Friday, February 4, 2011

Turtlehead Peak - The Path Less Traveled

Jutting up high above the Calico Hills of Red Rock National Conservation Area is 6,323' Turtlehead Peak, the highest in the park. Visible from the Las Vegas valley, it is one of the more difficult hikes within the trail system. On this day, as we have in the past, Juggy and I decided to take the more difficult (off the map) route from the back side, which actually starts outside of the NCA.

Traveling west on Charleston Bl., just before you get to the entrance to Red Rock NCA, you will come to Calico Basin Rd. on the right. This small residential area is also home to Red Springs park. This is a good place to leave your car and start your walk by taking the trail to the northwest.

As you pass the spring, continue heading northwest and find the trail that runs up and over this notch.

Just before you start heading up over the notch you come to this little valley on your left. With some scrambling you can follow it up and over the Calico Hills to the Red Rock side, but today we will bypass it and head towards Turtlehead.

After a short fairly steep climb, you are treated to this wonderful valley and a perfect view of your destination. Is it starting to look like a turtles head yet?

There are some very cool pink and white striped rocks throughout this area, carved out by once rushing water.

This photo hardly does justice to the wonderful display of colored rocks, from white and pink striped, to yellows, oranges, reds, and finally to the older dark gray formations in the distance.

We took a short break here to soak in the sights.

Looking east down the valley is another beautiful area to explore, but not today.

A great view of the still distant peak.

After some searching, we found a safe route to drop down into the wash. Juggy puts her gloves on because the climbing is just beginning.

For the next half mile or so, you walk up this dry wash. Even though there is no trail, the way is obvious.

The wash turns to the right and narrows, then comes the fun part...looking back at the obstacle I just climbed up, while Juggy makes her way.

A natural stair case.

Looking back down where we came from.

At the base of the backside of the mountain you are treated to this wonderful little valley.

Ancient sand dunes, frozen in time...

Still about 40 minutes from the peak, we realized we were running out of time, for we had to get back to town for a friends 1 year old babies birthday party. (Sorry we were so late, it was hard to turn around)!

So we decided to have a quick breakfast in this magical place.

Couscous, berries, nuts, and powdered milk - our favorite!

A failed attempt? Hardly...we've been up there a half dozen times or so before. Below is a shot from the day I proposed to Juggy on the snow covered peak a couple years ago...luckily she said yes!

We don't worry too much about mileage or elevation gain, so I don't have the specific stats to share with you. I would estimate the round trip is around 8 miles, and travel is much slower than normal due to the many obstacles you are navigating. The elevation gain is about 3,300', becoming extremely steep the last 1/2 mile or so. If you go there, be careful of the many dangerous exposed sections, and I wouldn't recommend it between May and September when the temperature exceeds 100F degrees regularly. Happy Trails!