Rainbow Mountain, located in the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area (aka RRCNCA or just "Red Rocks") just 15 miles west of Las Vegas, is the one of the most striking and colorful of the peaks at Red Rocks. It's photogenic nature derives from the large bands of red sandstone that cap the upper portions of the peak. Although it may be one of the most brilliant peaks at Red Rocks, it's summit is not climbed all that often with most visitors preferring to climb the various technical rock routes. The summit offers outstanding views of nearby Mount Wilson and Bridge Mountain as well as the canyons in between.
The easiest way to the summit is about 5 miles involving some YDS class 3-4 climbing. From the campsite at the end of Lovell Canyon campsite (see Getting There section), follow the wash going northeast for 0.7 miles when you'll find a fork in the wash heading east-northeast and north. Follow the washing heading due north for approximately 0.25 miles before leaving the wash on the east side heading northeast to gain the main north-south ridge at 7,000'.
Head north along the ridge, passing over Peak 7,211 (feet). Continue north along the ridge just past a point at 7000' due west from Rainbow Mountain. From here drop down to the saddle 800' below downclimbing some YDS class 3-4. From here, the route is easier on the north side allowing you to gain the ridge with some more class 3 scrambling. As of 1997, there was a summit register on top.
In addition to the route above, it is also possible to reach the summit from the top of the YDS 5.6 Solar Slab technical rock route on the mountain's southeast side. To do this use any of the three approaches for Solar Slab: Beulah's Book (5.9-), Johnny Vegas (5.7), or Solar Slab Gully (5.3). Then climb Solar Slab to get you about half-way before topping it off with some additional class 4-5.5 climbing to reach the summit. Crimson Chrysalis (III 5.8+), one of the Top 25 North American Classic Climbs, is also a favorite and can get crowded.
Here is a routes overview table for the technical rock routes. Generally climbers using these routes do not climb to the summit, however, it is certainly possible if you are so inclined ;-) The routes below are organized into four areas and from the top of each area you may be able to find a route to the summit, though so far I've only heard of reaching the summit from the top of Solar Slab by Josh.
Note: Routes on Rainbow Wall are not listed here.
WEST SIDE (Class 3-4 route): Take I-15 from Las Vegas west to NV SR-160 (aka Blue Diamond Road) and follow it over MountIN Springs Summit, reaching Lovell Canyon Road in 3.5 miles. Drive 3 miles on Lovell Canyon Road heading north before joining a dirt roading heading northeast for a final 2.6 miles before reaching the campsite and traihead (~5,800').
EAST SIDE (technical rock routes): Take the RRCNCA scenic loop drive to the Oak Creek Canyon parking area and follow the trail towards Oak Creek Canyon between Mount WIlson and Rainbow Mountain.
If you are approaching from the East and want to drive in, an entrance fee is required for the RRCNCA and as of 2013, some options are: (1) $7 per vehicle, (2) $30 for an annual pass, or (3) $80 for an America the Beautiful Interagency Pass. Of course, you can always park at the end of the loop road and just run / jog in for free.
If you are approaching from the east, the scenic drive is open from 6am to 5pm. After 5pm you are subject to a citation from the rangers, however, you'll usually have some leeway here. If you want to get an early start before 6am, park your car at the parking area at the end of the scenic loop and run / jog into Red Rocks.
This peak can be climbed year-round, however, the best times are during the spring and fall. During the late spring and summer it can get very hot, especially along routes where there is little shade such as Solar Slab. During the winter, there is occasionally snow, but it doesn't last long so if you find it, enjoy it :-)
WEST SIDE: You can stay at the campsite at the trailhead.
EAST SIDE: The east side of the peak is in the RRCNCA where camping is not allowed, however, the hike is so short that camping isn't necessary. If you want ot stay in the area he "13-Mile Campground" is located just 2 miles east of the Visitor Center on NV SR-159. This is an improved BLM site that includes picnic tables, grills, water and toilets, however, no RV hookups are available. Permits are required and available by calling (702) 647-5050. Reservations are available for groups only. You can also get more information by contacting the RRCNCA listed under the Mountain Conditions Section.
You can also contact the BLM RRCNCA:
BLM Red Rock Canyon
National Conservation Area
HCR 33, Box 5500
Las Vegas, Nevada, 89124
Phone: (702) 363-1921