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Hiking Las Vegas Blog
The Monument Arch has been a quest of mine for several years. At first I thought it might be an illusion. (See photo below.) As time passed I forgot about it until Davis just happened to catch the Arch in a photo taken from Black Velvet Peak. After inspecting the photo, the hunt was on again! From previous hikes to East Monument Peak I was convinced the Arch was a technical hike (ropes) from the east. Davis and I figured we would approach it from the west, which meant hiking to West Monument and then somehow find a route down to the Arch. Not an easy task for an illusive Arch that might not exist!
On December 7th, 2001, Davis and I tried to find the Arch by ascending to West Monument and then descending the Gully of Death. About halfway down the gully the sun started to sink and we got out of there. Attempt 1 was a dismal failure. The only thing we learned was this was going to be a long hike. Also, we learn that our combined IQ's during the hike didn't reach into double digits :)
On an early and cold morning in January, Davis and I tried again to find the Arch. This time our trailhead was off of Lovell Canyon road, the same trailhead for "The Park" hike. We figured this was a quicker approach than from Black Velvet trailhead. We hiked to West Monument and started the descent. Once past where we turned around last time, the going became tough. It was loose and brushy and death was in the air or, at least, a minor scrape from scrub oak! Finally, we were just around the corner from the Arch. We turned the corner and... No Arch, it was an illusion! There was an Arch type structure without the Arch. Maybe in a few thousand years it will become an Arch. I don't think we'll wait. We were disappointed to say the least. I wouldn't have believed it unless I saw it with my own eyes.
Photos Don't Lie
We tried to return the camera that took the photo of the Arch claiming it was defective. The store manager promptly threw us out of the store. We looked at the photo again and realized we were defective. We had stopped about 75 yards shy of the real Arch. We were almost 100% sure there was an Arch. We planned to wait until the longer days of April to conquer the Arch.
On a warm day in mid-April we started at Black Velvet trailhead on our quest to stand in the Arch. We both agreed the hike in from Black Velvet was better than the hike in from Lovell Canyon road. It didn't matter to us that it was longer. As we approached the "Ledges" Davis hurt his ankle. Having watched several episodes of Marcus Welby, MD when I was a kid, I offered to operate on it. Davis declined. The Arch got us again! I think it was smiling!
On May 14th, 2002, we were certain the Arch was ours! We were both in good shape and the daylight stretched into the evening. We departed from Black Velvet trailhead, ascended to West Monument, and descended the Gully of Near Death. This time we walked the additional 75 yards and... there was the Arch. The only thing that separated us was a 60-foot, class 5, wall! Where did that come from? It was not apparent in Davis' photo. We both collapsed. I am sure the Arch was laughing at us.
Time to Bring in the Professional
Ed Forkos has been climbing mountains for 40 years. He's very knowledgeable and puts safety first. I told him about the Arch and he wanted to conquer it. Bringing ropes and webbing with him, we planned to approach the Arch from the east and descend into a ramp that leads to the Arch. From my previous trips I knew if we could get to the ramp, we had it made. I talked Peter and Anna into coming along. Suckers!
On Halloween 2002, the four of us started walking toward East Canyon in our hiking costumes on route to the Arch. On an previous hike I had descended Arch Canyon, so we decided to climb it instead of following the traditional route. Part of the climb was very exposed class 4. Once near the Arch, I showed Ed all the routes down to the ramp and we decided on one. After finding an appropriate anchor, Ed tied me into the 100-foot rope and I started descending to the ramp. Peter thought it would be a good idea to tie the rope around my neck. I disagreed and kicked him off the hike. (I kick him off every hike :) I believed it was going to be a class 3 descent. I was wrong! It was class 4, at least. The rope was very reassuring. I inched my way down to the ramp and started running toward the Arch. Slam! I forgot to untie the rope. Thankfully it wasn't around my neck :) After untying the rope, I walked to the Arch. Wow! It was taller than I had thought. I was finally standing in the Arch.
The Arch is NOT on topo maps. I believe we were the first to stand in the Arch. I have never talked to anyone who knew about the Arch. We figured the Arch was at least 100 feet tall. It's more impressive than the Arch at Bridge Mountain.
Today only a handful of people have stood under the arch. To my knowledge I am the only person who has led this hike. We now rap down to the arch. This is safer and faster.
I had the arch registered in a database of natural arches around the country.
This is one of many stories of how I and others found peaks and points of interest in Red Rock Canyon.
