Hike Turtlehead Peak Trail

Hike Turtlehead Peak Trail

In This Guide
  • Turn by Turn Hike Directions
  • Maps For the Hike
  • What You Need For the Hike
  • Parking Info & Directions
  • What To Look For on the Hike
  • Other Fun Hikes in Red Rock Canyon
Distance5 miles (8.1 km)
Time3-4 Hours (Total Time)
DifficultyHard
Total Climbing2,070 feet (631m)
Highest Elevation6,017 feet (1834m)
Dog FriendlyLeashed
Park NameRed Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
Park Phone702-515-5350

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.

How To Get To the Calico Tanks Trail

The Calico Tanks Trail is located 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.

The trailhead address is: Sandstone Quarry Overlook, Las Vegas, NV, 89161, USA.

Cris Hazzard With Red Rock Sign
Don’t forget to stop at the Red Rock Canyon sign for photos. Everyone does it.

When you first enter Red Rock Canyon, the Visitor’s Center is worth a stop. They have interpretive displays that explain the geology and wildlife. They have some nice exhibits and a decent gift shop with hiking books, water, and snacks. There are also bathrooms here.

The Red Rock Canyon road is a 13 miles one way loop. The Turtlehead Peak Trail is a few miles in, and there are many other trails you can do as well (guides to some of the best ones are at the end of this guide). Even if you don’t do other hikes, I recommend stopping at some of the scenic overlooks. You could easily do the better part of a day at Red Rock Canyon.

When planning your visit, my advice would be to come early. This is one of the most popular hikes in the park and can get crowded.

What You Need For The Hike

Turtlehead Peak is in the Mojave Desert, and it can get very hot in the summer and surpassingly cold in the winter, especially at the summit. The summit is often windy too, so having layers for the top is smart.

The hike is also very difficult, you will sweat on the way up, so you need water.

My Top Gear Picks

Garmin inreach review

Do you have the right hiking gear? Will it stand up to the test? I waste lots of money testing hiking gear every year so that you don’t have to. My gear picks are solid choices that will serve you well on the trail. I don’t do sponsored or paid reviews, I just the share actual gear that I use all the time that’s made the cut. Here are my top picks:

  1. Garmin InReach Mini Emergency Beacon – Hiking out of cell phone range? Make sure you have one of these two-way satellite texting devices in case your hike doesn’t go as planned. You can read my full review here.
  2. Injinji Sock Liners With Darn Tough Hiking Socks – This combo is a great way to avoid blisters out on the trail. I have some insider-hiking tips for avoiding blisters here. Pair them with modern, high-tech hiking boots (for women and men) and your feet with thank you.
  3. Garmin Fenix 5x Plus – It’s a little pricey, but man do I love this thing. Not only does it have all the topo maps and navigation tools on my wrist, but it also acts as a long battery life, rugged, outdoors version of an Apple Watch. Track your workouts, sleep, heart rate, all that stuff.

I have lots of other great, sponsor-free, trail tested gear picks on my “best gear” page.

See My Full Gear List

What to Know Before You Hike

ground squirrel
Keep your eyes open for ground squirrels. Here’s one eating a discarded corn chip from a hike (not a good thing).

Turtlehead Peak Trail Maps

Fenix 5x Hiking Review

I highly recommend bringing a good paper map with you, and then using it in conjunction with a GPS device. You can see the navigation gear that I use here (I’m currently using the Fenix 5x Plus and love it). Just download the GPX file below and load it onto your GPS.

Many people also print out this web page for the turn-by-turn images. And if you really want to get tricky, YouTube Premium lets you download videos for offline use, so you can download the hike video and save it.

Download the Hike GPX File

View a Printable PDF Hike Map

turtlehead peak trail 3d map
The Turtlehead Peak trail starts in the colorful rock formations at Red Rock, and then makes it’s way up the steep gully section, eventually reaching the saddle and then winding it’s way up to the summit.
turtlehead peak trail elevation
The beginning of the hike is the only place where the climb is pretty gradual. Once you get to the middle, it’s really steep. There’s a section that climbs 700 feet in less than a half a mile. Just take your time and you will be fine.

