|Sunrise at Red Spring (Red Rock Canyon NCA)|
|Colorful Calico Hills|
|Diving into Gateway Canyon|
|Top of Red Spring Hill|
Calico Hills Loop is a moderately strenuous hike in the Red Rock Canyon NCA. However, today, eight hikers accomplished this hike at a strenuous pace that averaged 2.5 mph. The hike begins at the Red Spring trailhead and parking lot and may proceed in either a clockwise or counter-clockwise direction. Our hike headed up and over the Red Spring hill to encircle the Calico Hills in a clockwise direction. The hill woke us up and we were "off." This first section of the route may be hiked in three different ways. One way is to climb the other side of the wash and continue along a trail along the ridge. The second way is to drop down to the wash and scramble up the wash all the way to Calico I turnout.
|Circling the South End of Calico Hills|
Our way, the third route, is to drop down on the trail that passes the petroglyphs and continue on this trail that parallels the Calico Wash all the way to Calico I.
|Between Calico I and Calico II on the Grand Circle|
This trail is challenging since it has several steep hills to tackle. The last difficult hill climbs up to the Calico I Overlook.
|Between Calico II and Sandstone Quarry on the Grand Circle|
|Turtlehead Peak from Sandstone Quarry|
The next section travels from Calico I to Sandstone Quarry passing below Calico II. This was a welcome rest since much of the trail (Grand Circle Loop) from Calico I to II is flattish. We dropped into the wash to go through the Calico II area then returned to the trail. We started ascending on trail and sandstone but the colorful view distracted us from the blistering pace. (What the heck. Maybe we needed a good workout on the day after Thanksgiving!) Finally, after only about five short pauses, we waltzed (a fast waltz) into Sandstone Quarry. Here, we stopped at the restrooms for a small break. It was a gorgeous day with warm temperatures. Unbelievable!
|Red Slot on Rattlesnake Trail|
After our restroom break, we continued out the Calico Tanks Trail until we came to the Rattlesnake Trail junction. This is a wash turn to the left that is blocked off with small rocks. Just step over them.
|Rattlesnake Trail in the Northern Calico Hills|
The Rattlesnake Trail is a beautiful trail that takes hikers from Sandstone Quarry (or the Turtlehead Trail if you go out further) to Gateway Canyon by way of skirting the northern Calico Hills. Our high point was during this segment at the base of Red Cap.
|Snack Break with a View|
|Rattlesnake Trail and Dragon Peak|
Before we reached the high point, we stopped for our snack break among the beautiful cream colored sandstone with views of the Wilson Cliffs in the distance. The low sunlight of an approaching winter solstice played softly on the cracks and crevices, peaks and valleys of the sandstone. We rejoined the Rattlesnake Trail, hiked over the high point then headed down to junction with Gateway Canyon. This segment is very familiar to all of us since we use this thoroughfare often for many different hikes. The fast pace continued and we each chose our own path down the wash. Some of us took the trail on the right or left and one of us scrambled straight down the middle.
|Leaving Red Cap Base|
At Gateway Canyon, we turned to the right and very soon came to the only dryfall on the hike today. The limestone waterslide is deeper than ever since September's rains washed it out a bit.
|Rattlesnake Trail to Gateway Canyon|
It isn't too difficult to negotiate with hand and foot holds. Someone has built up a rock pile at the bottom ... probably more for going up the dryfall than for going down it.
|Color in Middle Gateway Canyon|
After this obstacle, there is one or two other smaller obstacles in the limestone before it is clear sailing down the gravel. Note that limestone gets much more slick than sandstone when water flows over it. Don't get the two mixed up when you are hiking! You will end up on your .... So, as we hiked down the gravel, the canyon started becoming more colorful with the addition of fall colored foliage and the redstone that peeks out around the corner. At the large cairn in the middle of the wash, we turned right onto a trail. This is actually the continuation of the Rattlesnake Trail but it is used primarily for the Kraft Mountain Loop. We climbed up and up until we reached the Kraft Saddle.
|Trail to Kraft Saddle and Lower Gateway Canyon|
Finally, we began seeing a lot of holiday recreational hikers out and about. It takes a while for the visitors to get breakfast at the hotel and drive out to the park. It's unfortunate since some of the best light at Red Rock is in the early morning hours.
We also passed people we knew. It was a great day to be on the trails!
|Down 5 Stop Hill|
|Following Trail back to Red Spring|
Down 5 Stop Hill, and we were on the home stretch. From here, the route follows an almost straight line as it curves past Ash Meadow and the old home foundation with the zen circles. Our trail passed the trails heading to the base of Angel Pass and went through the old picnic area that seems to never be used anymore. From here, we joined the melee! Visitors everywhere!! Everyone sported a smile or an expression of curiosity. The kids were excited and there were several other hikers and climbers like us who were simply trying to navigate in a friendly way! Phew! What a workout! 😛
8 miles; 1700 feet elevation gain; 3.5 hours
|Passing Ash Meadow|
|Autumn Color and Angel Pass in Distance|
|Circling the Southern Calico Hills|