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Icebox Canyon Trail
Hiking Around Las Vegas, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
Icebox Canyon Trail
Icebox Canyon

Overview

The Icebox Canyon Trail leads into one of the deep, narrow canyons in the Red Rocks cliffs, climbing about 500 ft in 1.1 miles to a series of waterfalls. The hike is delightful, but the trail and canyon bottom are rocky, so it is slow going and moderately strenuous. The canyon rarely gets full sun, resulting in perennially cool conditions, hence the name. High cliffs and water polished rock block further progress up the canyon. This hike runs up through Pinyon-Juniper Woodland vegetation and into the Rainbow Mountain Wilderness Area where a few ponderosa pine can be found.

Link to map.

Icebox Canyon Trail
Trailhead sign (view S)


Watch Out

Other than the standard warnings about hiking in the desert, ...this moderately strenuous hike requires climbing over and around boulders in the wash after the trail ends. Be careful when high enough to fall and get hurt, and always watch for wet or icy rocks. Be particularly careful on the water-polished slickrock at the base of the falls.

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

Getting to the Trailhead

This hike is located along the Scenic Loop Road in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, about 1 hour west of Las Vegas. Drive out to Red Rocks, pay the fee, and then drive about 2/3rds of the way around the the Scenic Loop to the Icebox Canyon Trailhead. Park here; this is the trailhead.

Icebox CanyonStart of the Icebox Trail (view W)

The Hike

From the trailhead (Table 1, Waypoint 01), the trail runs west and crosses Red Rock Wash before climbing towards the mouth of the Icebox Canyon. Early on, the trail is well defined as it leads up onto a bench on the north side of the canyon. About 0.2 miles out, the trail intersects the SMYC and Dale's trails (Wpt. 2). The SMYC Trail runs north to the Willow Spring Area, while Dale's Trail runs south to Pine Creek Canyon.

At about 0.8 miles out, the canyon narrows, the bench pinches out (Wpt. 03), and the trail drops steeply into the bottom of the canyon and disappears in the wash. From this point, the route continues up the wash, climbing over and around boulders all the way to the end. If the bottom of the canyon seems blocked, look for paths through the shrub live oaks on side of the canyon to get around obstacles and pools of water.

Icebox Canyon
Grand scenery (view N up Red Rock Canyon)

After about 0.20 miles of scrambling up the wash, the route passes the remains of a ancient Ponderosa Pine. This majestic tree grew right in the bottom of the canyon, but it died and fell over. The living tree used to mark the end of the official Icebox Canyon Trail, but now the huge log marks the end of the trail and serves as a monument to the memory of this old tree.

Just past the ponderosa pine tree, hikers can look up the canyon and see that it forks. The route continues up the wash for another 5 minutes to the fork (Wpt. 04). From here, the overhanging walls and a seasonal waterfall that block the southern fork can be seen.

There are a series of three water-sculpted pools at the base of this waterfall. To get to the base of the falls, backtrack a few feet, climb the south wall behind a tree and through a cleft in the rocks, then climb onto and traverse a ledge that leads into the base of the falls. The first pool is in the bottom of the wash and is easy to get to, but be prepared for some serious slickrock scrambling to get to the second and third pools (Wpt. 05).

Icebox Canyon
Hiker approaching Red Rock Wash (view W)

In the northern fork of the canyon, a waterfall blocks easy progress after just two or three minutes of scrambling. That route looks passable with some climbing, but I would want a rope for the down climb, so we skipped it this time. There is a "rabbit hole" somewhere that permits access into the upper canyon.

Enjoy a cool lunch at the base of the falls, then when ready, retrace your steps to the trailhead.

