Frequently photographed but infrequently ascended, Rainbow Wall, home of some bad-ass climbs, is not just for superheroes. There’s also a very aesthetic (and fun) non-technical route heading up the backside of the mountain from Oak Creek Canyon.
The views straight down the huge wall to the bottom of Juniper Canyon (approx. 1,500 feet) from the summit are awesome.
Getting ThereFrom Las Vegas, head west on Charleston Blvd (for those unfamiliar with Charleston Blvd, it is a very well-known, major road in Las Vegas) toward the mountains. Just before the mountains, Charleston Blvd (highway 159) bends to the left slightly and heads straight toward the high sandstone peaks of RRCNCA, very prominently displayed in the distance. A few more miles, and you’re at the entrance to the park. The entrance is well-signed.
For non-technical routes via Oak Creek Canyon:
1) Turn onto the RRCNCA Scenic Loop (the one and only paved road looping through the NCA) and follow it for approx. 11 miles to the signed Oak Creek Canyon dirt road turn-off. Follow the well-maintained dirt road for a mile or two to a well-marked parking area. The parking area is spacious and even has a restroom. The trailhead, which is at the south end of the parking area, is signed for Oak Creek Canyon.
2) While heading to RRCNCA on highway 159 from Las Vegas, continue past the entrance to the NCA and follow the highway for a few miles, looking for the signed dirt turn-out for Oak Creek Canyon. The turn-out is a short distance past the exit to the NCA and immediately in front of Mt. Wilson. The view from the turn-out should be similar to this, though if you see this view, you're at the First Creek Canyon turn-out. Turn around and backtrack a mile or so to the Oak Creek Canyon turn-out. Once you find it, park. The trailhead is pretty obvious.
For technical routes via Juniper Canyon:
To my knowledge, all of Rainbow Wall’s technical routes are approached from Juniper Canyon, a scenic, if brush-clogged, short canyon separating Rainbow Mountain from Juniper Peak.
To get to Juniper Canyon, simply follow the RRCNCA Scenic Loop about 10 miles to the signed Pine Creek Canyon turn-out. There’s plenty of parking here, as this is one of the busiest trailheads in the park.
From the parking area, follow the trail toward the mouth of Pine Creek Canyon. For those unfamiliar with the mountains and features of RRCNCA, the impressive little pyramidal peak in front of you is Mescalito. Anyway, after about a mile, you will come to the remains of an old homestead on the left. It’s fairly easy to miss, so keep your eyes open for it.
From the old homestead (mainly just a foundation, really), look for a faint fork in the trail. Follow the left fork, crossing Pine Creek in the process, and travel the signed Arnight Trail, which will take you to the south toward the mouth of Juniper Canyon. For reference purposes, Juniper Canyon is just south of and runs somewhat parallel to Pine Creek Canyon.
As the trail takes you toward the mouth of Juniper Canyon, follow any number of use trails that ultimately take you in. Beat your way to the back of the canyon (it’s not very far).
From the back of the canyon - Rainbow Wall is on the left, Brownstone Wall (another big wall) is on the right, and in the center is a feature known as Gunsight Notch.
That should get you started. Good stuff!
Red TapeThere is a daily entrance fee of $7 per vehicle April 2011). Annual and interagency passes are available (the Interagency Pass, AKA the America the Beautiful Pass, grants access to all federal fee areas for a year).
Hours the Scenic Drive is open:
November 1 through February 28/29; 6 a.m. – 5 p.m.
March 1 through March 31; 7 a.m. – 7 p.m.
April 1 through September 30; 6 a.m. – 8 p.m.
October 1 through October 31; 6 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Note: these hours are subject to change; in April 2009, the hours were 6 A.M. until 7 P.M. To be safe and sure, contact the park before visiting.
When To ClimbRainbow Wall can be climbed any time of year, though spring and fall are without question the best seasons.
CampingThere are no campgrounds off the Scenic Drive in RRCNCA. There is a campground outside it, though; see here for more details. Bivouacs and backcountry camping are permitted, but with permits and restrictions. Use the link at the end of this page to find out more. Camping is not necessary in order to climb White Rock Spring Peak.
Mountain ConditionsWeather for the Las Vegas area.
You can also call 702-363-1921 to talk with someone at the visitor’s center.