OverviewIt doesn't take long for a first-time visitor to realize that the colorful Calico Hills, while being extremely popular with sport and trad climbers, are also a scrambler's wonderland. Several summits only attainable by Class 3 or harder scrambling are out there, and there are seemingly countless smaller formations and outcrops to play on.
As far as I can tell, Calico Tank Peak (unofficial name written on the summit register I found there) is the second-highest peak of the Calico Hills. It rises directly above and east of the tinaja reached by the popular, moderately difficult, and highly scenic Calico Tanks Trail.
Finding the summit and register was an accident of sorts for me. With my oldest child, I had hiked to the end of the trail, and we had scrambled about on all sorts of rock outcrops while waiting for my mother, my wife, and my other two kids to catch up. Once they did, I rambled off alone and, as often has been the case, ended up atop a summit I hadn't even thought about just an hour before.
The route I found up the peak seemed to be the best one from trail's end; there was another I scouted from the trail during the return hike, and a picture in this page's gallery documents that proposed route. There may be other non-technical routes as well.
Views are awesome, and solitude is likely. Entries in the register suggested that even in the prime seasons of spring and fall in the Calico Hills, the average number of people or parties climbing the peak per day is less than one.
Getting There and Route Information
From the entrance to the Scenic Drive in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area off SR 159, drive about three miles to the signed parking area for Sandstone Quarry. On a nice spring or fall day, even a weekday, expect to have to hunt for a parking spot if you show up later than 10 A.M.
The bummer about this is that the road is one-way only. If it's your first time to Red Rock Canyon, it's not so bad having to drive the often-slow full loop (almost 13 miles). But if you've been there and done that, you might consider parking at the visitor center and then getting on your bike to ride to the trailhead. That way, you can ride back (against traffic) and save yourself some time and some gasoline (translation: money).
Some people park along the shoulder or at a pullout along SR 159 and bike in. You still have to pay the entrance fee, but I believe it is less than the fee for motor vehicles.
I do know that some people approach the Calico Hills from Calico Basin, but although I have been there, I have never taken that route, and I thus cannot credibly share anything about that route.
Hike the moderately difficult 1.5-mile Calico Tanks Trail to the overlook of the large tinaja and then to a saddle providing a view of Calico Basin and Las Vegas. From there, head east along slopes and ramps until you reach a cliffy overlook of the vicinity (see photograph below).
From there, climb up (two Class 3/4 options immediately present themselves, and there are pictures of both above) and scramble along the path of least resistance (or harder if you wish) until you reach the summit. Not far below the summit is a much smaller tinaja than the one that is the namesake of the nearby trail.
Overall distance to the summit from the trailhead is about two miles, with approximately 1000' of elevation gain.
Class 2+ Alternative
From MoapaPk: "If you stop just west of the big tank (before the big crag on the W side) and go to the top from there, it's easier."
Google Earth map and diagram
Red Tape, Camping, LinksIn April 2011, the daily entrance fee was $7 per vehicle. Annual and interagency passes are available at higher cost, but they save money in the long run. For example, the Interagency Pass (covers the admission fee to most federal fee areas) costs $80 (April 2011) and is good for one year. In just two weeks, I made a visit to Zion ($25), a visit to Death Valley ($20), and seven visits to Red Rock Canyon via the Scenic Drive ($35). Getting the pass makes sense for a lot of people.
The Scenic Drive is open from 6 A.M. to 7 P.M. Check the BLM site (link below) to see if there have been any changes to that.
The Calico Hills get brutally, dangerously hot in the summer. Climbing there then is not a good idea unless you go at night, which has its own risks, or very early in the morning and finish before late morning.
Red Rock Campground is off SR 159 a few miles from the visitor center. Please see here for details. Backcountry camping in RRNCA is only allowed above 5000', so it is illegal in the Calico Hills.