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Start early and bring plenty of water on this high-intensity climb that begins near Sandstone Quarry and ascends parched, desert slopes and sandy washes. The first mile is relatively gentle with less than 500 feet of elevation gain—a good warm-up for the rigorous ascent that follows. At 1.6 miles, navigate a steep, rock-strewn ravine that leads to Turtlehead’s saddle (watch your footing on this loose terrain). From here, it’s a final .3-mile push to the summit where you’ll find 360-degree views of Las Vegas, Charleston Peak, and Calico Basin.
Note: The trail is faint at times with unmarked trail junctions.
Mapped by Heidi Sackreuter
- Distance: 3.3
Location: 36.1839408874512, -115.44847869873
Turn right on saddle; pass rock outcroppings. Ahead, terrain levels briefly, then begins final, steep ascent to Turtlehead’s rocky summit.
Location: 36.1753768920898, -115.45386505127
Trail meanders upward along left side of wash. Turn around to savor views of the Red Rock Valley. Turtlehead Peak looms ahead to the northeast.
Location: 36.1624908447266, -115.450332641602
Start hiking north on Turtlehead Peak Trail, passing red and tan sandstone outcroppings
Location: 36.1802520751953, -115.446098327637
Turtlehead Peak (6,323 ft.): Savor far-reaching views from this rocky promontory (Turtlehead Mountain on USGS topo maps). Look east to find the Las Vegas skyline; Mt. Charleston rises in the northwest; Red Rock National Conservation Area to the south. Winds can be strong, so be prepared and layer appropriately. Retrace route back to car
Location: 36.1706123352051, -115.454620361328
Ascend ridge on west that runs parallel with wash
Location: 36.1810836791992, -115.44979095459
Pick up the trail and hike northeast. View of the valley widens, revealing the outskirts of Las Vegas
Location: 36.1782913208008, -115.451736450195
Continue left along trail around rock outcropping
Location: 36.1635322570801, -115.450347900391
Keep straight @ 3-way junction with Sandstone Quarry. Pass a pile of massive sandstone blocks on the right.
Location: 36.1649551391602, -115.450790405273
Turn left @ Y-junction in wash. Agave roasting pits (darkened mounds with a slight indentation in the center) once used by Paiute Native Americans can be seen on the horizon.
Location: 36.1809043884277, -115.449806213379
Watch your footing as you scramble up a steep, slippery hillside strewn with loose gravel, intermittent creosote bushes, and hedgehog cacti. Trail is not clearly marked; walk north about 65 feet towards the ridgeline
Location: 36.174861907959, -115.453735351562
Turn left @ T-junction, continuing to traverse ridgeline. Maneuver around barrel cacti that stand up to a meter high and produce pineapple-shaped fruit