Calico Hills, Calico Hills Trailhead, Red Rock Canyon, Nevada
Calico Hills - 3.9 miles
Calico Hills Trailhead
|Round-Trip Length:||3.9 miles (distance may vary by route)|
|Start-End Elevation:||3,938' - 4,298' (4,316' max elevation)|
|Elevation Change:||+360' net elevation gain (+622' total roundtrip elevation gain)|
Calico Hills - 3.9 Miles Round-Trip
The Calico Hills are among the most colorful and interesting geological features in Red Rock Canyon. These distinct crimson hills began as red sand dunes over 180M years ago, the remains of a dune field thought one of the largest to ever form on earth.
Over time, underground water moving through the dune field carried away much of the original color but left behind calcium carbonate, which cemented the sand. The dunes were then compressed and lithified under the weight of overlying deposits that would eventually erode away.
Today the Calico Hills attract thousands of climbers each year to hundreds of designated routes - part of what makes Red Rock Canyon one of the Top 5 climbing destinations in the country.
The Calico Hills Trail runs along the base of the hills, from Calico I Trailhead to Sandstone Quarry. While interesting in full, most visitors quickly leave the trail and improvise across the rock complex:
The trail dips from the parking area to an escarpment and splits: the right fork climbs steeply to a high bench that parallels the heart of the Calicos for some time, while the official trail veers left and remains low before gradually rising into them.
The right fork offers immediate access to stunning slickrock, however if intending to hike the entire trail, this option eventually 'cliffs out', and you'll need to improvise or backtrack. It's a worthwhile detour, and adds only nominal distance and difficulty.
The main trail undulates steeply across sand and slickrock to a spur for the Calico II Trailhead (.9 miles : 3,995'). It continues along a scenic wash lined by pinyon and juniper (1.1 miles), then rises sharply above to the northern terminus at Sandstone Quarry (1.95 miles : 4,298').
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.
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).
Bolting is legal along Calico 1 & 2, but should only be done after consulting the climbing staff.
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.
Interactive GPS Topo MapKey GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84
- N36 08.777 W115 25.845 — 0.0 miles : Calico I Trailhead
- N36 08.899 W115 25.976 — .4 miles : Low, level trail below escarpment
- N36 09.183 W115 26.262 — .9 miles : Spur to Calico II Trailhead
- N36 09.506 W115 26.573 — 1.5 miles : Rolling travel on elevated ridge next to hills
- N36 09.694 W115 26.973 — 1.95 miles : Sandstone Quarry Parking Lot
- Slickrock scrambling can be treacherous when wet. Avoid steep slopes and descend exposed areas when storms threaten.
- The 2006 Scenic Fire: A lightning-induced fire on September 6, 2006 burned 1600 acres of desert scrub in Red Rock Canyon. Yucca and creosote can re-sprout after fire, however blackbrush and ephedra were planted by the BLM to facilitate recovery and restore critical habitat for tortoise, rabbits and burros.
- The lower desert still appears sparse, but wildflowers and brush have begun to reclaim replenished soils along the trail. Beavertail, hedgehog and globe mallow are notably abundant.
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
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
The Calico Hills can be accessed from three trailheads along Scenic Drive in Red Rock Canyon: Calico I, Calico II and Sandstone Quarry.
Calico I Trailhead is the first access point, located 1 mile from the Fee Station along Scenic Drive (right side). Calico I is the busiest of the three lots, but does accommodate roadside parking.
Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
Visitor Center (8 am - 4:30 pm):
BLM Southern Nevada District Office