Hike Calico Tanks Trail

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.

Rating:
4.5 / 5
Distance:
2.3 miles (3.7 km)
Time:
2 hours
Difficulty:
Moderate
Climbing:
570 ft (174 m)
Trail Condition:
Sand Trails & Some Scrambling
Challenges:
Crowds
People:
Moderate to Busy
Known For:
Watering holes, views of Las Vegas
Best Time:
Early
Dogs:
Leashed
Bathrooms:
Yes
Parking:
Lot
Park Website:
Hike Weather:

Calico Tanks Trail Hike Trail Maps

Google Maps trailhead:
Sandstone Quarry Overlook, Las Vegas, NV, 89161, USA

Hike Location

Hike Calico Tanks Trail 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

Hike Calico Tanks Trail 3d map
The trail heads up the wash, then turns off and makes its way up into the Calico Hills.

Hike Elevation Profile

Hike Calico Tanks Trail elevation
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

Download a GPX file to use on your GPS device. GPS devices are great to plan and follow routes, and there are tons of free electronic hiking maps that you can use. But don't rely solely on electronic navigation, always have a paper backup. Print out the PDF below, get a topo map, and/or print these directions.

View a Printable PDF Hike MapDownload the Hike GPX File

Calico Tanks Trail Hike Directions

Hike Calico Tanks Trail

Do you have the right gear for this hike? Check out all the gear and clothing that I personally use and recommend. I've tested it all and cut the junk out so you don't waste your money.

What to Expect

Turn by Turn Hike Directions

turtlehead peak trail parking
The Sandstone Quarry parking lot is easy to find and is on the map you get at the visitor’s center.
turtlehead peak trail parking
There are bathrooms in the parking lot here.
turtlehead peak trail
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.
turtlehead peak trail
The trail is wide and easy to spot.
turtlehead peak trail
Head up the trail with Turtlehead Peak looming in front of you.
turtlehead peak trail
Shortly after the start of the hike, you’ll reach the Sandstone Quarry. The quarry is on your right, the trail to your left.
turtlehead peak trail
The quarry has some abandoned blocks and an interpretive display. It’s worth a look. Continue back to the trail when you’re finished.
turtlehead peak trail
The trail is clearly marked to the left the Sandstone Quarry area. Head towards Turtlehead Peak and Calico Tanks.
turtlehead peak trail
Another trail marker makes it easy to follow the path.
Calico Tanks Trail
Shortly after that, the trail splits. Head right to Calico Tanks.
Calico Tanks Trail
The trail is well defined and easy to follow in the beginning.
Calico Tanks Trail
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.
Calico Tanks Trail
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.
Calico Tanks Trail
After the agave pit, continue on the trail, avoiding heading up the wash by following the signs and markers.
Calico Tanks Trail
Here you start to get a preview of the sandstone formations that you’ll soon hike through.
Calico Tanks Trail
One last trail marker before you enter the Calico Hills proper.
Calico Tanks Trail
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.
Calico Tanks Trail
The sand trail starts to end and it gets more rocky with multi-colored sandstone.
Calico Tanks Trail
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.
Calico Tanks Trail
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.
Calico Tanks Trail
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.
Calico Tanks Trail
Pick your way up through the boulders, looking for smaller boulders to step up as you hike.
Calico Tanks Trail
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.
Calico Tanks Trail
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.
Calico Tanks Trail
After that intense section of scrambling, the trail becomes more of a trail again.
Calico Tanks Trail
Look for rock stairs or heavy use to pick the right route.
Calico Tanks Trail
Every time I do this hike I see a ton of lizards. Keep your eyes open.
Calico Tanks Trail
One last stretch before you reach the Calico Tanks.
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.
Calico Tanks
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.
Calico Tanks
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.

Calico Tanks Trail Hike Video

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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.