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Hiking Las Vegas Blog
The start of the trail
The Red Rock Canyon is always the perfect place for a hike, with its winding trails and stunning scenery. We decided to head to the Ice Box Canyon trail this time before all the water from the winter snowmelt got in the way. Spring was probably a better time to head there but it’s been a while since I’ve been and my feet were itching to go again. After all, have to keep the guides on this site up-to-date!
Some reviews put this trail at a moderate-strenuous hike, and that would probably be the case in the dead of a particularly heavy rain and snowfall winter but the day we chose reminded me why we actually categorize it as a level 1 difficulty and level 1 danger. It’s super easy to follow and the odds of you actually getting lost are something akin to laying down a straight flush on the Hold ’Em or Omaha hi-lo tables down in the valley.
Passing the Red Rock Canyon sign means you know you’re ready for a good hike
I persuaded my good, ol’ buddy, Davis, to join me and we started our drive out nice and early. I’d forgotten my National Park Pass, so begrudgingly paid the $7 fee to enter the Red Rock Canyon Pass. And you know what? Totally worth it. It takes my breath away every time. So did the cold. We were well equipped but having to cross the desert a bit before making your way into the wash makes you forget that inside the canyon, it’s freezing. Hence the name. Always come prepared! As we continued along the trail, I noticed that there are a lot more Manzanita bushes and desert scrub oak than I remember. Either my memory is getting worse or the conservation efforts are really taking effect. I like to think that it’s the latter and that the only thing that’s getting worse is my poker skills.
I thought it would be a good idea to check out some of the side paths that head off to the left on the part where you have to do all the boulder hopping in the hope of seeing the canyon at its finest – quiet and unspoilt – as well as catch a glimpse of some wildlife. We weren’t in any rush – this hike is only about 3 hours long in total after all – so we lurked there for a while in order to check my recently acquired Bushnell binoculars. There were some hawks overhead so I figured that they’d seen something tasty down there so I waited. And then jackpot: tortoises, red-spotted toads, chorus frogs, and even a red racer. Once I caught sight of scorpions and some spiders I wasn’t exactly sure about, I figured it was time to move on. My poker face doesn’t work on insects about as well as it works on online poker, and I didn’t fancy risking anything when this was just supposed to be a quick jaunt down memory lane.
After heading deeper into the canyon at a quick pace to warm up a bit, next came the scramble to the waterfall. I honestly wouldn’t have put my chips down on it having so much water already – it usually doesn’t get to the roaring state until late winter. Nature called my bluff. I lamented not having brought my sticky rubber shoes. Such a rooky mistake! I strongly advise all readers against doing the same and am thinking of raising the Class of this hike up based on my recent experience! A few slips later, we finally made it to the waterfall. We had a short rest to enjoy the splendour of nature and munched on some energy bars before slipping and sliding our way back down and heading towards the car.
I do love this hike and it’s for sure one of the trails out there that you need to prepare for. I'm not saying that this hike would get you a dopamine as high as going all-in on a round of poker – although my last attempts at poker online were on a par- but it's definitely enough to get the adrenaline pumping and you’ll need to make sure that kids get the help they need. It’s maintained by BLM for the most part, but not all side paths are so I can’t vouch for how safe they’ll be.
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