Via Juniper Canyon

Page Type
Nevada, United States, North America
Route Type:
Time Required:
Half a day
Rock Difficulty:
Class 4

Route Quality: 1 Votes

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Via Juniper Canyon
Created On: Nov 8, 2005
Last Edited On: Oct 31, 2013


Most text is by the original page author, cp0915.

While the route outlined on the main page ascends the peak from its west side, this fine and direct route comes up from Juniper Canyon, on the peak’s east side.

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.

Notes by new page owner: The old homestead foundation is easy to miss.  Also, it is not necessary to hike as much as a mile.  Actually, it is only necessary to hike about a half-mile before leaving the main trail and accessing the best trail into Juniper Canyon.  Please see the pictures and captions below for additional information.

Less than half a mile from Pine Creek Canyon parking, you will reach this junction. Keep straight; just a few minutes after this junction is the key spot if you are headed for Juniper Canyon.

Leave Trail Here
There are many use trails going off from Pine Creek Canyon to Juniper Canyon, but if you leave Pine Creek Canyon here and then cross the drainage, you can find a good use trail that leads to Juniper Canyon and stays high as you enter that canyon. It lets you avoid the brush in the wash and ultimately deposits you into the canyon where the scrambling begins. Getting into the canyon lower and earlier is going to be a mistake because it will mean negotiating brushier terrain.

Also, as noted in the Comments section, it is also possible to access Juniper Canyon from the Oak Creek Canyon parking area.  From the comment: "There's a better, easier to follow, and quicker way into Juniper Canyon that starts at Oak Creek parking area. Susan and I linked paths and trails together last year. With so many spur trails coming off of the Pine Creek TH, I was finding it hard to follow the trail into Juniper Canyon."

Route Description

You 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.

Gunsight Notch
Looking towards Gunsight Notch from Juniper Canyon.

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.

View West to Crux Tunnel
By MoapaPk-- This is a view West to the bottom of the tunnel under the chockstones.

Crux: Juniper Canyon to Gunsight
By MoapaPk-- I'm standing on top of the last (highest) obstacle, looking east and down on Matt H and Jeff A. There is a tunnel under these chockstones, emerging to west near some bushes. Often one will find rappel slings tied off the bushes near the upper tunnel entrance. In "the old days" we chimneyed by the chockstones; a very exposed difficult chimney for a short person.

Gunsight Notch-bottom
Gunsight Notch-middle
Gunsight Notch-top

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.

Essential Gear

Good shoes, water, and perhaps a short section of rope (60 feet or so) and a sling or two for the down-climb of the chimney (if easier variation is not found).

Via Juniper Canyon

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