On March 12th Daylight Savings Time begins. This marks the prime-time to hike in Red Rock Canyon. It will not get dark until 7 pm, the same time the Scenic Loop Road closes.
The snow has melted and the ice is gone! However, the washes still have water in them, making for a scenic hike.
All of the above factors make this the prime-time to hike in Red Rock. This is your best bet to do the longest and toughest hikes in Red Rock.
Here's my list of some of the toughest hikes in Red Rock:
1. Rainbow Peak - no easy route to the summit. The shortest route is: Rainbow Peak Without the Ledge. This route has lots of Class 4 sections and ropes.
STATS: Distance 7 miles; Elevation gain: 3,072 feet
2. Mt. Wilson - highest sandstone peak in Red Rock. The elevation gain is over 3,000 feet. The shortest route is Cleaver Crack, but there are plenty of very steep sections, since the distance is shorter than other routes, but the elevation gain is the same. Video of the hike.
STATS: Distance 8 miles; Elevation gain: 3,014 feet
3. Pine Creek Peak - A cool peak located at the back of Pine Creek Canyon. Lots of scrambling and exposure on this awesome route. Video of the hike.
STATS: Distance 7.5 miles; Elevation gain: 2,845 feet
Remember a mile of scrambling equals two miles for trail hiking!
Did you know the 52 Peak Club leads all of these hikes? Check them out here.
Do you agree my picks? Let me know in the comments.
Thanks for reading,
Magic Mtn. is a local favorite hike in Red Rock Canyon. It's one of the best, short scrambling hikes in Red Rock. It's also a round-trip hike!
Below is my video review of the hike. It's a moderate hike that starts on a trail before scrambling to the summit. Hikers who can handle class 3 climbing and are in moderate shape can do this hike.
The 52 Peak Club offers this hike frequently to members.
I give this hike 5 stars!
Red Rock Canyon stands just 20 miles west of Las Vegas, NV. What most people don't realize is there are three separate hiking areas. Let's look at them.
Calico Basin/Red Spring
Calico Basin/Red Springs is just north of what most people call Red Rock Canyon.
Access is off of SR 159 about two miles before Red Rock Canyon.
The hikes are short and relatively easy. The established trails are few and not well marked. Some of the popular peaks in this area include: Calico Tank Peak, Kraft Mtn, Gray Cap Peak and Turtlehead Jr. Peak.
There is no fee to enter and hike in this area.
It is crowded, especially during the weekend.
There is a pavilion area with tables, chairs and restrooms.
Red Rock Canyon - Scenic Loop
This is the area most people visit at Red Rock.
Access is off of SR 159.
The hikes range from easy to very difficult. There are 19 established trails (BLM) and the only peak the BLM recognizes is Turtlehead Peak.
There are many challenging peaks in this area including: Bridge Mtn., Juniper Peak, Rainbow Peak, White Rock Hills Peak, Ice Box Peak, Pine Creek Peak, Oak Peak, Terrace Canyon Peak, Crabby Appleton Peak, Bridge Point, Mt. Wilson (highest sandstone peak in Red Rock), and Mescalito Peak.
There is a fee to drive on the 13 mile Scenic Loop road:
$7 per vehicle, per day;
$30 Red Rock Annual Pass
$80 America the Beautiful Annual Pass - good for all national parks.
There is a Visitor Center just beyond the fee booth.
It is crowded, especially during weekend. Try to arrive before 11 am to avoid waiting to get through the fee both.
South Red Rock Canyon
This is the least known part of Red Rock Canyon.
Access is off of Blue Diamond Road aka SR 160.
Most of the hikes are difficult. There are very few established trails.
There are many challenging peaks in this area including: Black Velvet Peak, East Peak, Hidden Peak, Global Peak, Windy Peak, and The Stealth Range.
There is no fee to enter and hike in this area.
There are no amenities.
It is not crowded.
How tough are you? Try these hikes and find out:
1. Mummy Head to Toe
It's a traverse across Mummy Mtn in Mt. Charleston, which is near Las Vegas, NV. During the adventure you will stand on four different peaks.
Distance: 8.5 miles
Elevation gain: 4,129 feet
Elevation of peaks: Mummy’s Forehead 11,040, Mummy’s Chin 11,037 feet, Mummy’s Tummy 11,542 feet, Mummy’s Toe 10,925 feet
Time: all day
What makes it so tough? No trail, four peaks and traversing around 11,000 feet for most of the day. (There's a five peak variation)
Inside info: Watch for loose rock. A car shuttle is required.
