Turtlehead Peak rises in the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area only an hour drive from Las Vegas Strip. The peak is advertised as having a 2.5 mile long trail (my GPS measured 2.2 miles) that goes all the way to the summit giving the hiker 2000 ft of vertical climb. After about a mile, I noted that the trail split into a number of beaten paths all of which supposedly went to the 5850 ft saddle to the northwest of the summit. The weather is usually clear and the city of Las Vegas is said to be well-visible from the summit.
Calico Tanks Trail branches off of the Turtlehead Peak Trail 0.2 miles after trailhead and goes into a canyon among colorful sandstone formations to end at a number of seasonal water pools. After doing Turtlehead Peak, I hiked up this trail to a spot with wonderful views where I took a rest.
I had been to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area in February of 2001. At the time, we had done mostly sightseeing from the car with a little bit of hiking.
First hike after start of Tinnitus
It was exactly 50 days prior to this that I was exposed to the loud noise of MRI Machine. When I exited the machine, my ears were ringing and never stopped ringing. This caused significant stress and depression. It was on this beautiful peak that I realized although I could no longer tolerate silence, I could still enjoy hiking.
Left our hotel on Las Vegas Strip at 6:00 a.m. Sunrise was at 6:30 a.m. Went on I-15 and took Charleston Blvd Exit heading west. The boulevard turned out to be a long street with many traffic lights. As I went west, I slowly went up in elevation and got closer to the mountains. It had rained a lot in Las Vegas over the last few days. Fresh snow could be seen at higher elevations. Most of the mountain tops were in clouds but the sun began to rise over where I was. I then turned onto Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. Paid the entrance fee and got on the 13 mile one way loop road. Turtlehead Peak was now in full view. The mountains behind it were covered in clouds. The tops of the peaks to the west/southwest were also hidden in clouds. After 3 miles, I reached Sandstone Quarry Trailhead.
Turtlehead Peak from park entrance
All distances are per my GPS
|Sandstone Quarry Trailhead||4300 ft||zero miles
|Saddle||5850 ft||1.90 miles
|Turtlehead Peak Summit||6323 ft||0.30 miles
|Turtlehead Peak Roundtrip||-||4.40 miles
|Calico Tanks Branch Roundtrip to where I hiked||-||1.40 miles
|Total Roundtrip||-||5.80 miles
The HikeSunday November 24, 2013
At the trailhead, I saw a couple getting ready for the hike. It was 41 degrees F. I still had good views of Turtlehead Peak and the mountains to the west. Started my hike at 7:10 a.m.
The trail went in a slickrock area following a dry wash.
As I went higher, the dramatic view of the cloud covered mountains to the west became even better.
The 8154 ft La Madre Mountain that sat behind Turtlehead Peak continued to remain in clouds.
La Madre Mountain
The trail left the dry wash and began to go up the slopes of Turtlehead Peak below its southern wall.
As I went higher, clouds and then fog appeared. I saw a sign that showed the trail crossing to the right side of a small gully. I crossed the gully but found no trace of the trail on the other side so I went back to the sign and noted that the trail clearly went straight. I did not understand why that sign pointed to the other way. The couple that I had seen at the trailhead were coming up not too far behind me. I waited there until they came. They said they had been there many times before. The trail apparently branches into a number of beaten paths all of which go to the 5850 ft saddle. The fog became dense and I did not want to get lost there. They said I was welcome to follow them. They were very fast hikers but I was able to keep up with them. In the fog, we sometimes followed beaten paths and sometimes just went directly up the slopes until at 8:30 a.m. we reached the saddle.
The clouds began to open up somewhat. I thanked the couple and told them I would be ok after that. They continued but I stayed at the saddle for a few minutes. The wall of Turtlehead Peak had now come out of the clouds.
Summit of Turtlehead
Looking west from the saddle
I then started again. The trail actually went to the north side of Turtlehead Peak going up easy slopes. I was not aware of that at first and went up some rocky areas but then found my way to the easy northern slopes. Snow appeared and it became deeper as I went higher.
Reached the summit at 8:50 a.m. That couple was there. I was in fog again. The couple said they were from Vancouver and they often came here to do rock climbing but had not been able to do so over the last few days due to rain. They then left and I was left alone on the summit in the fog. I had a cold and was sweaty. I could clearly hear the ringing in my ears. The clouds partially opened up for a few minutes and I got some views but did not get to see Las Vegas.
From the summit
From the summit
From the summit
From the summit
Left at 9:25 a.m. and went down to the saddle. I saw another couple of hikers there. The fog was now gone and I had good views of the cloud covered mountains to the west again.
Hiked down the slopes until I reached the well defined trail near the slickrock area. I was then running into other hikers frequently.
0.2 miles from trailhead I reached the signed junction for Calico Tanks Trail and turned onto it. That trail went up a dry wash among slickrock formations.
Higher up, the dry wash went away and I was hiking on beautiful and colorful slickrock.
Somewhere among the red rocks, I decided to sit down and enjoy the area.
I then began to walk back. Was at the trailhead by 11:30 a.m. Lots of people were there and the parking area was full.