Have you ever dreamed of conquering trails that intertwine stunning red rock formations with expansive desert plains? The Calico Hills Trail at Red Rock Canyon, just outside of Las Vegas, will have you in awe with its stunning views of the vibrant red sandstone formations of Red Rock Canyon.
The Calico Hills Trail treats hikers to an epic adventure in the Red Rock Canyon, perfect for outdoor enthusiasts seeking a challenging and visually impressive hike. As an avid hiker myself, I can confidently say that the Calico Hills Trail is a must-visit for outdoor enthusiasts and one of the best hiking trails at Red Rock Canyon. This trail is incredibly popular among nature lovers, and it’s easy to see why.
In this post, I will walk you through every detail, from how to prepare for this moderately strenuous 6.4-mile hike to what scenic spectacles await along your journey.
Hiking the Calico Hills Trail: An adventure with options
I’ll tell you straight off – setting foot on the Calico Hills Trail is an experience in itself. The trail stretches 6.1 miles, a length that meanders through some of the most gorgeous landscapes this side of Las Vegas.
Note: the return hike is 12.2 miles / 19.6 km.
We’re not talking about your run-of-the-mill neighbourhood park here. Every inch of this trail offers nothing short of breathtaking.
Visiting Red Rock Canyon from Las Vegas makes for a nice easy half-day trip if only exploring parts of the trail, or a solid day-hike – without a long drive either side – for those hiking the entire Calico Hills Trail out and back.
This is the perfect hike for anyone looking to quench their thirst for adventure without venturing too far from Sin City. Only 15 miles west of the Las Vegas Strip, it’s easy to find and only a short cruise up Charleston Boulevard.
To begin your adventure on the Calico Hills Trail, head to the easily accessible trailhead off the scenic drive within the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. The trail can be accessed by parking at Calico 1, Calico 2 or Sandstone Quarry parking area – the first three pull-offs on the scenic drive once you pass the Visitors Center.
Each starting point offers a different experience, with variations in terrain and (of course) views. If you’re not up for the full day-hike adventure, you might like to stop at each trailhead and take a short return hike, or customise your trip however you like. If you’re in a group, you could even bring two vehicles and hike trailhead to trailhead.
Embrace the thrill of Calico Hills Trail’s scrambling sections
To truly immerse yourself in the Red Rock landscape, be prepared to embrace the thrill of the Calico Hills Trail’s scrambling sections. These sections can be avoided, but if you’re reasonably fit and agile, you’ll love the challenge of balancing and maneuvering and navigating through the rugged sandstone terrain.
But don’t forget to stop and look up at the breathtaking panoramic views of Red Rock Canyon and its surrounding mountains. Soak up the awe-inspiring vistas and let them leave an indelible mark on your memory.
Explore the Scenic Wash
As I hiked along the Calico Hills Trail at Red Rock Canyon, one of the highlights was exploring the scenic wash that snakes through the rugged landscape. Its carved-out channels and smooth rocks add an extra element of beauty to an already incredible hike.
The most exciting part, though, is the opportunity the wash provides for exploring – hidden slot canyons and balancing rock formations, all painted in a vibrant palette of reds and oranges. It’s fascinating to see how wind and water have sculpted this area over time, leaving behind a canvas of unique patterns and textures on the rock.
Things To Know About Visiting Red Rock Canyon
When visiting Red Rock Canyon, visitors should be aware that the scenic drive is open from 6:00 am until Sunset, so don’t get started on your hike too late in the day.
At peak times of the year, Red Rock Canyon gets busy – a major disadvantage of visiting a spectacular place so close to Las Vegas – so be aware that during the highest traffic periods, you may even need to make a reservation. Be sure to visit Southern Nevada Conservancy’s Red Rock Canyon website for information.
An entrance fee of $20 per vehicle or $10 per motorcycle is required to access the scenic drive. I do not recommend taking an Uber or Lyft to visit the park as cellular service is very limited and you may not be able to schedule a return trip.
Staying safe at Red Rock Canyon
As a hiking enthusiast visiting Las Vegas, safety should always be your top priority. When exploring the Calico Hills Trail at Red Rock Canyon, staying alert to changing weather conditions is crucial.
Here are some essential tips to keep in mind:
- Check the weather forecast before your hike: Stay updated on the current and predicted weather conditions for Red Rock Canyon. Sudden weather changes can occur, so it’s essential to be prepared.
- Dress appropriately for the conditions: Wear layered clothing that can be easily adjusted according to the temperature. Don’t forget to wear a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen to protect yourself from the sun.
- Carry extra layers and rain gear: Even if the forecast predicts clear skies, it’s always wise to pack additional layers and rain gear in case of unexpected weather changes.
- Stay hydrated: Carrying at least a gallon of water per person, per day is essential when hiking at Red Rock Canyon in the summer. The arid desert climate can quickly lead to dehydration, so drink plenty of water throughout your hike.
- Be aware of flash floods: After thunderstorms or severe weather, avoid drainages, as they can quickly become dangerous due to flash floods. Stay on high ground and away from narrow canyons during or after rainfall.
- Watch out for wildlife encounters: Red Rock Canyon is home to various wildlife species, such as snakes and scorpions. Be cautious while hiking and keep a safe distance if you encounter wildlife along the trail.
- Follow trail etiquette: Stick to designated paths and trails while hiking at Red Rock Canyon. This not only protects fragile ecosystems but also reduces the risk of injury or getting lost.
Beat the crowds
One of the best ways to get the most out of your hike on the Calico Hills Trail is by starting early in the day. Hitting the trail before the crowds arrive means you’ll have a more peaceful and serene experience on this beautiful trail.
The sandstone formations of Red Rock Canyon will reward you with the most amazing colours in the early morning sun.
Hiking Red Rock Canyon’s Calico Hills Trail is an unforgettable adventure for outdoor enthusiasts. With its stunning scenery and challenging terrain, this trail offers a thrilling experience that showcases the natural beauty of Nevada’s desert landscape.
Whether you’re soaking in the mesmerizing views or scrambling through textured sections, this hike will leave you in awe of the vibrant colours and unique sandstone formations. You won’t believe this special place is only 15 miles from The Strip.
Need to Know
Length: 6.1 miles / 9.8 km
Time: 3 hrs (can be adjusted for a shorter hike)
Grade: Easy – Medium (some scrambling involved)
Style: Return (or one-way if taking two vehicles)
Park: Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area
Trail Conditions: Excellent. Mostly level on the main trail with some scrambling on side trails.
Path Taken: Calico Hills Trail from Calico 1 parking area to the Sandstone Quarry.
Car Access: Red Rock Canyon is a short 15 mile drive from the Las Vegas Strip along W Charleston Blvd. Permits are not needed for the trail but there is a $20 park entrance fee for vehicles and parking is available for the trail at either the Calico 1, Calico 2 or the Sandstone Quarry parking areas.
Map: A map of the Calico Hills Trail can be found at the map can be found at the Southern Nevada Conservancy’s Red Rock Canyon website.
Have you visited Red Rock Canyon? Got it on your bucket list? If you have any stories, updates or corrections, please let us know by commenting below.