Turtlehead Peak is a great way to get that big picture view of Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. Though technically outside the park boundary, this five mile out-and-back hike begins and ends in the scenic canyon near the Sandstone Quarry trailhead. This trail can be difficult to follow, with some light scrambling and navigation skills required. The payoff? Breathtaking views of the canyon and even the city of Las Vegas. .
Getting to the Trailhead
The entrance to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is located at 1000 Scenic Loop Drive, Las Vegas, NV 89161.
Entrance to the park is $15 per vehicle. If you have an America the Beautiful National Parks pass, that will get you in for free. Note that timed reservations are required for vehicle entry to the Scenic Loop (which this trailhead is on) from 8am to 5pm, October 1st through May 31st. The gate to the park opens at 6:00 AM, and it’s advisable to get there when it opens to avoid the heat of the day.
Follow the Scenic Loop Drive for three miles to the Sandstone Quarry Trailhead parking area. There are toilets available. The trail begins at the north end of the parking area and is signed.
Hiking up Turtlehead Peak
At the north end of the parking lot you’ll see a large sign with a map of the the trail to Turtlehead Peak (that’s Turtlehead in the background). Review the sign for safety precautions and follow them.
The trail starts out fairly gentle, but pay attention to the trail markers. There are several trails criss-crossing the area as well as desert washes that make it easy to miss a junction if you’re not careful.
After a gentle half mile, the grade gets steeper and the trail climbs parallel to a wash. At 1.5 miles, the trail splits in to several trails. The easier ones are marked with green or white dots painted on the rocks.
We started early, so we had shade most of the first two miles, at which point you reach a ridge line. The trail follows the ridge and then around the back (northeast) side of Turtlehead Peak. Once again there are several use trails that will let you pick your way up to the summit.
Once you reach the top, you can explore different viewpoints with tremendous views of Red Rock Canyon. It’s really satisfying to rest at the top, knowing that the rest of the hike is downhill.
Head back down the way you came. As you descend, be careful not to overshoot the trail back to the ridge line (it’s easy to do). You might want to use your GPS app to do a periodic map check.
The descent goes pretty smoothly. With our early start (we entered the park right when the gates opened at 6:00 AM), we had shade most of the way up, but on our way down, the sun had already risen above the ridge and we started to feel the full intensity of that flaming orb.
Our total time was 3 hours, 12 minutes, with 2.5 hours of actual moving time. Made it back into town in time for a late breakfast (and before the worst heat of the day).
Turtlehead Peak Trail Map & Elevation Profile
Turtlehead Peak Tips & Resources
- Turtlehead Peak – Red Rock Canyon Las Vegas website
- Get reservations for timed entry (October 1st through May 31st; 8am – 5pm)
- Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area – Official BLM website
- Use sun protection (sunscreen, hat, sunglasses)
- Do not attempt in rain or wet conditions
- Do not attempt in high temperatures
- Carry two liters of water. Aim to finish the first one by the time you reach the summit.
Turtlehead Peak is part of the Las Vegas Six-Pack of Peaks Challenge, a self-paced hiking challenge that takes you up six iconic mountains, each a bit higher and harder. It’s a challenge in itself, or a great way to train for bigger adventures. And your registration help support some great outdoor-related non-profits.
Originally hiked on June 8, 2022 with Ethan and Lucie.