Terrace Canyon

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Nevada, United States, North America
Hiking, Bouldering, Scrambling
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Terrace Canyon
Created On: Mar 10, 2011
Last Edited On: Mar 10, 2011


Terrace Canyon slide

Red Rock Canyon has hundreds of ways to play upon the layout of desert and sandstone peaks. It is deservedly world class and still offers accessibility to isolation for those who extend their path beyond the short BLM trails available. Although Red Rock's canyons number high, I thought one I would highlight is Terrace Canyon.

Terrace Canyon is hardly traveled to, but is known by the Las Vegas hiking community. It is a magical and peaceful place made so by great sights and the sounds of falling water. And part of the magic is due to the rarity of the moving water, which is found in the Spring with the snow melt. So there is a window, dependent on rain/snow/temperature, but if you meet it you will experience a stream rolling down the terrace, which is like a series of rock steps. Think of one of those zen water art plug-in living room pieces; the water in Terrace Canyon has similar motion and noise.

The payoff for reaching Terrace Canyon may or may not be king, because the obstacle laden canyon scrambling means of reaching it is just as fantastic. Like many scrambles, you see the puzzle, make a plan of rock jumping, and execute. However, the rocks you leap to in the canyons here hold onto pinks, purples, and shy blues. Also, you get to play "Hot Lava" with the stream several times. And actually, on my last visit, the temperature had shifted upward so that we had to take off our shoes, raise our pant legs, and walk some high water. Take more water along the way though to forecast an even more animated Terrace Canyon.

The basic desert hiking rules apply and everyone in your hiking party should be able to handle multiple class 3 moves. I'd give 6-8 hours, and really the whole of daylight just in case, to attempting Terrace Canyon.

I hope this guide helps anyone looking for this gem, but I should mention an advisory bit: Of the 3 times I've attempted this hike, someone has tore open the back of their pants! (Once it was me)

Getting There

First of all, you should be around Las Vegas. Then find 159 by heading West on Charleston or off of 160, Blue Diamond Hwy. Red Rock's entrance is well marked. After paying the fee, travel about 10 miles to the Pine Creek parking lot.

Quick Guide

Red Rock s iconic tower
Terrace Canyon

From the parking lot, head towards the mouth of Pine Creek and Mescalito, the red hatted tower at the center of it. The trail is well worn in multiple directions but stay West and aimed at Mescalito. You want to eventually go in the canyon left (South) of Mescalito. The way I find best is staying right and when you hit a triangle of rocks marking the divergence of trails, go left. Then after crossing a wash, there will be lesser trails heading West again. You cross another wash. Basically, anything that resembles a trail will work, but you should find a trail between Mescalito and the North bank of the stream flowing from the canyon on the left. This saves a lot of time that might be spent on rock hopping. On the way into the canyon you'll see the rocks start to gain color and several colorful Manzanita bushes. Also, there's what I like to consider a miniature version of the Great Arch (By the Zion tunnel) on the Southern wall.
Red Rock Rock
Red Rock pool

When you hit the stream, there isn't any one way but upstream. It is easy enough to see where some have tread, but there are also secret passages through the bush. The pools and 2 foot waterfalls along the way can really get you hesitate and gaze before moving on. There will be another fork in the canyon a bit further, you will go left (South) again. Try and stay left before getting too close to save yourself from getting lost. There will be a large pine tree on the left, aim for that. Some gnarled roots mark the bottom of a stairs climb. The mouth to the next canyon is a large peppermint striped rock, which I call the Candyland slide. Climb up.

From here, sift yourself through all kinds of obstacles. Again, no right way, but the path of least resistance isn't too difficult. You may think the canyon will dead end early on, but it is only a crook, and will straighten out again. Also, stay in the center of the canyon, there are cairns for climbing that might throw you off.

After a while, you will find yourself at the third fork and for the third time you will go left. There will be a large cairn and a bright orange wall to the South. Immediately, the trail gets less obvious, and this is where we had to remove our boots 2 separate times to get by because the water had risen over. Push through and then you'll be at the fourth and final fork. Here you go right and after a few minutes you'll be at Terrace Canyon!

Red Tape

All you need is a Red Rock BLM pass.

Terrace Canyon

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