- Home - Hiking Trails - Las Vegas Hikes Hike Calico Tanks Trail at Red Rock Canyon
The Calico Tanks Trail hike is one of the most popular in Red Rock Canyon. It's challenging without being too hard; the trail takes you through beautiful sandstone formations to a desert watering hole with views of Las Vegas.
2.3 miles (3.7 km)
Sand Trails & Some Scrambling
Watering holes, views of Las Vegas
Calico Tanks Trail Hike Trail Maps
Google Maps trailhead:
Sandstone Quarry Overlook, Las Vegas, NV, 89161, USA Hike Location The Calico Tanks Trail hike is about 45 minutes away from the Las Vegas strip in Red Rock Canyon park. Trailhead parking is at the Sandstone Quarry Overlook. 3D Hike Map The trail heads up the wash, then turns off and makes its way up into the Calico Hills. Hike Elevation Profile This chart is a little deceiving because the distance is so short. You'll hike and scramble up about 500 feet as you make your way to the Calico Tanks. Interactive Hike Map Calico Tanks Trail Hike Map Downloads View a Printable PDF Hike Map Download the Hike GPX File Calico Tanks Trail Hike Directions What to Expect The Calico Tanks Trail is in the popular Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. It’s about 35 minutes from the Las Vegas strip and a great option if you need a break from the city. There’s a fee to enter Red Rock Canyon, or you can use a National Parks Pass to get in for free. When you first enter Red Rock Canyon, the Visitor’s Center is worth a stop. They have some nice exhibits and a decent gift shop with hiking books. The trailhead, which is in the Sandstone Quarry parking lot, is currently under renovation and you can’t park there (until Sep 2017). There are some parking spaces on the side of the road, or you can park at the Calico 2 parking lot. The visitor center told me “you can park on the side of the road unless you see a ‘no parking’ sign.” There are no signs immediately around the Sandstone Quarry parking lot construction area. The hike parking is off of the 13 mile one-way Scenic Loop Road. The loop road is fun and offers lots of scenic rest areas and overviews. There are also many other trails in the park to check out. The trail is relatively easy but there are a few small rock scrambles to climb up. It’s nothing on the side of a cliff or anything treacherous, but it does require some climbing. There are bathrooms at the trailhead. This hike can be popular, so try to do it at an off-peak time. You’re in the Mojave desert, the summers can be dangerously hot and the winters can be cold. Prepare appropriately and bring plenty of water either way. Turn by Turn Hike Directions The Sandstone Quarry parking lot is easy to find and is on the map you get at the visitor’s center. There are bathrooms in the parking lot here. A few trails leave from the trailhead at the end of the parking lot. The Turtlehead Peak and Calico Tanks share the same trail in the beginning. The trail is wide and easy to spot. Head up the trail with Turtlehead Peak looming in front of you. Shortly after the start of the hike, you’ll reach the Sandstone Quarry. The quarry is on your right, the trail to your left. The quarry has some abandoned blocks and an interpretive display. It’s worth a look. Continue back to the trail when you’re finished. The trail is clearly marked to the left the Sandstone Quarry area. Head towards Turtlehead Peak and Calico Tanks. Another trail marker makes it easy to follow the path. Shortly after that, the trail splits. Head right to Calico Tanks. The trail is well defined and easy to follow in the beginning. Shortly after the split, you’ll see the Native American roasting pit interpretive sign to your left. The trail continues to the right, but the pit is worth looking at for a minute. The agave roasting pit is not much to look at, but neat none the less. It was used by the Southern Paiute. Roasted agave allegedly tastes like steamed asparagus. Please respect the site and don’t touch or disturb anything. After the agave pit, continue on the trail, avoiding heading up the wash by following the signs and markers. Here you start to get a preview of the sandstone formations that you’ll soon hike through. One last trail marker before you enter the Calico Hills proper. Head to the left here. Or you can head to the right. You’ll find that from here on out, there can be trail splits that come back together eventually. Defaulting to the trail that looks the most used is usually a good bet. The sand trail starts to end and it gets more rocky with multi-colored sandstone. Here’s where the scrambling starts. Climb up the rocks. Sometimes there are cairns to help you pick the route out. In general, look toward the left for a path up on the scramble sections. There’s always a path up the rocks as you scramble. If you dead end or encounter an extreme climb or wall, backtrack and try another route. There are no mandatory walls to scramble up over 4-5 feet in general. As you climb, keep your eyes open for the incredible rock formations. It feels like you are in another world. Most of the smooth rock and different formations are a result of water pouring down this canyon during deluges over thousands of years. Pick your way up through the boulders, looking for smaller boulders to step up as you hike. Occasionally you’ll have a nice stone staircase to hike up. This shot gives you a good idea of the typical scramble that you have to do. At the point where there’s a high red sandstone cliff, look to the left for the staircase up. Remember this on the way back down, this part can be tricky to find on the way back. After that intense section of scrambling, the trail becomes more of a trail again. Look for rock stairs or heavy use to pick the right route. Every time I do this hike I see a ton of lizards. Keep your eyes open. One last stretch before you reach the Calico Tanks. You made it! Depending on the water height, you can explore around the Calico Tank. Tank is the anglo version of ‘tinaja’ which is term originating in the American Southwest for surface pockets formed by water erosion. As you explore the area, there are a few highlights. There is a bluff to the left that offers nice views. The trail on the right heads down to the water. The gap at the far side offers views into Las Vegas. Be quiet as your arrive, you might spot some wildlife. There are desert bighorn sheep who visit here occasionally (I only saw this once very early). The pool often has tadpoles and small minnows. Here’s a view into Las Vegas from the gap at Calico Tanks.
When you’ve had your fill of exploring Calico Tanks, just head back the way you came. The scramble can be tricky in reverse, so take your time and make sure you’re going the right way (the GPX file helps). Don’t be ashamed to shimmy down some rocks on your butt if you have to. It’s all part of the fun.
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Hike Turtlehead Peak Trail
One of the best hikes in Red Rock Canyon, the Turtlehead Peak hike is tough but rewards you with sweeping 360 views of Las Vegas and the surrounding La Madre mountains. The trail to Turtlehead Peak the shortest peak hike in Red Rock Canyon park, so be prepared for a workout and some crowds. It’s worth it, the views are incredible.
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Las Vegas isn’t really known as a hiking city, but it should be. You have incredible desert hikes in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area and Lake Mead National Recreation Area, big mountains like Mt Charleston, and then fun local hikes that are minutes away from the strip. If you need a an outdoors fix to counteract a booze filled night out on the town, there’s a ton of great trail options.
Read More A quick note. These directions are meant as a guide for the hike, and not a definitive source. Conditions change, and the information here can be different based on time of day, weather, season, etc. There can be small side trails that you might see but I missed. I have made every effort to include all the information you need to complete the hike successfully. I recommend using this guide in conjunction with a map, GPX file, common sense, and call to the ranger station or park office. If you do the hike and notice something has changed, please contact me and I will update the guide.
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