Jaunts With Jackie

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Tag: Hiking

Hiking at Red Rock Canyon

Before you go out for a crazy night of debauchery in Sin City you can head to Red Rock Canyon for an amazing day of hiking. Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is just a mear 25 miles West of the Las Vegas strip. On a Saturday in January, we drove from the Los Angeles area to Red Rock Canyon and it only took us about 3 1/2 hours.

Plan to Arrive at Red Rock Early

Check the visitor information page for their hours. We arrived at the entrance at 9:30 a.m. There were only a few cars ahead of us to pay. There was a $15 entrance fee. We stopped at the visitor’s center and looked around. Instead of hiking around the visitor’s center, we decided to head to the Calico Tank hike. After entering the park the road is 13 miles one-way loop. When we arrived at the parking lot for Calico Tank it was completely full at 10:00 a.m. I drove around and around the loop, but nobody was leaving. I finally decided to drive down the road and park off the roadway and hope I didn’t come back and find a ticket.

The entrance to Red Rock Canyon
There were lots of people out rock climbing with ropes.

Wildlife at Red Rock Canyon

We hoped to see some wildlife during our visit to Red Rock Canyon, but we only saw a few lizards. There are signs warning drivers to slow down for the wild tortoise, but since we visited in January they were probably still hibernating. We lept our eyes peeled for wild burros, but we didn’t see them either.

Use caution while driving.

Hiking to Calico Tanks

The park trail map rates the hike to Calico Tanks as Strenuous. From the parking lot to the tank is a little over 2 miles roundtrip. Even though the parking lot was full there are other hikes in the area and lots of people practicing rock climbing. The first part of the hike follows an actual path. There weren’t that many people on the trail when we first started. The weather in January was sunny and comfortable. I wouldn’t want to do this hike if it was hot outside, because there is little to no shade. After about 1/2 mile the trail becomes less clear cut and the hike becomes “choose your own adventure.” There are places that you can hop from rock to rock.

A trail map for the hike to Calico Tanks.
There are parts where you need to scramble up the rocks.
Heading up the canyon.
We found a little water along the trail.

Calico Tanks

There are a few signs along the way to let you know that you are still going the right way. Basically, you are heading up through a small canyon. The actual Calico Tanks is a natural holding pool for water. I’ve heard that the water dries up in the warmer months. We made it to the tank in a little over an hour with plenty of time for exploring and taking pictures. After the tanks, you want to continue going up and you will be rewarded with an amazing view of the Las Vegas strip and valley. We took in the view and took lots of pictures.

Calico Tank

Hiking Down From Calico Tanks

Coming down was a little dicey. The trail had become “The Disneyland of the Desert.” I couldn’t believe how many people were on the trail on the way down. A lot of the trail is on rocks that have a thin coating of sand on them and there were way too many people in Vans or Converse that were sliding all over. We saw some people scooting down on their butts in order to avoid falling. We made it down and walked back to our car. The parking lot was still full on our way out.

Halfway down the trail.

Petroglyph Wall

We continued driving on the scenic one-way loop. We drove to the parking lot for the Petroglyph Wall. Depending on where you can find a parking place the walk to the Petroglyph wall is very short. We walked across a wash and headed towards a cliff. The Petroglyphs are on the face of the cliff. The Petroglyphs are estimated to be 800 years old. After reading the sign and taking pictures we walked back to the car. We got a cooler out of the car and had a picnic at the Willow Springs picnic area. While we were eating the clouds rolled in and we started to get cold. We finished the scenic loop and decided we were done for the day.

A map for the Petroglyph Wall
800-year-old Petroglyphs

A Reason For Another Visit

We only did two hikes in Red Rocks. I would love to go back and visit, but preferably on a weekday when it is a little less crowded. We saw several groups drive by in open air 3 wheeled vehicles. Each car held 2 passengers and they all looked like they were having a good time. I would also like to come back and look around for some wildlife. All in all, we had a good visit and this was definitely a side of Las Vegas that I had never seen before.

