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Redstone Scramble
Hiking Around Las Vegas, Lake Mead National Recreation Area
Redstone Scramble
Redstone Scramble
Hill A (Photo 1204)

Photos and text by Mark Petterson, Henderson

Overview

As noted for the Redstone Dune Loop Trail, the sandstone hills at Redstone provide a great place to scramble and climb around on the rocks. Compared to the Calico Hills at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, these hills are more easily accessed (due to the flat terrain around them) and there are far fewer people to disrupt your experience. There are hundreds of fascinating little niches, caves, nooks, and crannies. Although the various hills are similar geologically, each has a personality, and moving from hill to hill is like moving from one piece of playground equipment to another. It would be easy to spend a whole day just climbing around and exploring the area. The intent of this webpage is to provide climbing information on the area in general, and also on some specific climbing routes on certain hills

Redstone Scramble
Hill A (Photo 1114)

Link to map.

 

Watch Out

Other than the standard warnings about hiking in the desert, ... each hill has its easy portions and its difficult portions. Be sure to gauge your climbing activities by your physical abilities and rock climbing experience. It is easy to scramble up a small cliff only to find yourself surrounded by large cliffs that are beyond your abilities. Remember that it’s always easier to climb up than down, so don’t climb up a rock face if you don’t think you could make it back down. Whatever your ability, be careful! A fall could result in serious injury or even death. Watch your step and watch your kids.

While hiking, please respect the land and the other people out there, and try to Leave No Trace of your passage. Also, this is a fairly short hike, so just bring what you need of the 10 Essentials.

Redstone Scramble
Hill A (Photo 1115)

Getting to the Trailhead

This hike is located along Northshore Road in Lake Mead National Recreation Area, about 1.25 hours northeast of Las Vegas.

From town, drive out to Lake Mead, then drive north on Northshore Road for about 27.0 miles to the Mile 27.0 (Redstone) Trailhead. Park here; this is the trailhead.

Redstone Scramble
Hill A (Photo 1125)

Redstone Geology

The sandstone hills at Redstone are petrified Jurassic-age (Aztec sandstone) sand dunes, and are sometimes referred to as the Redstone Dunes. One of the first things you notice about the hills is the abundance of holes, caves, arches, and other formations in the rock.

These holes are formed by what geologists call tafoni weathering. Sandstone is little more than sand grains cemented together by minerals, and the creation of these odd formations starts with repeatedly wetting and drying the sandstone, dissolving and redistributing a bit of the cement each time.

Redstone Scramble
Hill B as seen from Hill A (Photo 1131)

When sandstone gets wet, moisture soaks into the rock and dissolves a little bit of the mineral cements. When the sandstone dries out, the water is drawn back to the surface carrying the dissolved minerals with it. As the water evaporates on the surface, the dissolved minerals are left on or near the rock surface, which adds more cement to the surface and hardens it.

Meanwhile, the removal of cement from inside the rock makes the internal material softer and more susceptible to erosion. When the rock is inevitably exposed, the internal material erodes more quickly than the surface, leaving hollows and niches in the rock. Over a long period of time, daily heating and cooling, freezing and thawing, wind, and biological activity contribute to the erosion. Eventually erosion enlarges the hollows and niches until they become holes, caves, arches, and other fascinating formations.

Redstone Scramble
Hill B (Photo 1297)

The Hike

There is no "right way" to climb the hills. Many people can all take different routes, and eventually, they will all get to the same place. A route that may seem difficult to one person may be easy to another. The descriptions in this section are not intended to provide a definitive route up the hills, only examples of some possible routes.

This is a large area with numerous sandstone hills, and the climbing opportunities are limitless. Obviously, the more popular climbing areas are closest to the parking area, so if you want more solitude, find a hill towards the back (south) of the area, or go toward the long line of hills west of the parking area. If you do climb on these western hills, they are more easily accessed from the south side. The rock faces on the north side (facing Northshore Road) are sheer and it may be difficult to find a safe route.

