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Turtlehead Peak Trail is an 8km (5 mile) round trip hike in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. This steep, well-travelled trail is one of the most difficult day hikes in Red Rock Canyon. The climb can be quite strenuous, but the beautiful view from the peak is well worth it. Intermediate level scrambling and loose rocks along the trail add to the difficulty of this hike. Red Rock Canyon is just a short drive from Las Vegas and this hike is a great option for those wanting to get away from Sin City for a day of adventure.
Time Required: 3-4 Hours
Location: 27km (17 miles) west of the Las Vegas Strip in Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area
Distance: 8km (5 miles) round trip
Highest Elevation: 1932m (6300ft)
Elevation Gain: 550m (1800ft)
Difficulty: 6/10 – Rapid elevation gain
Season: Year round
Additional Requirements: N/A
From Las Vegas: Take Nevada State Route 159n5.5 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: This hike includes lots of elevation gain and there is no shade from the sun. Bring at minimum a couple water bottles each to stay hydrated.
- 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: Turtlehead Peak Trail starts at the Sandstone Quarry parking lot. The trail heads north from the parking lot to a signed fork in the road. From the fork the Turtlehead Peak Trail heads north towards Turtlehead Mountain. The trail then climbs in elevation up the side of the mountain and eventually approaches the summit from the north. The peak offers an incredible panoramic view of the entire Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area.
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 left and follow the Turtlehead Peak Trail north.
As you gain elevationthe trail becomes less defined. Although the final destination at the top of Turtlehead Mountain is always within sight, there are various trails of different difficulties to reach the peak. Periodic blue paint markers will help guide you along the easiest and most well defined route to the peak. The blue markings begin once the trail starts to gain elevation (Route marker #3 on the map) and you follow them for the remainder of the hike.
The trail will take you west of the summit and you will make your final approach to the north side of the peak from the east. From there, scramble up a short steep section south to reach the true summit. (Route marker #4 on the map).
Once you reach the summit, take a well-earned break and enjoy the views. There is lots of room at the top to relax, eat lunch, sign the Summit Registry, hang your feet over the cliff edge and take in the view.
When you are ready to begin the return journey follow the same trail back to Sandstone Quarry Parking Lot that you approached on.
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Have fun out there!