Turtlehead Peak | Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area

Hiking Turtlehead Peak - Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area Hiking Turtlehead Peak

Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area

Overview

RATING: Moderate Hike
MAPS: LA MADRE MOUNTAIN, NV

Sat

Sunny, with a high near 81. Southwest wind 8 to 14 mph, with gusts as high as 21 mph.

81 | 57

Sun

Sunny, with a high near 85.

85 | 61

Mon

Sunny, with a high near 89.

89 | 66

Tue

Sunny, with a high near 91.

91 | 68

Wed

Sunny, with a high near 92.

92 | 69

View Full Weather Details
SEASON: Fall, Winter, Spring (Hot in the summer)
GEAR: Standard Hiking Gear
WATER: None, bring all you need.
NOTES: See description for information on the reservation system to enter the conservation area.

Sat

Sunny, with a high near 81. Southwest wind 8 to 14 mph, with gusts as high as 21 mph.

81 | 57

Sun

Sunny, with a high near 85.

85 | 61

Mon

Sunny, with a high near 89.

89 | 66

Tue

Sunny, with a high near 91.

91 | 68

Wed

Sunny, with a high near 92.

92 | 69

View Full Weather Details
Calico Hills from the summit on a moody weather day.

Calico Hills from the summit on a moody weather day.

Turtlehead Peak, though not the highest point in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, is a one of the easier and more popular summits to reach. The summit and hike have breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding Mojave Desert landscape and the iconic red sandstone formations that characterize the region.

The hike involves some steep, loose sections, and a plethora of social trails. I would not recommend this for absolute beginning hikers, but for those with a little experience, it is an excellent outing. On our Las Vegas trip, this turned out to be an unexpected highlight when our other plans had been cancelled due to weather. At a moderate pace, it took us about 2 hours roundtrip.

Note: As of 2023, the BLM requires a reservation between October 1st and May 31st for the Scenic Drive to reach the trailhead. Currently, it is for entry between 8AM and 5PM. More information is available on the BLM site in the hours section: https://www.blm.gov/programs/national-conservation-lands/nevada/red-rock-canyon If you are a morning person, like we are, you can enter before 8AM without currently needing a reservation.

Timed entry reservations can be made at Recreation.gov by visiting https://www.recreation.gov/timed-entry/10075177, or by calling (877) 444-6777.
Just getting started on the hike. Turtlehead is the highpoint about middle of the picture.

Just getting started on the hike. Turtlehead is the highpoint about middle of the picture.

Getting There

From the Red Rock Canyon fee booth, follow the scenic drive 2.5 miles to the Sandstone Quarry Overlook/Trailhead side road on the right. Follow the side road to its end in about 0.1 miles at the trailhead. There are restrooms at the trailhead.

Coming down on a stormy day.

Coming down on a stormy day.

Route

The trail is signed and initially easy to follow. From the trailhead, head north on the major trail as it descends into the wide wash. Be sure to NOT take the left trail at the Grand Circle Loop Jct, but instead continue up the trail in the wash bottom.

In less than 1/4 of a mile, the Sandstone Quarry/Calico Tanks junction is reached. It leaves on the right, stay left instead in the wash bottom.

The trail follows the wash bottom for a few minutes. You may notice a trail junction with one branch leaving on the left here. Instead, follow the Turtlehead Peak trail as it climbs out of the wash bottom and passes through a couple of sandstone hills.

The trail now begins climbing toward the obvious drainage that leads to the low point left of the peak. In this section, the trail is easy to follow, but as it steepens, more social trails diverge and coalesce. Look for trail markers and/or paint spots that mark the trail. At one point, you are likely to come to a junction. We went right and up to the ridge on the way up, and the opposite trail on the way down. Once at the ridge, the trails coalesce again and head east then south toward the summit.

Again, social trails crisscross the area as it heads up toward the summit, and it is difficult to determine which is most used. In general, simply follow the trail with the least resistance up to the summit.

The summit has great views of Red Rocks to the south and west, Las Vegas to the east, and the Mojave Desert all around.

Return the same way.


Maps

Route / 4.97 miles / Elevation Range 4,309 - 6,325 ft.
Printable Maps:
Sandstone Quarry Trailhead

11S 639387mE 4003044mN

N36° 09' 44" W115° 27' 01"

Grand Circle Loop Jct

11S 639400mE 4003182mN

N36° 09' 48" W115° 27' 01"

Calico Tanks Jct

11S 639337mE 4003358mN

N36° 09' 54" W115° 27' 03"

Lower Jct

11S 639414mE 4005281mN

N36° 10' 56" W115° 26' 59"

Upper Jct

11S 639519mE 4005449mN

N36° 11' 02" W115° 26' 54"

Tutlehead Mountain

11S 639742mE 4005056mN

N36° 10' 49" W115° 26' 46"

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