Dales Trail | Red Rock Canyon, Nevada
Overview | Dales Trail | Red Rock Canyon, Nevada
Adventure Slide Show by 5/10/2023
Dales Trail is a beautiful 2.2-mile trail with an approximate 400ft elevation gain running North/South along the base of the Rainbow Mountains between Ice Box Canyon and Pine Creek Canyon. It’s the second Northernmost of 4 trails that run along the Eastern base of the Rainbow Mountains in Red Rock Canyon. From North to South these are:
- The SMYC Trail 2-mile trail with an approximate 200ft elevation gain running between the lower Willow Spring parking area and Ice Box Canyon
- Dales Trail 2.2-mile trail with an approximate 400ft elevation gain running between Ice Box Canyon and Pine Creek Canyon to the South
- The Knoll Trail 1.9-mile trail with an approximate 50ft elevation gain running between Pine Creek Canyon and Oak Creek Canyon further South
- The Arnight Trail A 1.2-mile short-cut split off of the Knoll Trail to the Oak Creek Canyon Trail.
Taken together, these trails offer the experience of hiking all the way along the Eastern base of the Rainbow Mountains between the Willow Spring area and Mt. Wilson. It’s an amazing experience of both Red Rock Canyon and the Rainbow Mountains that border the West side of the Canyon. Incidentally, you can also hike far above South/North along the Upper Crest Ridgeline of the Rainbow Mountains. Both routes put you in another world, but the lower baseline route is a good place the start vs. the far longer and more challenging Upper Crest Ridgeline.
Trailhead Directions | Dales Trail | Red Rock Canyon, Nevada
Take the Highway 159/Red Rock Canyon exit off I-215. Take a right onto the Red Rock Canyon Scenic Loop. Circle the scenic loop past the high viewpoint and Willow Spring turnoff. Access Dales Trail from the Ice Box Canyon Trailhead parking area, which is the next turn-off from the Red Rock Scenic Drive after the Willow Spring area. Dales Trail will be a left turn about 1/8th mile into the Ice Box Canyon Trail.
Alternately, pick up the trailhead from the Pine Creek Canyon Trailhead Parking. Dales Trail will be a right turn about 1/8th mile into the Pine Creek Canyon Trail.
Adventure Description | Dales Trail | Red Rock Canyon, Nevada
Catch the Southern trailhead for Dales Trail off The Pine Creek Canyon Trail just about a half-mile West of that trailhead (toward the Rainbow Mountains).
Dales Trail seemed a lot longer to me than the other Rainbow Mountains Eastern Baseline Trails. It is actually less than a quarter mile longer than the SMYC Trail, but it seemed longer than that. The reason for the greater perceived length is threefold:
- Dales Trail gains more elevation than the other trails (but only 200ft more elevation gain than the SMYC Trail
- Dales Trail crosses 5 intervening canyons between Pine Creek Canyon and Ice Box Canyon, and the North side of each canyon has much more of an elevation gain than the South side (hint: Take Dales Trail North when you have the most energy. The canyons are much easier to cross going downhill on the return trip South).
- By the time I hit Dales Trail I had already traversed the Arnight and Knoll Trails.
All that aside, Dale’s trail is a fairly easy class 2 hike (or run) along its entire course, so there’s really no reason to whine.
Somebody else thought Dales Trail was longer, because they set up two resting benches along the way. The first bench, just one canyon North of Pine Creek Canyon, has a spectacular view looking South along the Rainbow Mountains.
Traversing the Eastern Base of Bridge Mountain
For the entire length of Dales Trail you’re traversing the Eastern base of Bridge Mountain. When you’re looking at Bridge Mountain from a distance, say, at the Red Rock Canyon Scenic Drive High Point, you’ll notice a little forest nestled on a plateau at the Eastern base of the summit. As I passed along Dales Trail, it seemed there might be an approach route up to that forest. Could be an incredible destination point! I may check that out. However, realize there is no trail, and it appears there may be some challenging ledges to tackle before reaching the forest plateau. Alternately, one might descend to the forest plateau from above. I have not tried out any of the potential routes to this destination. More advanced rock climbing experience may be required and there may be some dangerous exposure along the way.
For the entire length of Dales Trail, you’re getting a spectacular mountaintop view up, down and across Red Rock Canyon and beyond. There is White Rock Mountain and the La Madre Mountains cliffs to the North; Turtlehead Peak, Damsel Peak and The Calico Hills to the East; and a portion of Las Vegas Valley and Strip along with Blue Diamond Hill to the South. You see all this from a higher perspective than you had on The Arnight and Knoll Trails.
There is also an interesting boulder section along the way that looks as if it might have been the perfect shelter for some ancient family.
5 Canyon Crossings Along Dales Trail
The first canyon just North of Pine Creek Canyon is largest. It appears there is a route up this canyon to the base of the Bridge Mountain Eastern Cliffs where there is a line of red rock bluffs. These bluffs are a premier bouldering destination to develop rock climbing skills. Bring your huge bouldering mattress and have at it! Fortunately, for those who wish to head up the canyon to the bluffs, this canyon is drier and missing the heavy brush that lines the floor of other canyons in the Rainbow Mountains. The North side of this larger canyon is a huge ridge.
The other canyons are much more shallow. You can actually see where a canyon will be by looking up at the Bridge Mountain cliffs for cracks and gullies.
Approaching Ice Box Canyon
As you approach Ice Box Canyon, just before the creek, Dales Trail seems to disappear. There appear to be 3 possible routes through the brush to the creek. The center route is the one that stays on-trail. Once across the creek, there is what appears to be a rocky ridge (dike?). Cross over that ridge to meet up with the Ice Box Canyon Trail just beyond. Across from the intersection of Dales Trail and Ice Box Canyon Trail is the Southern trailhead for The SMYC Trail that continues North to the Willow Spring area, completing the length of the four Rainbow Mountains Eastern Baseline Trails.