Juniper Canyon is the brushy, shallow canyon dividing Rainbow Mountain and Rainbow Wall (to the south) from Gunsight Notch Peak and Juniper Peak (to the north). This scenic canyon is the first canyon encountered to the south of the prominent Pine Creek Canyon.
To get to Juniper Canyon, simply follow the RRCNCA (Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area) Scenic Loop about 10 miles to the signed Pine Creek Canyon turn-off. 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 of trail, 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.
As the trail takes you toward the mouth of Juniper Canyon, follow any number of use trails that ultimately take you in.
Route DescriptionYou are now in Juniper Canyon. The big walls above you and in the distance are Rainbow Wall (left) and Brownstone Wall (right). Looking up-canyon between those two prominent sandstone walls is a notch, way up high – this notch is known as Gunsight Notch. You’re aiming for it.
Head up-canyon, following cairns, use trails, and/or the path of least resistance, and ultimately make your way toward the notch. The going is straightforward, as you simply need to follow the main watercourse up into the deep parts of the canyon toward the obvious notch above.
Obstacles encountered along the way are fun and typically present only minor scrambling difficulties. As you get deeper into the canyon, not too terribly far from the notch, you will encounter the crux of the day - a 12-15 foot chimney (class 4). Good scrambling gets you up it. I’m told that there is an easy tunnel nearby that allows you to bypass the crux, though I didn’t notice it when I did the route. New page owner's note: the tunnel is actually just a few yards beyond the chimney; it's not hard to see but easy to miss if your focus is all on the chimney problem.
Beyond the chimney, continue up over class 2-3 terrain to the notch. Once there, the notch itself is gained via class 2 terrain.
From the notch, hang a right (north) and follow the path of least resistance (class 2-3) up to the summit a short distance away.
To descend, either retrace your steps, or follow the directions on the main page and descend the west side. Alternately, you can traverse from Gunsight's summit to nearby Juniper's summit via their connecting ridge. Though I haven't done the traverse myself, I'm told that it is 4th class and involves a rappel - sounds good to me! From there, you'd descend Juniper via its standard route (or via one of the more adventurous routes that exist and you may or may not know about). New page owner's note: the traverse does indeed involve a long rappel, but there is a Class 4 workaround to the north. Please see the route page for the traverse.