Icebox Canyon
Hiker crossing Red Rock Wash (view W)
Icebox Canyon
Hiker approaching west bank of Red Rock Wash (view W)
Icebox Canyon
Hiker on stone stairs (view SW)
Icebox Canyon
Hikers on Icebox Canyon alluvial fan (view W)
Icebox Canyon Icebox Canyon
Icebox Canyon
Junction with Dale's Trail and SMYC Trail (view W)
Icebox Canyon
Trail junction sign (view W)
Icebox Canyon
Trail sign at junction (view SW)
Icebox Canyon
Hikers at trail junction (view S)
Icebox Canyon
Hikers on rocky trail (view SW)
Icebox Canyon
Wilderness Area boundary sign (view SW)
Icebox Canyon
Hikers entering the Rainbow Mountain Wilderness Area (view SW)
Icebox Canyon
Hikers on rocky trail (view SW)
Icebox Canyon
Hikers on rocky trail (view SW)
Icebox Canyon
Canyon begins to narrow (view SW)
Icebox Canyon
Hikers nearing the end of the bench (view SW)
Icebox Canyon
Hikers past the bench descending steeply into wash (view SW)
Icebox Canyon
Hikers in the wash (view SW)
Icebox Canyon
Towering canyon walls (view SW)
Icebox Canyon
Hikers navigating boulder-filled wash (view SW)
Icebox Canyon
Bypassing a pool of water (view NW)
Icebox Canyon
Bypassing boulder though the bushes (view SW)
Icebox Canyon
Another pool of water (view SW)
Icebox Canyon
Fallen giant Ponderosa Pine (view SW)
Icebox Canyon
Another pool of water (view SW)
Icebox Canyon
Hikers on ledge traversing cliff above Lowest Pool (view SW)
Icebox Canyon
Hikers on ledge traversing a cliff (view SW)
Icebox Canyon
Upper and Lower falls (view SW)
Icebox Canyon
Lower pool (view SW)
Icebox Canyon
Lower falls (view SW)
Icebox Canyon
Upper and Lower falls (view SW)
Icebox Canyon
Upper falls (view SW)
Icebox Canyon
Upper falls (view SW)
Icebox Canyon
Middle falls and pool (view SW)
Icebox Canyon
Middle falls and pool (view SW)
Icebox Canyon Trail
The traverse between the middle and upper pools. If you slip here, at least you fall in the water.
Icebox Canyon Trail
Upper and lower fall. A middle falls is not visible from below and can only be reached by 4th-class slickrock scrambling.
Hiking Back Down Icebox Canyon
Icebox Canyon
It is a long, steep scramble down (view NE)
Icebox Canyon
Happy hiker on the rocks (view NE)
Icebox Canyon
Descending traverse above Lower Pool (view NE)
Icebox Canyon
End of the traverse above Lower Pool (view NE)
Icebox Canyon
Base of the fallen giant Ponderosa Pine (view NE)
Icebox Canyon
Cliffs tower above the wash (view NE)
Icebox Canyon
Hikers scrambling down the wash (view E)
Icebox Canyon
Hikers exiting the wash by climbing the steep bank (view NE)
Icebox Canyon
Evening exit from the canyon (view E)
Icebox Canyon
Mid-day exit from the canyon (view E)
Icebox Canyon Icebox Canyon
Icebox Canyon Icebox Canyon
Icebox Canyon Icebox Canyon
Icebox Canyon
Hiker passing Dale's Trail and SMYC Trail junction (view E)
Icebox Canyon
Hiker on easy trail (view E)
Icebox Canyon
Hiker approaching Red Rock Wash (view E)
Icebox Canyon
Hiker descending into Red Rock Wash (view E)
Icebox Canyon
Hiker at edge of Red Rock Wash (view NE)
Icebox Canyon
Hiker crossing Red Rock Wash (view E)
Icebox Canyon
Hiker crossing desert flats (view E)
Icebox Canyon
Hiker approaching Icebox Canyon Trailhead (view E)

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

Wpt. Location Easting Northing Elevation (ft) Point-to-Point Distance (mi) Cumulative Distance (mi) Verified
01 Trailhead 636455 4001450 4,280 0.00 0.00 Yes
02 Dale-SMYC junction 636233 4001217 4,307 0.21 0.21 GPS
03 Trail drops into wash 635455 4000820 4,520 0.61 0.82 GPS
04 Fork in the canyon 635110 4000720 4,640 0.24 1.06 GPS
05 Upper pools 635083 4000681 4,710 0.03 1.09 GPS

Happy Hiking! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 140419

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