2. Norman Clyde
One of the toughest peaks in the Sierra and named after the most prolific mountaineer of the Sierra.
Distance: 13 miles – round trip
Elevation gain: 6,160 feet
Elevation peak: 13,920 feet
Time: Long day or backpack
What makes it so tough? It's a steep climb at high elevation and it's cold even in August. The route ascends the North Face.
Inside info: Attempt in late August/early Sept. Bring gloves and rap gear.
3. Four Peak Scramble in Red Rock Canyon
This is possibly the toughest rock scramble in the country! With virtually no trail it's all scrambling to four very different peaks: Juniper, Gunsight Notch, Rainbow and Mt. Wilson. Each of these peaks is a good hike; all four in one day is a killer hike.
Distance: 9 miles – round trip
Elevation gain: 7,160 feet
Elevation peak: Juniper 6,109 feet, Gunsight Notch 6,200 feet, Rainbow 6,800 feet, Mt. Wilson 7,070 feet
Time: A very long day
What makes it so tough? Massive elevation loss after Juniper and Rainbow peaks. The toughest peak (Mt Wilson) is the last peak of the day!
Inside Info: Cache water before attempting this hike.
4. Mt. Sill
Another Sierra Peak with possibly the best vista in the Sierra! This is a very tough climb. Check out the stats below.
Distance: 20 miles – round trip
Elevation gain: 6,300 feet;
Elevation peak: 14,136 feet
Time: Long day or backpack
What makes it so tough? 20 miles and 6,300 feet in gain. Do I need to say more?
Inside info: Most camp at Sam Mack Meadows. This breaks up the climb. It's a trail hike to Sam Mack Meadows.
5. Badwater to Telescope Peak
Many hardcore hikers consider this the toughest hike in the country. You start at sea level and ascend to 11,049 feet! That's a lot of elevation gain. The hike is called Badwater to Telescope, but most start at Shorty's Well. It cuts out about four miles of walking across the desert in the middle of the night.
Distance: 21 miles (from Shorty’s Well to Mahogany Flats Trailhead)
Elevation gain: 11,300 feet
Elevation peak: 11,049 feet
Time: 12 to 16 hours
What makes it so tough? Gee, do you really need me to tell you? Also, logistically this is not an easy hike. Most hikers have a car at Mahogany Flats trailhead to make the hike shorter; otherwise, you have to retrace your steps descending 11,000 feet.
Inside info: Do this hike in October and start around 2 am. Bring a gps. You want to intersect the official trail at a saddle to avoid a terrible scree field.
Here are five secret hikes that you probably haven't done. You will want to do these hikes after reading this article. These hikes are located in Red Rock Canyon, just 20 miles west of Las Vegas, NV.
1. Lost Creek Peak via the Ridge Route
This is a crazy hike with tons of class 4 scrambling. It features the amazing Graffiti Traverse! Check out the video below. This is a long hike.
Distance: 6 miles (no trail at all)
Elevation gain: 2,100 feet
Elevation peak: 6,644 feet
Time: 6 to 7 hours
2. Tunnel Vision Peak via the Original Route
After years of hikers abandoning this hike, it's back. We found a work-around the bees, which makes the hike even better! Lot's of ropes on this route and they are needed.
Distance: 4 miles - Up and back
Elevation gain: 1,700 feet
Elevation peak: 6,100 feet
Time: 5 to 6 hours
Class: 5 with ropes
3. The Stealth Range
If you have hiked in Black Velvet Canyon, you have seen these awesome looking pinnacles. At times they seem to disappear and then reappear. Each pinnacle is mind blowing. Come prepared with ropes and a harness. There are at least three raps.
Distance: 7 miles - Up and back
Elevation gain: 2,507 feet
Elevation peaks: ~6,100 feet
Time: 6 to 7 hours
4. South Summit of Mt. Wilson
This summit is different than Mt. Wilson. It has a cool ledge just below the summit that looks straight down 2,000 feet into the void. The route first travels to White Pinnacle Peak, one of the best summits in Red Rock, but you already know this!
Distance: 8 miles — up and back
Elevation gain: 3,064 feet
Elevation of peak: 6,791 feet
Time: 6 to 8 hours - Up and back
5. Walk Up Wall
This route goes through the amazing Gunsight Notch before scaling an intimidating wall to the summit. Once at the summit you are looking at the upper part of Rainbow Wall.
