This past weekend we went to Nevada for my lil bro’s college orientation, and ventured outside of the SLO bucket list to hike in the Red Rock Canyons. It was like nothing I had ever seen before. We chose the Calico Tanks hike, which was moderate in difficulty and about 2.5 miles long each way (5 roundtrip).
Before we get started on the hike, let’s go over some general tips for hiking in the Red Rock Canyon.
- Start Early!
By starting in the morning you will have less heat and less harsh sun rays to face than if you went later in the day. We started our hike around 10 a.m. and I still got burnt to a crisp on my shoulders #IrishPeopleProblems
- Bring LOTS of water
It’s going to be very hot and no matter what hike you do it’s going to require frequent hydration especially if there is not much shade. Water is a must.
- Slather on the Sunscreen
Even if you don’t burn as easily as me, still put on sunblock as a precaution. It’s better to be safe than to risk a burn or skin cancer. I also recommend a baseball cap to protect your face, and sunglasses to protect your eyes.
Now for the hike.
It’s seven dollars to enter the park by buying a day pass, and once you get in, drive past the visitor center along the 13 mile scenic route until you reach the Sandstone Quarry parking lot. Park there, and head to the trailhead which is marked with information about the surrounding trails including safety tips and what animals you may encounter.
Once you start on the trail there will be signs for the first half mile or so guiding the way.
The first part of the hike is relatively flat, but unshaded. The rocks are a lighter brown color, you won’t reach the red rocks until a bit later in the hike. Keep along the marked path in order to not get lost, even though it’s very tempting to climb everything in sight…
There are cactuses along the side of the path, so be careful as you walk so that you don’t walk into one like my brother!
Also along the trail are carins. These man made stacks of rocks which have been used for a wide variety of purposes since ancient times, are in this case to mark the trail.
A little further in, things start to get steeper. Ever heard of rock scrambling? It’s a technique for climbing rocks without having to use a belay, and is relatively easy to conquer on this hike.
The rock scrambling on this trail is pretty basic and I would say that most people who are in moderately in shape can handle it without any problems.
This hike has about a 450 foot elevation gain and many great photo opportunities for basic girls like me!
See the picture below:
After about an hour of hiking you will reach this tree. Get some water and enjoy the shade of the tree for a little while because there won’t be much more for a while.
After passing the tree, soon you will come to a body of water (depending on the time of year there may be less or more water) and when you get there don’t give up. I say body of water, because it’s not really a lake but there’s more there than a puddle. This is the “Calico Tank” and is usually full of water when it rains in the winter months. If you can because it’s dry, keep going because the best part is yet to come.
Pass the lake-like body of water on the right. Once you scramble up some final rocks you’ll reach the peak of the hike with an amazing view of the city of Las Vegas and the surrounding area.
Calico Tanks was one of the hottest and most scrambly hikes I have been on but it ended with one of my favorite views. After completing the hike be sure to do the 13 mile scenic drive around the park and bask in the glory of the rocks and the dirt because it’s beautiful.
Also be sure to check out the Visitor Center and learn all of the information about the wildlife and the history of the indigenous people who used to spend ALL of their time in the Red Rock Canyon.
Here’s a map to the parking lot, where the trailhead is!