Redstone Scramble
Hill B (Photo 1299)
As noted above, some of the more popular hills are closest to the parking area, so some of their features and routes will be described here. The tall hill immediately to the southeast of the parking area (Photo 1204, labeled on the map as "Hill A") offers a number of options for ascending. There is a fun route up a cleft in the west side, but this description will focus on a cleft accessible from the west end of the north side. It is a challenging but feasible climb up a cleft (Photo 1114; notice the "spine" in the center, you should climb to the right of that spine). While climbing this section, look for the fantastic rock formations to the right which are truly surreal in the sunlight (Photo 1115).
Redstone Scramble
Hill B (Photo 1303)
After you reach the top of this section, you will be on a small level area; then you need to ascend about a 7-foot high cliff that may require a bit of gymnastics. When you get to this level, look for a small sloping ravine at the bottom of the tall, sheer cliff to the east. Go up this slope and you will be at a fairly level area with spectacular views toward the north (Photo 1125) and west (Photo 1131, looking at "Hill B"). Proceed further east until you reach a slope filled with rocky debris; this is your way down. There may be a route to the summit of this hill, but it was beyond this author's limitations.
Redstone Scramble
View from Hill B (Photo 1313)
"Hill B" is basically right in the middle of the Redstone area. Its summit can be reached without extraordinary difficulty; an approximate route is outlined on Photo 1131. Head west up a rocky slope toward a spire-shaped rock. Before you reach the solid rock face on the left (south), turn left and head up another rocky slope. When you get to the top of that slope, bear to the left again (east) and you will be on a fairly level area. Look for a rocky outcropping with a flat top that projects above the surrounding area. This is an amazing little cave that looks like it could be the home of the Flintstones. It has a flat roof, windows on two sides, and a "door" on the west side. The floor is submerged about 2 feet below the adjacent ground. Climb down into the "Flintstones House" and enjoy the views (Photo 1297, view out the back window; Photo 1299, view out the door).
Redstone Scramble
View from Hill B (Photo 1316)
From here, look for a cave just to the east that has openings on both sides (Photo 1303 is the view from inside this cave). Climb all the way through this cave, scramble up the slope immediately east of it, and then turn back west. At this point, you essentially just follow the ridgeline of the hill and head for the summit, which looks like a knob. There are various routes to get there, but eventually you will need to get to the southwest corner of the knob in order to climb onto the relatively flat summit. It is a fairly large area, so sit down, relax, and enjoy the spectacular views (Photos 1313, 1316, and 1325).
Redstone Scramble
Parking area from Hill B (Photo 1325)
It is likely that this is the tallest sandstone hill in the Redstone area, so congratulate yourself for reaching the summit. As you start your descent, stop for the view through "the slot" (Photo 1330). You can continue down by retracing your steps, but an easier route is to follow the rocky slope on the back (south) side of this hill, which will lead to the flat ground at the bottom. There are also many other interesting climbing routes on the south side of "Hill B" that lead to large caves (Photo 1190) and other breathtaking views (Photo 1195).
Redstone Scramble
Hill B (Photo 1330)
"Hill C" is an interesting climb because at the top, there is a huge, flat slab of rock that has come to rest in a perfectly vertical position, which is geologically perplexing. The adjacent rock face looks like an eagle’s head (Photo 1137). To get to the top, simply scramble up the rocky slope on the south side of this hill. You can descend the same way you came up, or via another route of your choice. There are many other hills not listed here that offer excellent climbing experiences. Just look around and use your imagination. You could even climb a hill today and a month later, come back to that same hill and find a new route or a new discovery. As noted previously, Redstone is like a big playground of rocks – without the crowds.
Redstone Scramble
Hill B (Photo 1190)
If you are fortunate enough to be here after a windy day, the sand along the trail will have been smoothed out by the wind, and you will be able to see many animal tracks in the soft, smooth sand. There should be many tracks from kangaroo rats, pocket mice, lizards, beetles, and perhaps a snake. Watch for marks left by these animals as they went about their daily (or nightly) activities. Kangaroo rats have long tails and hop like kangaroos, so they leave paired footprints on each side of a tail mark. You can tell how fast they were moving by the distance between the foot marks.
Redstone Scramble
Hill B (Photo 1195)
Lizards walk on all four feet, so they leave tail tracks with lots of footprints scattered along the tail mark. Beetles leave all sorts of footprints, usually some regular pattern of closely spaced marks; these often look mechanical. Snake tracks, and you rarely see these, look like a wide, smooth, flat, continuous depression in the sand with little mounds of sand pushed up where the snake pushed against the ground while moving along. Count yourself among the lucky if you see a snake track.
Redstone Scramble
Hill C (Photo 1137)

End of text.

Redstone Scramble Redstone Scramble
Redstone Scramble
View through the Flintstone house
Redstone scramble
Flintstone House (view from the summit)

Happy Hiking! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 121030

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