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Rainbow Canyon Rock Art Site #3
Tunnel No. 5 Site
Rainbow Canyon Rock Art Site #3
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Rainbow Canyon
Trailhead parking (view S)

Overview

Rainbow Canyon Rock Art Site #3, the Tunnel No. 5 Site, is a volcanic area of desert canyons and cliffs along Meadow Valley Wash where water flows all year in places.

Water and habitation sites brought ancient peoples to this area starting about 10,000 years ago. Several cultures have come and gone, including nomadic hunter-gathers, ancient farmers, and railroad men. Visiting this site is a 0.6-mile round-trip hike with a bit of a rocky scramble up the hillside at the end.

The BLM and Lincoln County opened this area to the public, and Lincoln County printed a brochure with information about the site (including GPS coordinates) as part of their Get Primitive tourism campaign. Download the brochure from Lincoln County or snatch a copy here.

Link to Area Map or Site Map.

Rainbow Canyon
Walk in the roadway to here ... (view S)

Getting to the Trailhead

The Rainbow Canyon Rock Art Sites are located just south of Caliente (Lincoln County) about 150 miles (2-1/2 hours) north of Las Vegas on Highway 93.

From town, drive north on Interstate 15 to US Highway 93. Exit onto Highway 93 and drive north past Alamo and Ash Springs to the intersection of Highway 93 and Highway 318. Continue on Highway 93 for about 128 miles to Caliente.

On the west edge of Caliente, turn right onto Highway 317 and drive south for 17.6 miles to Rainbow Canyon Rock Art Site #3. Park in a wide spot on the right (west) side of the road.

Alternative parking is about 150 yards back up the road almost in the shadow of the railroad bridge, but while this is closer, it requires a steep scramble up the hillside through bushes (watch for snakes!).

Rainbow Canyon
... then cut up to the old road (view N)

The Hike

From the trailhead (Table 1, Waypoint Site#3-01), the route (no established trail) runs north back up the old highway grade. Recent rock falls, however, make it easier to start out walking on the pavement before cutting up onto the old road.

About 200 yards out from the trailhead (Wpt. Site#3-02), hikers arrive at a point below boulders on the hillside above that are marked with petroglyphs (and a white sign post). Hikers can get a pretty good view from below, but scrambling up the rocky hillside brings one face to face with stories written on the stones by the ancients (Wpt. Site#3-03).

If a train goes by while visiting this site, the name will become clear as it emerges from or disappears into Railroad Tunnel No. 5.

For hikers using the alternative trailhead (Wpt. Site#3-04), the route runs up the steep hillside and heads northwest to the base of the hillside below the petroglyph marked boulders.

Rainbow Canyon
Starting down the old road (view N)
Rainbow Canyon
The old road (view N)
Rainbow Canyon
Entering a wide spot on the old road (view N)
Rainbow Canyon
The rocky hillside is visible just ahead (view NW)
Rainbow Canyon
A white marker indicates the petroglyph area (view NW)
Rainbow Canyon
Petroglyph area (view NW)
Rainbow Canyon
The railroad tunnel is farther up, but no petroglyphs
Rainbow Canyon
Tunnel No. 5 with dates: 1911-1925 (view N, telephoto)
Rainbow Canyon
Climbing towards the petroglyphs (view NW)
Rainbow Canyon
Lower petroglyphs
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Rainbow Canyon
Upper petroglyphs
Rainbow Canyon
Upper petroglyphs
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Rainbow Canyon
Grand scenery down the canyon (view S)
Rainbow Canyon
Lots of bighorn sheep

Alternative Parking and Trailhead

Rainbow Canyon
Alternative Parking under cottonwood tree (view S)
Rainbow CanyonRoute runs up this hillside (view NW)
Rainbow Canyon
Then cuts through this area (view NW)
Rainbow Canyon
Arriving at the wide spot on the old road (view NW)
Rainbow Canyon
Train going by while descending to the alternative trailhead (view SE)
Rainbow Canyon
More to come ...

Table 1. Hiking Coordinates based on GPS data (NAD27; UTM Zone 11S). Download Hiking GPS Waypoints (*.gpx) file.

Wpt. Location UTM Easting UTM Northing Elevation (ft) Point-to-Point Distance (mi) Cumulative Distance (mi)
Site#3-01 Tunnel 5 Trailhead 716164 4140976 3,562 0.00 0.00
Site#3-02 Base of Tunnel 5 Hillside 716207 4141142 3,570 0.11 0.11
Site#3-03 Tunnel 5 Petroglyph Site 716191 4141157 3,602 0.03 0.14
Site#3-01 Tunnel 5 Trailhead 716164 4140976 3,562 0.14 0.28
. . . . . . .
Site#3-04 Alternative Tunnel 5 Trailhead 716240 4141104 3,553 0.00 0.00
Site#3-02 Base of Tunnel 5 Hillside 716207 4141142 3,570 0.04 0.04
Site#3-03 Tunnel 5 Petroglyph Site 716191 4141157 3,602 0.02 0.06
Site#3-04 Alternative Tunnel 5 Trailhead 716240 4141104 3,553 0.06 0.12

Happy Hiking! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 170719

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