On Wednesday, April 26, 2017, we drove from Lake Mead to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area located just west of Las Vegas, Nevada. The conservation area showcases a set of large red rock formations and sandstone peaks in an area exposed by the Keystone Thrust. The walls of the Keystone Thrust are up to 3,000 feet high. These gray carbonate rocks of the ancient ocean have been thrust over the tan and red sandstone in one of the most dramatic and easily identified thrust faults to be found. We wanted to learn more about this unique area, so our first stop was the Visitor's Center.
After exploring the exhibits, we discussed our hiking options with the park rangers. We settled on the Ice Box Canyon Trail and the Pine Creek Canyon Trail. The trailheads are located on a one-way 13 mile Scenic Drive. Since we had to drive all the way around the park to reach our trailheads, we decided to make a couple of the earlier stops. First was the old sandstone quarry. These huge chunks of rock were loaded on wagons pulled by a steam tractor and then shipped off to various construction projects.
Our next stop was the High Point Overlook. You can see from the picture below why it was called High Point. For here, we could look down and see the entire Scenic Drive as it circled its way around the park.
We ran into road construction on the far side of Scenic Loop. A road grader had plowed up a one foot berm in front of the parking lot for the trailhead. Lucky for us we have a Jeep. It was no problem driving right over the construction berm. The was our first look at Ice Box Canyon from the trailhead:
As we hiked across a wash to get to the entrance of the canyon, we were able to look back uphill to White Rock and the Keystone Thrust beyond.
As we started our journey up the canyon, the walls rose up beside us. The canyon rarely gets full sun, resulting in perennially cool conditions, hence the name - Ice Box Canyon.
The further up the canyon we went, the larger the rocks became. The park ranger did warn us there would be some boulder hopping, but we were not deterred. The trekking poles were put away and the scrambling began.
However, some boulders were just too big to be scrambled, so we went around them.
Before long, we reached the first of the waterfalls. At this time of year, the falls are dry, which makes for much easier hiking when your trail goes right up the middle of the wash.
After chatting with some fellow hikers, we turned our attention to the next waterfall. The upper part of the canyon doesn't see as many hikers. We found the way to be overgrown. After shimmying under tree branches and belly crawling over boulders, we soon found ourselves at the base of the next falls. We took one look at the rock face and decided this was as high as we were going today. Dave did find a climber's rope and scrambled as far as he dared.
After a well deserved snack, it was all downhill from here.
Needless to say, the downhill went much faster than the uphill. At one point, we stopped to watch a couple mountain climbers work their route up the canyon wall.
We finished our hike of the Ice Box Canyon and drove over to the trailhead for Pine Creek Canyon. We got our first look at the pine trees that give this canyon its name:
The trail was once part of an historic homestead nestled at the base of the rocky pinacle at the head of the canyon.
Scientists believe that pine trees have existed along the Pine Creek watershed since the Ice Age. They speculate that these pine trees have been here continuously since the Ice Age because of the uniquely cool and moist conditions that have been maintained along Pine Creek here.
The folks who homesteaded this valley certainly put their house in a scenic spot. Here is the view they had from the back of their cabin:
How would you like this view from your front porch?
After taking in the view, we followed the trail over to Pine Creek. It didn't take Kathy long to shed her boots and soak her tired hot piggies in the cold mountain water.
We explored further up the canyon, but time and tiredness were taking their toll. It was time to head back to camp. It was time to say good to Red Rock Canyon.