Red Rock Canyon

Headed back towards Vegas to get cell reception for funeral arrangements & ended up not needing to cut the trip short.  Was already past Pahrump so decided to stay close to Vegas.  Camping was done for now but booked my best AirBnB to date (seriously if you’re solo check for a listing called “Vital Vegas”, you won’t be disappointed).  Slot machines aren’t my thing but plenty of hiking nearby – next stop was Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.

Calico Hills I

This is the first stop on the park road loop.  Calico Hills I has several hikes that connect to other parking/trailheads but I opted for other routes.  Not a bad place to stop and get a close-up view of massive red rocks and views that stretch for miles along the mountains.

Calico Tanks

One of the next trailheads is at Sandstone Quarry which gives access to the Calico Tanks hike.  The trail is a short 2.5 mile in & out starting with gravel and sand paths, ultimately leading to sandstone and red rock that at points requires some agility and creative navigation.

Near the trail end you reach the “tank” which is basically a basin in the rocks that holds water at times.  December is quite dry and the tank was empty, but I did get a quick photo of some wild chukar passing through.

Just a short climb above the tanks you reach the trail end with views of Vegas in the distance.

Return hike takes a little extra precaution to prevent twisted ankles but is relatively tame.  Scenery is just as good on the way out.

La Madre Spring

At the suggestion of park staff I set off for La Madre Spring.  The trail starts at the Willow Spring parking area and follows the Rocky Gap 4×4 road for a short stretch before splitting off on a more groomed gravel surface.

Various brush and cactus can be found along the way.  Also found a bunch of scat from bighorn sheep that roam the area (didn’t get lucky enough to see any today).

Views of the spring itself are nothing to write home about but that is to be expected – December is very dry here and locals said they haven’t had precipitation for over 100 days.

Hiking on the return trip is nearly all downhill.  The sun began to hide behind the mountains throwing streaks across the near cloudless sky.

Petroglyph Wall

Also just a short walk from the Willow Spring trail head is the Petroglyph Wall trail.  This is a very short and easy hike but takes you to the nearby cliff side with 800 year old petroglyph markings.  Always cool to find, feels like peeking directly into history.


The scenic drive road has many pullouts to stop and take photos.  Definitely stopped at most of these where time allowed to snap a few shots. (Don’t forget to click images to see a larger view with more detail!)

Hiking Data

Calico Hills and the Petroglyph Wall are very close to parking lots so I won’t bore you with that data (seriously I can almost Uncle Rico a football the distance of these walks).

Calico Tanks was a fairly short 2.5 mile in/out with only a few hundred feet elevation gain.  Not very difficult for me, but the uneven surfaces and rock scrambles may prohibit some people if you have bad ankles or knees.

La Madre Springs ended closer to about 4 miles in/out with much more elevation gain.  Nothing here is really a vertical climb, but the challenging sections are uneven rocks about the size of grapefruits that will wear you down a bit (careful with your ankles here).  Inbound is uphill all the way so the return trip is quite easy.

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