Little Lakes Valley

Little Lakes Valley is a little slice of Heaven located outside of Bishop, California. Driving up 395 on the way to Little Lakes Valley there is no indication of the beauty you are about to encounter. On the drive up you see Mt. Whitney and the surrounding mountains, but directly out the car window is isolation and Rabbitbrush. Heading North you exit 395 at Tom’s Place and head up Rock Creek Road. Rock Creek Road is a winding, steep 10-mile, two-lane road that heads straight up. From late spring to early winter you can drive all the way to the trailhead at Mosquito Flats. When there is snow on the ground the road is not plowed and it becomes impassable.

Making Reservation

Little Lakes Valley is a chain of lakes that were carved by a glacier. Today the area is used by hikers, backpackers, and fishermen. Permits are required for all backpacking trips and can be reserved up to 6 months in advance at Recreation.Gov. Day hikers and fishermen do not require a permit.

The Begining of The Trail

In July my friend and I set off for a backpacking trip from Mosquito Flat to Gem Lake. The hike is considered moderately strenuous and that is mostly because of the elevation. The trail starts at 10,000 feet. We spent the first night at the backpacker’s camp at the beginning of the trail. The mosquitos were relentless. The trailhead definitely lived up to its name. The next morning we loaded up our backpacks and started up the trail to Gem Lake. Our backpacks were extra heavy because bear cans are required in this area. There are no bear boxes once you start up the trail. On the way up you are walking alongside a river. We went in 2019 and that was a high snow year. Many parts of the trail were covered in water and we were thankful that we wore waterproof boots.

Balancing On A Log

We made it past Box Lake and then we had a water crossing that we were uncomfortable with. We eventually made it across, but Sally got really wet. It is hard to balance on wet logs with a 35-pound backpack on your back.

Picking The Perfect Camp Site

When we got to Long Lake, we met a couple that said it was not a good idea to head to Gem Lake, because there was too much snow. We chose to hike around Long Lake until we found the perfect place to set up our tents for the night. The view of the lake is awe-inspiring. We did some exploring and filtered water and generally just soaked in the beauty. There are no fires allowed in the area. We were able to use our stoves for cooking. We took our stoves down to the shore of the lake and made our dinner and ate watching the fish jump in the lake.

Cooking dinner by the lake.

Mosquitoes Are Not My Friend

Unfortunately, by 6 pm we were in our tents with nothing to do but read. The mosquitoes were a force to be reckoned with and no amount of Deet would keep them away.

The next morning we took our daypacks and headed off for Chickenfoot and Gem Lakes. We made it to Chickenfoot without any problems. Getting to Gem was a lot harder. We climbed through giant mounds of snow and it was hard to see the trail.

Using Microspikes

Sally gouged her leg on a sharp branch and we almost gave up after that. While she sat down and bandage up her leg I scouted around looking for the trail. I eventually found it. We made our way to Gem Lake and it was beautiful.

Gem Lake

For the longest time, we were the only two people there. The weather was nice. The wildflowers were in full bloom and the best part is all the snow was keeping the mosquitoes away. After a beautiful afternoon, we headed back to our tents at Long Lake.

Long Lake

After staying at Long Lake we packed up and headed back to Heart Lake. It is a pretty alpine lake with views of Bear Creek Spire as its backdrop. We set up our tents on a hill overlooking the lake. We spent the rest of the day hiking and exploring.

The End Of Our Trip

The next morning we packed up and hiked back out to our car. This backpacking trip was Plan C for us. 2019 was just a high snow year and our Plans A & B were not safe so early in the year. Although this was plan C we had a great time. Little Lake Valley is perfect for day hikes or extended backpacking trips. We saw a lot of people in the daytime and then by late afternoon it would just be the two of us. I’m sure there were other people camping around the lakes, but we never saw anyone after 4 p.m. Other than the mosquitoes (that are no joke) it is the perfect place for a little getaway.

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