Overview | Calico Tanks | Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, Nevada

The Calico Tanks Trail in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is an artistically beautiful 5-mile out and back hike along a great trail through calico hills. The altitude gain is about 500ft and most of the steeper stretches up the sandstone have sandstone stairways.

Points of Interest at the Summit Area

As if the beauty of the surroundings all along the way were not enough, there are a few additional rewards at the upper end of the hike:

  • 2 scenic ponds surrounded by Calico cliffs (the Calico Tanks): Note that these are likely to be dry in the Fall due to high Summer heat. The best time to find water in the tanks would be Spring.
  • A spectacular view at the very summit of the trail: From this view you can look down through Aztec red sandstone cliffs into a portion of Red Rock Canyon including Scenic Drive Viewpoint #2, the Red Rock Canyon Visitor Center, Blue Diamond Mountain and portions of The Rainbow Mountains to Potosi Mountain at the South end of the Spring Mountains. To the Southeast you can see portions of the Las Vegas Valley and the Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area in the distance beyond.

In addition, make it a point to turn around often during your ascent along the trail to see views of the Keystone Thrust cliffs on the Northern border of Red Rock Canyon and Turtlehead Peak.

Best Time of Year to Hike the Calico Tanks

Spring, Fall and Winter are the best time of year to hike The Calico Tanks Trail. Summer temperatures can reach 115 degrees or higher, though in the morning or evening hours you could hike The Calico Tanks during the Summer.

Best Time of Day to Hike the Calico Tanks

If it’s a weekend day, be parked at the Sandstone Quarry Trailhead by 8:30 or 9am or risk not finding a parking spot. There is no overflow parking on the Scenic Drive, so if the parking area is full when you arrive, you are out of luck.

Trailhead Directions | Calico Tanks | Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, Nevada

From I-215 in Summerlin at the Red Rock Casino, take Hwy 159 (Red Rock Canyon Road) West toward the mountains. Red Rock Canyon is the 2nd turnoff to the right, about 4 miles after leaving Summerlin. You will need a reservation to enter the area and gain access to the scenic drive. Once on the scenic drive, the Sandstone Quarry parking area is the 3rd parking area beyond the visitor center.

Adventure Description | Calico Tanks | Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, Nevada

Trailhead to the Calico Tanks Split

From the Sandstone Quarry Trailhead take the well-marked trail toward The Calico Tanks. Take time to view the historic Sandstone Quarry, then continue up the trail. You will immediately cross a wash. Incidentally, that wash would lead you all the way to the Keystone Thrust cliffs and over to the neighboring Calico and Brownstone Basins to the East, but that’s another story. Cross the wash to continue on the Calico Tanks trail. Soon there will be a split in the trail. Take the right split for the Calico Tanks. The left split goes to Turtlehead Peak, another awesome destination.

Calico Tanks Split to the Large Calico Tank (Pond)

Soon you’ll cross the wash again heading for a band of white sandstone hills to your right (East). As you reach the sandstone hills you find yourself immediately in another climate zone. Gone is the stark desert zone at the base of Red Rock Canyon. Instead, now you are passing through a forest of tall trees on either side and continuing up a beautiful sandstone calico canyon.

By the way, the sandstone all around you is composed of ancient 201.3 million- to 145-million-year-old Jurassic era “frozen” sand dunes. The reds are caused by iron leaching up through the soil. Look around at the hardy bonsai-like trees as you go, and how artistically they blend in with the surrounding sandstone. There are countless photo-opps on this amazing little trail!

Large Calico Pond to the Trail Summit

You’ll know when you have reached the overlook at the very summit of the trail. It’s not far beyond the large calico tank (pond). You’re suddenly at the edge of a cliff and if you do not have advanced rock-climbing skills, and gear, you should stop here. You can, however, ascend to a high point for a spectacular view!

Calico Tanks | Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, Nevada
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Calico Tanks | Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, Nevada
View detailed directions and a video for this artistically beautiful 5mi out and back hike to a large pond surrounded by sandstone cliffs and a spectacular viewpoint at the trail summit.
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