Ice Box Canyon, Ice Box Canyon, Red Rock Canyon, Nevada

Ice Box Canyon - 2.6 miles

Ice Box Canyon

Red Bud Trees bloom in the shaded riparian corridor of Ice Box Canyon

Red Bud Trees bloom in the shaded riparian corridor of Ice Box Canyon

Round-Trip Length: 2.6 miles (distance and gains vary by route through canyon)
Start-End Elevation: 4,275' - 4,672' (at upper pools and waterfall)
Elevation Change: +397' net elevation gain (+550' approximate total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Moderate
Dogs Allowed: Yes
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: Yes
Related Trails:

Ice Box Canyon - 2.6 Miles Round-Trip

The Ice Box Canyon Trail leads through open desert into a narrow, high-walled box canyon highlighted by perennial water, diverse vegetation and a seasonal waterfall. Bighorn sheep are frequently seen in the upper canyon where large pools persist much of the year.

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

This shaded canyon is aptly named for its cooler environment, however moderate-challenging scrambling is required to reach the scenic falls.

Note that GPS signal is unreliable in the canyon, and precise distances can be difficult to verify. Additionally, trail guides and signs may interpret the 'end point' differently, contributing to discrepancies among them. The following description details distance from the trailhead to waterfall, and acknowledges potential variations by route:

The trail dips from the parking area across a wash and rises steadily through dense and diversely vegetated brush flats. Primary constituents of these overlapping creosote and blackbrush ecotones include buckhorn cholla, beavertail cactus, ephedra, rabbitbrush, manzanita, penstemon and sage.

Enjoy great views across the Rainbow Mountains and back at Turtlehead Peak from this elevated area.

The trail braids in many places as you near the canyon mouth, with minimal guidance from signs. Spurs lead down to the main wash from the open desert, but keep right of and above these options until being naturally funneled into the canyon mouth (.65 miles : 4,503’).

Travel narrows into the canyon and makes a short, sharp drop onto the central wash floor (.85 miles : 4,560’). Note this entry – exit point, which is well marked by a large cairn and tree ribbons.

Here the maintained trail ends and minor-moderate scrambling begins. Large oak and redbud trees offer welcome shade as you pick your way through this cluttered space. Be mindful of snakes as you progress, and never place your hands where you can’t see them.

Navigation is intuitive, however anticipate keeping left at a difficult-to-see fork in the upper canyon just before reaching the pools. It’ll quickly be clear if you inadvertently stray here, as travel becomes markedly challenging.

The canyon floor opens at a steep slickrock chute where the seasonal pools and waterfall are located (1.3 miles : 4,672’). The slickrock pitch is deceptive, and the rock offers little traction.

It’s generally easier to scramble up, but choose your route very carefully on the way down – it’s quite possible to slide down into a pool or worse – all the way to the canyon floor. The waterfall is a spectacle when flowing, but inadvisable to climb. Look for sheep in the vicinity.

Rock Climbing in Red Rock Canyon

There are over 2000 designated climbing routes in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, which includes two wilderness areas: The Rainbow Mountain Wilderness and La Madre Mountain Wilderness. New, bolted, fixed anchors and/or protection bolts cannot be installed in either area. Ice Box Canyon falls within the Rainbow Mountain Wilderness.

Routes in Red Rock Canyon are rated via the Yosemite Decimal System. All class V routes (those involving the use of protection) range from 5.0 (easiest) to 5.14 (most difficult).

Sandstone can become brittle after rain and should not be climbed for at least 24 hours after storms. Anchors and weight-bearing instruments are susceptible to cracks and break-offs. Climbers should seek out limestone crags as an alternative after storms.

Climbing Permits: 702.515.5050 | Climbing Ranger: 702.515.5358 | See Rules and Regulations for additional permit information.

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N36 08.999 W115 29.045 — 0.0 miles : Ice Box Canyon Trailhead
  • N36 08.802 W115 29.378 — .4 miles : Trail braids; keep right of and above the canyon outlet
  • N36 08.695 W115 29.602 — .65 miles : Approach canyon mouth
  • N36 08.657 W115 29.749 — .85 miles : Drop (left) onto canyon floor and begin scramble
  • N36 08.589 W115 30.042 — 1.3 miles : End of canyon - terminal pools and waterfalls

Worth Noting

  • The red hues of Aztec Sandstone found throughout Red Rock Canyon are from the presence of Iron Oxide and related minerals, which 'rusted' from exposure to air and water. Tan hues suggest areas where iron minerals have been mostly leached out, or were never deposited.
  • Slickrock leading to the terminal pools and waterfall can be treacherous / impassable when wet. Be mindful of snakes, and never place your hands or feet where you can't see them.
  • Bighorn sheep are especially reliant on water found in this canyon. Avoid disturbing sheep while present, and unnecessarily entering pools or contaminating the water.
  • This is a popular trail with heavy traffic, especially on spring weekends. Arrive early to secure parking and avoid crowds.

Rules and Regulations

There's a $15 Daily Pass fee to enter Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area | $30 Annual Pass | America The Beautiful Passes are also accepted

The 13 mile Scenic Drive is open year round, with varying hours:

  • November - February: 6 am - 5 pm
  • March: 6 am - 7 pm
  • April - September: 6 am - 8 pm
  • October: 6 am - 7 pm

Climbing Permits

Late Exit Permits (LE) provide an extra two hours for climbers after the closure of Scenic Drive. These permits are issued for multi-pitch routes and are only available for: Ice Box Canyon, Juniper Canyon, Pine Creek Canyon, Oak Creek Canyon and Angel Food Wall.

Overnight Permits (ON) are only available for: Mt Wilson, Levitation Wall, Rainbow Wall, Buffalo Wall, Hidden Wall and Bridge Mountain.

Camping is not permitted at the base of any route.

Directions to Trailhead

Ice Box Canyon is accessed from the Ice Box Canyon Trailhead in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. The trailhead is located just past Mile Marker 8 along the Scenic Drive. This is a busy trailhead with limited parking. Arrive early to secure parking and avoid crowds.

Connector trails from Lost Creek and Pine Creek Canyon offer alternative access to the main trail leading into the canyon.

The Scenic Drive is one-way; if the trailhead turnoff is missed, you must drive the entire loop and re-enter the park to reach it.

Contact Information

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

Visitor Center (8 am - 4:30 pm):


Climbing Permits


Climbing Ranger


BLM Southern Nevada District Office


Trip Reports

There are no trip reports on this trail.


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