After my “accidental” morning hike to Blue Diamond Overlook, I arrive at Turtlehead Peak around 10am. This is the hike I’d intended to undertake today – a supposedly tough but rewarding climb to one of the higher peaks in Red Rock Canyon. It’s also said to be the most-climbed peak in Red Rock Canyon. The trail starts at Sandstone Quarry (2.9 miles past the entry station), with the distinctive Turtlehead mountain directly ahead.
The trail crosses a band of sandstone, and is initially the same route as the one to Calico Tanks, before the two trails split. The Turtlehead Peak Trail heads directly toward a saddle below the summit. There was minimal signage at the time and the route up the chute was more a “choose your own adventure”: now there are more frequent trail markers as well as green blazes on the rocks and trail is much easier to follow.
From the ridge leading up the summit, you start getting great views over Red Rock Canyon and the Spring Mountain Range.
From the summit (there are sweeping 360-degree views. The height of Turtlehead Peak seems to vary – I’ve seen it reported as various different elevations, with the most popular height being 3,223 feet (or 1927m) above sea level. Regardless of the exact height, the views are extensive. To the north-west are the La Madre Mountains. Far off in the distance is Mt Charleston (the highest mountain in Nevada), which still has some snow around the summit.
To the south-east is the sprawling city of Las Vegas.
To the south are some of the rock formations of Red Rock Canyon and Highway 159, with Potosi Mountain in the distance.
Looking south-west, beyond the Sandstone Bluffs (in the foreground), is the Spring Mountain Range. Some of the more prominent peaks (from the left in the photo below) are Mount Wilson, Rainbow Mountain, Bridge Mountain (with its distinctive band of darker rock, near the middle) and then the White Rock Hills to the right.
It’s back the same way after admiring the views. It takes me in total about two and a half hours at a fairly solid pace – you should allow up to four hours (and bring plenty of water). It’s definitely a hike worth making the effort for! (I was there in March so it was warm, but not too hot – the entire route is pretty exposed, so get an early start if you can, and avoid doing this walk in the middle of summer.)
When to visit?
Almost all of the Red Rock Canyon hikes are pretty exposed, so it’s best to avoid summer – or start very early in the morning in summer to avoid the hottest part of the day.
Accommodation near Red Rock Canyon
Red Rock Canyon is a short drive from Las Vegas (which has thousands of hotels to choose from).
More information on Turtlehead Peak
- Branch Whitney, Hiking Las Vegas (p.79)
- Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area Scenic Drive Timed Entry – booking required to enter the area in peak periods (1 October to 31 May)