Insider Tips For the Hike

Turtlehead Peak Hike Directions

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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.
turtlehead peak trail
A few trails leave from the trailhead at Sandstone Quarry. You’re heading to Turtlehead Peak, which shares the same trail as Calico Tanks 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.
turtlehead peak trail
In general the trail is easy to follow on the lower slopes. There are trail markers large and small, so look for them if you see a split or side trail. The larger (main) trail is generally always clear on this part of the hike.
turtlehead peak trail
Another trail marker makes it easy to follow the path.
turtlehead peak trail
Shortly after the quarry, the trail splits. Keep left to head towards Turtlehead Peak.
turtlehead peak trail
The trail is still nice and wide as you hike between the sandstone formations.
turtlehead peak trail
The hike heads up onto a ridge, with a wash down below to your right. Unlike later in the hike, the trail here is well marked with signs like these.
turtlehead peak trail
The trail heads into the wash for a bit. Look for stones lining the sides to avoid any false trails, which happen often in washes.
turtlehead peak trail
The trail heads back up onto a ridge, and again, has a nice big sign.
turtlehead peak trail
The trail veers away from the wash and up towards the chute. The feel of the trail changes here. It’s not as wide and well marked as it was before.
turtlehead peak trail
So the next part of the hike is a bit of a “choose your own adventure.” The idea is that you hike up the chute to the saddle before Turtlehead Peak. The problem is that the trail is steep and splits apart at many points (and rejoins most of the time too). In general, you want to keep the bottom (lowest point) of the chute to your right as you hike up. The “official” trail line that you see on some topo maps is also different than the actual marked trail at points. The good news is that there are multiple ways to the saddle, and if you loose track of the directions here, chances are the trail you’re on will get you to the top.

Update from Eli S.: New orange and white blazes mark the way up. and are easier to spot that the worn blazes in the pictures below. Thanks Eli!

turtlehead peak trail
So off the bat, the trail gets steep. Look ahead for the most well worn path before you start climbing.
turtlehead peak trail
There are occasional trail markers on the rocks, but don’t count on them. In addition to these signs, there are (aqua) green blazes to look for. They blend in with the rocks so you have to really look for them.
turtlehead peak trail
Avoid the side trails that go to the other side of the gully.
turtlehead peak trail
Notice the green blaze in the middle of the rock. Look for the blazes as you climb. And if you don’t see them but seem to be still heading up toward the saddle, don’t stress, just head toward the saddle.
turtlehead peak trail
Some hikers have left cairns too, another sign that you’re in the right place.
turtlehead peak trail
Towards the saddle you’ll see this huge boulder. Almost there, the saddle is shortly after this.
turtlehead peak trail
One last steep stretch to the saddle.
turtlehead peak trail
When you get to the saddle, soak in the views and make the right toward the back of the peak.
turtlehead peak trail
This first part of the trail on the saddle is pretty easy to follow.
turtlehead peak trail
After a short level stretch, you’ll start climbing again.
turtlehead peak trail
At the first big junction you encounter, make the right.
turtlehead peak trail
Similar to the chute, there are a few ways to the summit here, with the trail splitting and rejoining often. In general, you’ll go up a bit toward the summit, then hike left toward the ridge, and then loop back around toward the summit. Check the map section out to make sense of what I just said.
turtlehead peak trail
As you go up, the trail veers left toward the ridge (and away from the summit).
turtlehead peak trail
Views! Eventually you’ll come out on the ridge with sweeping views of Red Rock Canyon and Las Vegas in the distance.
turtlehead peak trail
Head right up the ridge toward the peak. The trail splits, etc. here too, but just keep going toward the summit.
cris hazzard on turtlehead peak
You did it, the summit. It can be windy up here, so be careful. Enjoy the views. To the southeast you’ll see the hustle and bustle of Las Vegas. The mountains surrounding you to the west is the La Madre range.
turtlehead peak
There are some great views into the rock formations at Red Rock Canyon. There’s also a small trail register at the summit (unless someone has stolen it).
turtlehead peak trail
Once you’re done on the peak, head down the way you came up. It can get tricky heading down, so keep your eyes open for the green blazes.

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