Kraft Mountain Loop | Calico Basin, Nevada

Full Loop Counterclockwise Direction

Initial Exploration – Clockwise Direction – Detour Up Gateway Canyon Toward Turtlehead Peak

Kraft Mountain Loop | Calico Basin, Nevada – Overview

Kraft Mountain Loop circles the base of Kraft Mountain located in the Calico Basin, Nevada (last turn-off before Red Rock Park). During this 3.5 mile loop you will experience navigating colorful Jurassic era frozen sand dune formations, incredible vistas of the surrounding area and some class 2-3 scrambling up and down sandstone ledges in a desert wash.¬† It’s highly recommended that you undertake this adventure on a Fall, Winter or Spring day to avoid excessive Summer temperatures that can exceed 115 degrees. And, do not attempt this under wet conditions (rain, snow) because the sandstone you will need to traverse and climb can become as slick as ice!

Kraft Mountain Loop – My Injury Recovery Adventure

Turns out during both initial explorations of Kraft Mountain Loop I used the loop as a post surgery recovery experience – just 3 days after cataract surgery in each case. It’s instructive that I was able to do the loop observing doctor’s orders:

  • No strenuous movements: Very light scrambling in places, able to maintain gradual movements.
  • No heavy lifting: Never needed to pull myself up steep ledges. The inclines were all relatively gradual.
  • No bending below the waist.
  • Definitely no slips and falls: You can do the loop carefully without encountering any insecure footing.

This roughly 5-mile loop can involve relatively lite exertion. Note: My conditioning was at a level where 15 miles 2-3,000ft elevation gain at 9,000ft elevation or more was not too tiring, so that figured into being able to make Kraft Mountain Loop a relatively easy post surgery recovery adventure.

Injury Recovery Philosophy

Another note on injury recovery: My philosophy has always been “active recovery”…meaning maintaining movement during recovery. Movement promotes oxygenation of the blood and enhanced circulation which accelerates injury recovery vs. sedentary rest (which many recommend). The only important consideration with “active recovery” is that you must ensure that your movement is not aggravating your injury. Then movement will more likely be healthy and not damaging.

Views Along Kraft Mountain Loop

Views along the way include the Calico Hills, Blue Diamond Mountain, Rainbow Mountain, Potosi Mountain, Turtlehead Peak, Las Vegas Valley, Calico Basin, glimpses of La Madre Mountain and much more.

Wilderness Safety Strategy

I use this route and the experiences of this day to document my wilderness safety strategy and a balance sheet I always keep in mind between “Questionable Factors” and “Positive Factors“. When the questionable factors begin to build up, this is a signal that I need to turn around in order to live to experience another day in the wilderness. I had to make such a decision even on this seemingly simple 3.5 mile loop! The video on this page plays out this drama.

In the first exploration of Kraft Mountain Loop I made a wrong turn and ended up heading up the Rattlesnake Trail and Upper Gateway Canyon Trail. Then it began to rain with some snow further up the trail. I retraced my way down the trail and wash to resume the Kraft Mountain Loop. Faced with a growing number of “questionable factors” I finally turned around and made an exit back up Pink Goblin Pass to the parking area.

Kraft Mountain Loop | Calico Basin, Nevada – Trailhead Directions

From Hwy 215 in the Summerlin area, take the Charleston Blvd exit, turn upward (West) on Charleston Blvd toward the mountains. Charleston Blvd becomes Blue Diamond Rd. (159) as you leave the city. Take the Calico Basin exit off 159 (right turn) onto Calico Basin Road. Continue on Calico Basin Road to the end of the road. On the way you will pass the Red Springs Desert Oasis parking area as the road veers right and becomes Calico Drive, then Sandstone Drive. Sandstone Drive ends with the Kraft Mountain parking lot, on the left.

Kraft Mountain Loop | Calico Basin, Nevada – Route Observations

Initial Exploration of Kraft Mountain Loop

From the parking area I took the Kraft Mountain Loop in a clockwise direction heading up Hell Hill through Pink Goblin Pass. Actually, though these place names sound imposing, the trail is very good and the incline is not so horrible or long. You’re at the summit of Pink Goblin Pass before you know it!

At the base of Hell Hill there is an interesting brief route deviation to Ash Creek Spring. Shortly thereafter there is another left turn onto Ash Canyon Trail. We’ll take these in future adventures.

Ascending to the Summit of Pink Goblin Pass on the Kraft Mountain Loop

On this day I headed up to the summit of Pink Goblin Pass. The rock formations there are fascinating and beautiful, and it looks as though one could potentially navigate from the summit of Pink Goblin Pass along a ridgeline to the summit of Kraft Mountain. Another future adventure.

Descending from the Summit of Pink Goblin Pass and Veering Off Kraft Mountain Loop

I descended from the summit of Pink Goblin Pass to the wash that circles around Kraft Mountain. For some reason, rather than taking the U-turn down that wash and around Kraft Mountain I headed up the wash unknowingly going off course onto Rattlesnake Trail and then either to Upper Gateway Canyon Trail or continuing on Rattlesnake Trail toward Turtlehead Peak. I was not sure which canyon trail I was on at that point, which was part of the problem.

Questionable Factors Tally Sheet

  1.  Recovering from a surgery 3 days ago. I was alright to hike, but knew I could not run and could not slip and fall!
  2. Was not familiar with the area.
  3. Had veered off course away from the Kraft Mountain Loop.
  4. It began to rain making the sandstone I needed to navigate as slick as ice in some places.
  5. There was actually snow falling further up the trail!
  6. The terrain was increasing presenting slick sandstone ledges. Fine when dry and in top condition. Not so good in present condition.

