Red Cap, also called Turtlehead Junior, perhaps for its proximity to Turtlehead Peak, is the highest peak in the Calico Hills, a small area of colorful sandstone peaks and outcrops in the eastern section of Nevada’s Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. The mountain might be small, and the elevation may be nothing to elicit gasps, but this little peak packs a lot for the punch. First of all, its colors are striking. Second, it offers at least two fun and challenging routes to its summit. Third, it is situated in a position that yields spectacular views of the best of the Red Rocks area. Fourth, there is a (sometimes) water-filled tinaja (“tank”)-- a depression that collects rainwater-- just below the summit block, and it is both a geological marvel and a great feature for framing a nice photograph.
Note: the tinajas are crucial to the survival of desert species both aquatic and terrestrial (examples-- brine shrimp and desert bighorn sheep). Please do not wade, swim, or bathe in; drink from; or otherwise defile this or any other tinaja.
Red Cap is an unofficial name-- my source for it is the guidebook Rambles & Scrambles: The Definitive Guide to Peakbagging Around Las Vegas by SP member cp0915; this book is a wealth of information on peaks within a day's drive of the Las Vegas area and has an extensive collection of route descriptions for peaks in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area-- but one look at it will dispel any wondering about the name. Red Cap is a peak composed of yellow sandstone capped by a layer of dark red sandstone. There is no other peak like it in the Calico Hills-- some are all yellow, some are all red, and some are red with yellow caps, but only Red Cap is yellow with a red top-- and that makes it easy to locate.
I know of three routes up the peak, all of which I have done. Each has a good deal of Class 3 scrambling with at least two spots of Class 4. Route pages soon to be added will cover these routes in detail. There may be other scrambling routes.
All the routes are 2-3 miles round-trip with 650-700' of elevation gain.
This route was recommended to me by MoapaPk. It has less exposure than the other routes do, the route-finding is less complicated, and the climbing is easier overall, but there are two Class 4 spots (these are the exit from the gully to the summit area and a short crack that leads to the summit block; the gully itself is Class 3).
West Face and South Face
This largely matches the route described in the guidebook mentioned above but starts from a different point, at the northwestern base of the peak. It is somewhat complicated to follow but not as much as it sounds. It is the longest of the three routes but probably the most fun, and it has the hardest climbing though it is not much harder than the others.
This is the traditional route up the peak and the shortest one. The photo below, with its caption and notes, describes it very well. The route page has more photographs and goes into more detail, though.
Some Summit Views
These are better when you click on them and then click on "Orig."
From Charleston Boulevard (Route 159) west of I-215 and Summerlin, turn onto the Scenic Drive in RRCNCA. Just before Mile 3, you reach the signed Sandstone Quarry area (it is the third developed pullout along the road); turn off and park here.
There 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.
There 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 Red Cap.
BLM site for RRCNCA
Again, a useful guidebook: Rambles & Scrambles: The Definitive Guide to Peakbagging Around Las Vegas.
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