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.
The Turtlehead Peak 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 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 Turtlehead Peak trail is tough, climbing about 2000 feet in 2 miles. And the chute section is really tough, with stretch where you do about 700 feet in a half of a mile. I wouldn’t bring small (or inexperienced) children on this hike.
This hike is also popular, especially with beginners who go to the visitor center, get a map, see that this trail has views, and go for it. So don’t be surprised if you see hikers in sneakers holding a small water bottle, struggling as they hike the trail. I see it every time I do this hike.
Red Rock Canyon is in the Mojave Desert. In the summer, it can get very hot here, so you’ll want to do this early. The peak is often windy and cooler, so pack an extra layer, especially in the cooler seasons.
There are parts of the trail, especially in the second half toward the summit, that split apart and join up again, a relic from when the trail wasn’t marked well and people just made their way up as best they could. All the of trails generally lead to Turtlehead Peak, so don’t stress if you see folks on a different trail as you hike.
This whole area used to be inhabited by Native Americans, and you can see petroglyphs and fire pits in some parts of the park. In modern times it was home to a quarry and they shot some Roy Rodgers westerns here.
Keep your eyes open for desert tortoise and wild burros. They’re hard to spot, but around. You have better chances of spotting a desert hare or ground squirrels (which look a lot like chipmunks).
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.