| Las Vegas Local Hikes
November 23rd – Kraft Mountain (4,714’) and Calico Hills (4,987’)
Stats: 5 Miles and 2,100’ – Class 3
November 24th – Hoover Dam via Railway Tunnel Trail
Stats: 8.5 Miles and 550’ – Class 1
It’s a slight change of pace from my normal trip reports, but while visiting in-laws in Vegas over Thanksgiving, I did a bit of research for some nearby and quick hikes that would be close to the city center. Figured I would share the results of these hikes for anyone else was interested in taking on a quick day hike while visiting the area.
Trailhead: Make your way out to the west side of the city, the quickest way being W. Charleston Blvd. (Hwy 159) After passing the Las Vegas beltway, continue west about 4 miles on Hwy 159 to Calico Basin Road. Turn right and follow this road 2 miles to the end. The road turns often, but it’s obvious where to turn as any other options would put you into someone’s driveway. About 1 mile in, the road changes name to Sandstone Road. As you near the end, you see a large parking area to the left. Calico Hill and Kradt Mountain will be right in front of you. Total drive time from the LV strip is about 20-30 minutes.
There are a number of trails leading from the trailhead, but just choose one that heads in the general direction of the saddle between Calico Hills and Kraft Mountain. From what I could tell, each of the trails headed in this direction eventually merge into the main trail that leads directly to the top of the saddle. Worst case, you can cross country it as the vegetation is sparse. Just watch out for snakes. The trail gets a tad steeper as you head up to the saddle, but it’s in good condition. From the saddle, you’ll have a good view of the west side of Kraft Mountain. You can try to eyeball your route from here, but you’ll probably get lost in the sandstone maze regardless. As you work your way up, you’ll need to do some poking around to keep the difficulty at class 3. The grippy sandstone made for pleasant scrambling. The terrain here is beautiful…reminded me a lot of the Tarryall Mountains, just in sandstone. When possible, I used short brush gullies that allowed access through the towers that were otherwise impassable. After 500 feet or so, it will appear that you are reaching the top, however there is still a little bit to go. From the first sub-summit, the true summit to the east is obvious. To reach the true summit, you have to descend into a small sandy bench. A bit more class 3 scrambling from the bench and you top out on the true summit. About 50 feet from the summit, I passed some cairns. Apparently (according to a gentleman I met later) there is an easier route that ascends from the north. Finding my own route up from the west side was fun though. From the summit, you can easily see Las Vegas to the east, La Madre Mountains to the NW and Red Rocks area to the west. Beautiful area here.
We descended back to the saddle following our ascent route. (For the most part at least…it was kinda hard to tell.) From the saddle, we hydrated and talked to a nice local who spends a lot of time in the area and apparently heads up Kraft Mountain quite often. The first portion of the slope up Calico Hill from the saddle is a loose mess of grey volcanic rock…completely different from the nice sandstone on Kraft. I followed some bighorn trails, but still had to fight hard for upward progress. Eventually, we reached the ridge top. I left Rufus here, because I could tell the scramble to the summit would be rough, and the volcanic rock was sharp. He hung out in the shade while I headed the final 100 yards. This portion was fun! There were two small knife edge/catwalk sections, with lots of climbs up and down to stay on the ridge. I would strongly recommend bringing some leather gloves, as the rock was horribly sharp on the hands. I stayed briefly to head back to the dog, being extra cautious descending as a lot of the ridge was quite loose. After the enjoyable scramble back down the ridge, we made the annoying descent back down the loose slope to the saddle and the trail. From here, we jogged back down to the trailhead. A fun couple of peaks/scrambles!
Kraft Mountain from near the trailhead.
Calico Hills from the same spot.
Different sort of hiking hazards than I’m used to…
Saddle we are aiming for is in the center of the photo.
Steepening trail near the saddle of Kraft and Calico.
Southwest walls of Kraft Mountain.
On the saddle, Rufus looking towards our ascent path. (Through the towers.)
Tree and towers.
Sandstone scrambling on slabs to skirt the towers.
Brush filled gullies allowed for portions of easier ascent.
Rufus enjoying the scramble.
Neat sandstone on the ascent of Kraft.
True summit from the false summit, sand bench inbetween.
Summit of Kraft Mountain looking west.
Las Vegas from the summit.
”Turtlehead” and the La Madre Mountains.
Ascending Calico Hills, looking back east to Kraft.
Looking back at the ridge scramble of Calico Hills from near the summit.
Final ridge to the summit of Calico Hills.
Red Rocks from Calico Hills summit.
Map of the day.
Trailhead: From Las Vegas, head SE on I-515 towards Boulder City and Hoover Dam. The interstate ends just before Boulder City and continues on as the Great Basin Hwy. (Hwy 93) From the center of Boulder City, drive 4 miles along Hwy 93 and turn left onto Lakeshore Road. The parking area is a few hundred yards after the turn on your right. Total drive time from the LV strip is about 35-40 minutes.
From the trailhead, the route is VERY defined and very well traveled as it heads east towards the dam. This is a popular place for families, runners and bikers. The trail follows the old railroad that was used to haul parts for building Hoover Dam. It travels through 5 different tunnels before entering the Hoover Dam property. On the right are a couple small peaks separating the trail from the highway, and to the left is the expansive view of large Lake Mead (created from the Hoover Dam.) At around mile 3, you will exit the last of the 5 tunnels and pass into Hoover Dam property. From here, the views start to stink with the power equipment scattered about. After one more mile, the trail spits you out onto the parking structure for Hoover Dam tourists. From here, you can choose whatever method you want to view the dam. (The visitor center viewing is below the parking structure, and the bridge overlook is half mile to the south of the structure.) Unfortunately for Rufus, dogs are not allowed at any of the viewing areas. But fortunately for Rufus, his owner is a bit dense and didn’t notice the “No Pets” sign until we were already on the bridge. Whoops! Needless to say, we left quickly. Once back onto the trail, we jogged the 4 miles back to the trailhead. Interesting trail with a fair amount of history attached. Nicer option for visiting Hoover Dam rather than just driving there assuming you have time. Also, be careful in the tunnels. They are pretty dark, and its impossible to see your feet for a good distance.
Starting from near the trailhead heading east on the railroad tunnel trail, Lake Mead on the left.
The first of the five tunnels.
Lake Mead and shadows.
Looking back at the final tunnel (#5) and entering the fence to Hoover Dam property.
Ugly equipment of Hoover Dam.
Map of the day.
As with all places that I visit, I make sure and check out the local ale selections. The three brews below are the ones I tried out.
Joseph James Brewing Company- Hop Box IPA
A classic case of a beer maker saying “lets see how hoppy we can make this!” Good beer though, and would make an excellent backpack beer in regards to the oomph/weight ratio. Recommended for Hop-Heads.
Tahoe Blue Nevada Pale Ale
A bit disappointing. Too dull for a pale ale, tasted like a standard mass-produced pale ale. I’d compare it to a Widmer or something. Wouldn’t recommend it.
Tenaya Creek – Hop Ride IPA
-Good stuff! A bit sweeter than I’m used to for IPA’s, but pretty smooth. Reminded me of a higher quality Deshutes Inversion. Recommended for a tasty one.