Distance: 7.5 miles – round trip
Elevation gain: 2,550 feet
Elevation peak: 6,660 feet
Time: 5 to 6 hours
Class: 4 (very exposed)
2 Smart Ways to Do These Hikes
These hikes are very hard to follow. There's no signs, no trails to the summits. There's only one hiking group that does these hike and that's the 52 Peak Club.
If you are the type that likes to do these hikes with your hiking buddies, then you can become a VIP of this website where you can download the step by step directions with GPS waypoints.
Note: The Stealth Range is not available for download at this time.
All of these routes were found by the 52 Peak Club.
On Feb. 7th, the 52 Peak Club did a hike to First Creek Peak. Normally this is a fun hike with lots of scrambling, but on this day there was ice high up on the route. Not surprisingly the ice was on the north facing side. This made things tricky and safety was the utmost thing on our minds.
Things Get Tricky and We Used Some Tricks
The higher up we climbed the more snow and ice we encountered. Luckily we were in fairly tight chutes, so we could use the walls for handholds and there was no exposure. Once we turned the corner and came to the ledge things changed. Ahead of us was a very exposed climb that had ice on it. A fall here would be deadly. Walking the ledge normally was no big deal, but with ice on it and a death-fall off to the right, it was a big deal.
We were close to the summit and did not want to turn around. We took rocks and started chipping away at the ice to the sandstone rock underneath. It worked! We carefully and successfully traversed the ledge. At one point we laid down a roped to make it safer.
After carefully hiking up the snow covered ground, normally this is an easy hiker's path, we stood at the base of the imposing summit block. We were all glad there was no ice or snow on this final climb. At the summit we rested, it had been a tough hike and looked across the canyon to the Hidden Bowl on Mt. Wilson. Not a speck of snow or ice, since it was south facing. Hmm...
We all realized descending the route we ascended would be very tricky and dangerous, even with webbing and cams. Most accidents happen during the descent. We made a group decision to traverse over the Hidden Bowl. The traverse was long, but very safe. We descended the Hidden Bowl back into the wash.
Bottom line is we all made it out without incident and had a memorable hike.
Better decisions lead to better hikes and a better life. This one example.
Alternative Hiking Areas
Luckily, we have some alternatives. Lake Mead has hotsprings and peaks people can hike. Arizona Hotsprings is a local favorite. Northshore Peak and Fortification Hill are fun hikes.
Death Valley is less than two hours away from Las Vegas and offers very different and very scenic hikes. Manly Beacon is one of the most unique hikes in the country!
China Date Ranch is only 90 minutes from Vegas and features Death Valley type hiking. Fence Post Peak might be the craziest hike you will ever do! After the hike, you can enjoy a Date Shake.
And the good news is: All of these hikes are led by the 52 Peak Club!
Not into group hiking? Cool.
Become a member of this website and download the above hikes and another 395 hikes.
15 hikers celebrated Thanksgiving morning by hiking to Crabby Appleton Peak in Red Rock Canyon. The hike begins at Pine Creek parking lot and trailhead. We followed Pine Creek Trail about one mile into the South fork of Pine Creek. Once in the wash it's about 20 minutes to the divide. We headed into the South - South fork of the canyon. Soon we came to the unmarked turnoff where we left the wash.
The rest of the hike is class 1 to 3 scrambling and is only marked with cairns (small stacks of rocks). This route has several places of exposure. The route was entirely in the shade until we reached the summit. We took a short break before heading down. Even though the summit was in the sun, it was cool and the breeze made it cold for some.
The descent route is entirely different from the ascent route making this hike a round trip adventure. As the photos show there's some exposure on the descent route. The entire hike took us 3.5 hours at a moderate pace, but we made zero navigational mistakes.
Here are the stats:
Hike: Crabby Appleton Peak — route
Trailhead: Pine Creek — marked
Distance: 6 miles — round trip
Elevation gain: 1,900 feet
Elevation peak: 5,380
Time: 4 to 5 hours – round trip
How did this peak get its name? I named it after the wall that stands below the peak. Rock climbers named the wall: Crabby Appleton. You will have to ask them "Why".
Branch Whitney is the author of Hiking Las Vegas and creator of the 52 Peak Club where members hike to the best 52 Peaks around Las Vegas, NV