Turn-Around Moment

After ascending increasing steep and slick sections of rock, the turn-around moment came when some descending hikers reported they had to turn around due to snow falling ahead!

Back to Kraft Mountain Loop

So, I headed back down the wash to discover that had I made a U-turn at the base of Pink Goblin Pass, I would have continued along the Kraft Mountain Loop. It all became very clear as Kraft Mountain was obviously right there above the wash I was descending! So, I continued to descend that wash until I reached a very steep, wet ledge that would likely have required a slide or jump before reaching the bottom and continuing down the wash. Knowing that on this post surgery day I could definitely not slide or jump and risk messing up the surgery I turned around and retraced my way back to Pink Goblin Pass and to the parking area.

Actually, the ledge at the turn-around point looked like the one barrier shortly before Kraft Mountain Loop completed its circle around Kraft Mountain. I’ll return and approach that barrier from below where I can get a better view of the ledges and when I’m fully recovered from surgery.

Positive Factors That Kept Me on the Trail

In all, this was a great experience of the Kraft Mountain Loop, nearly complete. It also gave me an opportunity to document my wilderness safety strategy.

The positive factors which kept me on the trail in the first place are:

  1. Years of wilderness navigation experience with no instruments (GPS, etc.)
  2. Overall conditioning (good for between 15-20 miles round trip – about 6 times the distance I had originally set out to take on)
  3. Trail running shoes with excellent traction (lessened on wet sandstone!)
  4. Water and food for at least six times the duration of the originally anticipated trip.
  5. Cool weather…no heat issues.
  6. Familiarity with the ins and outs of navigating desert wash and mountain pass terrain
  7. Inner balance sheet to objectify risk issues.
  8. Common sense and willingness to turn around in order to return another day.

Future Adventures in the Kraft Mountain and Turtlehead Peak Area

Now, with a basic familiarity of the area, I will return to experience and document more of this largely unmarked network of trails:

  • Ash Creek Spring (well marked)
  • Ash Canon Trail (unmarked)
  • Kraft Mountain Loop / Lower Gateway Canyon Trail (unmarked at the crucial turning point at the base of Pink Goblin Pass)
  • Rattlesnake Trail (unmarked)
  • Upper Gateway Canyon Trail (unmarked)

2nd Exploration of Kraft Mountain Loop – Counterclockwise Direction

The North, East and West sides of the Kraft Mountain Loop are pretty straight forward with good well-marked trails. However the South side of the loop, Gateway Canyon, involves a bit of rock scrambling and testing various route options. This actually adds interest and fun to the loop.

If you’re taking the loop in a counterclockwise direction, when you hit the first big turn to the left at the Southern edge of Kraft Mountain, you’re faced with a canyon wash — Gateway Canyon. Hug the upper left side of Gateway Canyon as you continue around Kraft Mountain. Eventually the route will take you into the base of the canyon wash. As the wash narrows, you will need to pick out the best route over and around various huge obstacles. Usually, the upper left route is the easiest at each of the questionable stretches. If you’re faced with a cliff wall higher than 3-4 feet, look for another bypass route. You don’t need to ascend any tall dry waterfalls unless you want.

During the initial exploration I had reached a ledge on the far side of the loop descending Gateway Canyon that just didn’t feel safe for a post surgery recovery situation, so in this second adventure I took the loop in the opposite direction. This enabled me to view the same terrain from below. This is a strategy I often use. If attempting a route from above doesn’t look safe, I return and attempt the same route from below. Usually this strategy works. It worked today. The video documents me successfully meandering upward through Gateway Canyon.

Shortest Direction Around Kraft Mountain Loop vs. Variations

There is one route variation I discovered today: As you’re ascending Gateway Canyon and rounding Kraft Mountain there is a sign marked “Designated Trail”. Take a left up that trail to connect with the upper trail that continues to ascend through Pink Goblin Pass, the high point in the loop, before descending back to the parking area where you began. This is actually part of the main loop and is its shortest route.

Alternately, you can continue up Gateway Canyon another 1000ft distance or so and make a U-Turn to the left and ascend to Pink Goblin Pass. This connection is unmarked. I explain these options in the 2nd Exploration video.

Basically, if you’re continuing up Gateway Canyon toward Turtlehead Peak, don’t take a left at the “Designated Trail” sign. Just keep going straight up Gateway Canyon. On the other hand, if you are just doing the Kraft Mountain Loop and want to take the quickest route, do take a left at the “Designated Trail” sign.

Locating the Unmarked Kraft Mountain Loop Turn-off While Descending the Loop Clockwise from Pink Goblin Pass

The confusion is more when you’re taking the Kraft Mountain Loop in a clockwise direction and descending from Pink Goblin Pass. From this direction it’s pretty easy to miss the totally unmarked “Designated Trail” (sharp right) which is the true continuation of the Kraft Mountain Loop. Instead you end up continuing straight toward the base of Gateway Canyon. If you miss that “Designated Trail” split, just continue to the base of Gateway Canyon. When you hit the base of Gateway Canyon take a sharp U-Turn to your right to continue around the Kraft Mountain Loop. If, instead, you continue straight up Gateway Canyon as I did during the first exploration (above), you end up heading toward Turtlehead Peak and Brownstone Basin. Not a bad route if you’re intending to go to these destinations, but just realize you’re no longer on the Kraft Mountain Loop!