Las Vegas, NV: Turtlehead Peak

Looking to escape the Las Vegas crowds? You better work! The trail up to Turtlehead Peak is strenuous—but the payoff is 360-degree views that you’ll likely have to yourself.
Avatar:
Author:
Publish date:
Social count:
0
Looking to escape the Las Vegas crowds? You better work! The trail up to Turtlehead Peak is strenuous—but the payoff is 360-degree views that you’ll likely have to yourself.

The hike begins at the Sandstone Quarry trailhead. Begin hiking northeast on a wide, dirt trail that leads toward remnants of an old quarry that operated in the 1920s. After 150 yards, you’ll cross over a large wash and pick up the trail on the other side. After another 130 yards you reach a trail junction with Calico Tanks trail. Veer northwest (left) at the junction. For the next 300 yards, the trail stays west of and above the wash before crossing northeast over another large wash. You’ll be able to pick the dirt trail on the north side of the wash. A couple hundred yards from the wash, the trail will turn sharply east leading through the last section of sandstone.

Hike northeast through the open desert and toward the base of the mountain. The trail heads northeast on a steep grade and parallel to a wash. About a third of a mile from where you left the wash and surrounding sandstone, you enter the La Madre Wilderness. About halfway up the chute, the trail runs into where the chute splits into two washes. From this point there is no obvious trail up to the saddle. Be prepared to navigate dozens of social trails whilst tackling some class 2 scrambling. You’re about to gain 700 feet of elevation in less than half a mile! One of the easier trails to follow stays to the east (right) of the wash.

Look up at the outcrop of large rocks just below the saddle and head to the east side of those. Once you reach the saddle, take a breather and enjoy the views. Now get moving: you’re not there yet!

From the saddle the trail winds southeast on a fairly steep series of social trails for about a third of a mile. The best trail stays on the west side of the peak, not too far from the edge of a massive cliff. The peak is sharp limestone with little vegetation, but it’s still a great place to sit and rest before the difficult hike back down. Enjoy the unrivaled view you worked so hard to be able to see. There's La Madre Mountain to the north, the Red Rock Canyon escarpment to the west, the city of Las Vegas to the east, and Calico Basin lies beneath you in the southeast. To return to your vehicle, retrace your steps.

Safety Information
- Pay attention when you get to the saddle and make sure you go back down the way you came on your return trip. It’s not uncommon for people to get turned around at this saddle and end up down in Brownstone Canyon.
- Hikers often underestimate the difficulty of this hike. Bring plenty of water and wear shoes with good grip. A good portion of this trail is very steep. Expect to fall on your bum at least once on the way down.

Random Information
What is Class 2 hiking? It is more difficult hiking that may be off-trail. You may also have to put your hands down occasionally to keep your balance. It may include hiking on talus/scree.

Trail Facts

  • State: NV
  • City: Las Vegas
  • Distance: 0.0
  • Contact: Red Rock Canyon Visitor Center (702) 515-5350
  • Land Type: BLM Land

Waypoints

THP001
Location: 36.162446, -115.450341
From trailhead follow the trail north.

THP002
Location: 36.163431, -115.450221
Continue northwest on Turtlehead Peak Trail at junction with Grand Circle trail.

THP003
Location: 36.163578, -115.450384
Cross wash and continue northwest on trail.

THP004
Location: 36.164948, -115.450787
Head northwest on Turtlehead Peak trail at junction with Calico Tanks trail.

THP005
Location: 36.166088, -115.451873
Stay left of trail marker to hike above the wash.

THP006
Location: 36.167051, -115.452635
Follow the wash for about 30 yards then hike back on the trail.

THP007
Location: 36.167667, -115.452871
Exit the wash and rejoin the trail.

THP008
Location: 36.169551, -115.453683
Trail continues in wash.

THP009
Location: 36.170451, -115.454563
Exit the wash and rejoin the dirt trail.
THP010
Location: 36.175273, -115.453844
Trail becomes steep scree.

THP011
Location: 36.176501, -115.453319
Wilderness boundary marker.

THP012
Location: 36.180314, -115.450535
Leave trail and enter wash. Pick the best route up towards craggy outcrop at the saddle.

THP013
Location: 36.183550, -115.447738
From the saddle follow trail southeast toward summit. Pick a trail that stays close to the west side. BEWARE of drop off.

THP014
Location: 36.180266, -115.445736
Turtlehead Peak. Retrace your steps back to trailhead.