easier to climb up something than back down it.
After some intense climbing up the canyon wall the view looking back from the canyon to Red Rock Canyon is stunning and an awesome reward for the hard work required to get to this point. Be extra cautious on the return journey as climbing down the canyon wall can be as difficult if not more difficult than the climb up.
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