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SMYC Trail - Northbound
Hiking Around Las Vegas, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
SMYC Trail
Hiker on SYMC trail (departing the Icebox Canyon Trail; view N)


The SMYC Trail is a 1.1-mile segment of the Escarpment Route that runs through spectacular open desert along the base of the Wilson Cliffs. The SMYC Trail - Northbound runs between the Icebox Canyon Trail and the Lost Creek Canyon Trail. For a description of the trail running in the southbound direction, see SMYC Trail - Southbound.

This is a pleasant trail with relatively little elevation change that generally runs at gentle grades. There are two short, steep sections, but both are associated with nice viewpoints.

SMYC stands for "Spring Mountains Youth Camp," which is a long-term correctional facility for young men convicted of felonies. In partnership with the U.S. Forest Service, these guys have been doing nice trail work for more than 30 years.

Link to map.

SMYC Trail
Sign at trail junction (view W)

Watch Out

Other than the standard warnings about hiking in the desert, ...this is a safe hike, although parts of the trail are rocky and might be difficult for people with walking difficulties. Water sometimes runs in Red Rock Wash, and care should be taken on wet or icy rocks.

While hiking, please respect the land and the other people out there, and 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 45 minutes west of Las Vegas. Drive out to Red Rocks, pay the fee, and then drive about half-way around the Scenic Loop Road to Icebox Canyon Trailhead. Park here; this is the trailhead.

SMYC Trail
Trail sign (view N back up SMYC Trail; view N)

The Hike

From the Icebox Canyon Trailhead, hike southwest on Icebox Canyon Trail 0.21 miles to a signed trail junction (Table 1, Waypoint 08). Here, Dale's Trail turns south, while the SMYC trail turns north.

The rocky trail runs northwest across open desert flats with grand, open views of the Wilson Cliffs (the escarpment), White Rock Peak, and the crest of the La Madre Mountain Range in the distance.

At the mouth of Icebox Canyon, it is interesting to notice that a fire burned through here long ago. The shrubs have since recovered, but there are almost no living Utah Juniper trees here, just a bunch of old skeletons.

SMYC Trail
SYMC trail (view N)

The trail runs northwest across the flat, then at a sharp bend to the right, passes a trail junction (Wpt. 07) where the SMYC Trail stays right. Staying on the flats, the trail wraps around the toe of a boulder covered ridge, then starts up into a bit of a canyon between two ridges. The trail climbs across the hillside, passes above an enormous boulder, and climbs on the crest of a ridge (Wpt. 06) with grand views out across the landscape.

Crossing over the ridge, the trail drops slowly across the next hillside until is turns steeply downhill and switchbacks into the bottom of a little canyon where several large trees provide a bit of shade. The trail crosses the wash and climbs onto the next low ridge, now providing a view across Red Rock Wash.

Following the low ridge northwest, the trail approaches a rocky promontory. Staying to the left (west) of the cliffs, the trail runs into the back of a little canyon (Wpt. 05), then climbs steeply up the side of the rocky promontory on a sweeping switchback.

SMYC Trail
Southern promontory (view N towards Willow Springs Canyon)

Near the top of the ridge, the trail reaches a T-intersection. The SMYC Trail turns left, but it is well worth turning right and stepping out onto the rocky promontory (Wpt. 04). This is a great place to sit quietly and gaze out over the desert spreading below and the towering red-and-white cliffs above.

Beyond the promontory, the trail runs up a little canyon, then crosses out to run high on the bank above Red Rock Wash. The trail is open with nice views and runs at a gentle grade, but then suddenly turns steeply downhill and returns to the bed of Red Rock Wash (Wpt. 03).

The remainder of the hike runs on the gravels of Red Rock Wash. Trail crews do a pretty good job of setting boulders along the edge of the trail, and these define the trail, but in general the trail runs north and eventually reaches a signed trail junction with the Lost Creek Trail (Wpt. 02), which technically is the end of the SMYC Trail. Staying right, hikers quickly arrive (about 80 yards) at the Lost Creek Trailhead (Wpt. 01).

Second promontory
Grand scenery (La Madre Mts and Turtlehead Peak; view E)
Second promontory
Grand scenery (view N towards Willow Springs)
Second promontory
Trail traverses hillside (view N)
SMYC Trail
Hikers starting down steep hillside (view NW)
SMYC Trail
Grand scenery (northern promontory in the near distance; view N)
SMYC Trail
Hikers crossing wash (view NE)
Second promontoryNearing the northern promontory (view N) SMYC Trail
Northern promontory (view S)
Second promontory
Hikers picnicking atop northern promontory (view N)
SMYC Trail
Hikers traversing hillside (view N)
SMYC Trail
Hikers traversing hillside (view N)
SMYC Trail
Trail descending switchback (view N)
SMYC Trail
Hikers in Red Rock Wash (view NW)
SMYC Trail
Crossing Lost Creek (view N)
SMYC Trail
Hikers in Red Rock Wash (view NE)
SMYC Trail
Hikers approaching Lost Creek Trailhead (view NE)

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) Verified
09 Ice Box Canyon Trailhead 636455 4001453 4,280 . . GPS
08 Ice Box Canyon Trail Jct 636237 4001221 4,307 0.00 0.00 GPS
07 Trail Jct 636035 4001277 4,348 0.14 0.14 GPS
06 Southern Promontory 635899 4001402 4,382 0.16 0.30 GPS
04 Trail Junction 635725 4001637 4,398 0.36 0.66 GPS
05 Northern Promontory 635765 4001630 4,416 0.03 0.69 GPS
04 Trail Junction 635725 4001637 4,398 0.03 0.72 GPS
03 Red Rock Wash 635504 4001973 4,442 0.39 1.11 GPS
02 SYMC Trail Jct 635497 4002238 4,474 0.19 1.30 GPS
01 Lost Creek Trailhead 635573 4002262 4,476 . . GPS

Happy Hiking! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 150113

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