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SMYC Trail - Southbound
Hiking Around Las Vegas, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
SMYC Trail
SMYC Trail
Lost Creek Trail (view W from trailhead)

Overview

The SMYC Trail is a 1.3-mile segment of the Escarpment Route that runs through spectacular open desert along the base of the Wilson Cliffs. The SMYC Trail runs between Lost Creek Canyon and Icebox Canyon. 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.

The SMYC Trail connects two trails, so it can be walked in either direction. Here, I describe it running south from the Lost Creek Canyon Trail to the Icebox Canyon Trail, which is the downhill direction. For hikers going the other direction, see SMYC Trail - Northbound.

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
Fork in the trail (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 Willow Spring Road. Turn right and drive north 0.2 miles to the Lost Creek Trailhead. Park here; this is the trailhead.

SMYC Trail
SMYC trail goes left (view SW)

The Hike

Two trails run west from the parking lot. The Lost Creek Trail starts near the middle of the parking lot and runs straight (southwest) across Red Rock Wash towards a big willow thicket, a pine tree, and the mouth of a little side-canyon. The Children's Discovery Trail starts at the northwest corner of the parking lot (by the big sign) and angles upstream and across the wash (more due west).

From the Lost Creek Trailhead (Table 1, Waypoint 01), the hike runs southwest on the Lost Creek Trail. About 80 yards out (1 minute), the trail forks, and the SMYC trail (Wpt. 02) goes left. A sign at the junction states that it is 1.0 miles to the Icebox Canyon Trail.

Running downstream, the SMYC Trail runs out into the wash. The wash crossing, less than 0.2 miles out, is marked by sandstone stepping stones that must have been set by a very energetic trail crew. In the wash, the vegetation consists largely of desert willow and other tall shrubs. This contrasts greatly with the hillside beyond the wash where the vegetation is dominated by singleleaf pinyon pine, Utah juniper, and blackbrush. The differences in vegetation largely are due to differences in soil moisture and flooding tolerance.

SMYC Trail
Trail sign (view SW)

Across the wash (Wpt. 03), the trail climbs onto the red-dirt hillside, bends left, and runs south at a slight downgrade running parallel to the wash. After about 0.25 miles, the trail runs over the crest of a low ridge and starts to drop off west side (away from the main wash).

As the trail drifts onto the west side of the little ridge, it runs slightly downhill to a low-point (Wpt. 04), then starts uphill towards the promontory (Wpt. 05) at the end of the ridge. At the low-point (Wpt. 04), the SMYC Trail drops down and right towards the bottom of the ravine. The trail out onto the promontory is just a short spur-trail to the viewpoint.

SMYC Trail
Hiker on trail (view S)

From the low-point, the trail drops off the ridge and into ravine (notice the nice rock work), then turns downhill and runs along the side of promontory and out across the flats to another little wash coming down from the cliffs. The trail crosses the little canyon, and then switchbacks up the hillside before heading south towards another promontory (Wpt. 06).

From the second promontory (another nice lunch spot), the trail winds down the southwest side of the ridge and across the top of another little side canyon. It then continues south into the Icebox Canyon drainage (almost directly opposite Icebox parking area) and starts to angle away from the cliffs.

The trail drops onto flats at the edge of Icebox Canyon at an unmarked trail junction (Wpt. 07). The use-trail to the right goes west into Icebox Canyon while the SMYC Trail stays left (east). Up until about this point, the trail is fairly clean and nice to walk on, but as the trail crosses Icebox Canyon, it gets rocky (more like the Escarpment Route south of here).

SMYC Trail
Trail enters wash (view SW)

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.

A couple of minutes past the unmarked trail junction, the trail intersects the Icebox Canyon Trail (Wpt. 08). The SMYC Trail ends here.

From this point, either continue south on the Dale's Trail, turn west and hike up the Icebox Canyon Trail, turn east and hike out to the Icebox Canyon trailhead (Wpt. 09), or retrace your footprints back to the Lost Creek Trailhead (Wpt. 01).

SMYC Trail
Rock-lined trail in wash (view S)
SMYC Trail
Trail turns to climb hillside (view W)
SMYC Trail
Hikers climbing hillside (view W)
SMYC Trail
Trail on hillside (view S)
SMYC Trail
Trail on hillside (view S)
SMYC Trail
Trail on hillside (view S)
SMYC Trail
Trail on hillside (view S)
SMYC Trail
Trail on hillside (view S)
SMYC Trail
Curious crystalline patterns in the rock
SMYC Trail
Trail junction to First Promontory (view S)
SMYC Trail
First promontory (view S along the trail)
SMYC Trail
Descending beyond first promontory (view NW)
SMYC Trail
Passing below first promontory (view SE)
SMYC Trail
Crossing the wash in an open canyon (view SW)
SMYC Trail
Switchbacking up the hillside (view NW)
SMYC Trail
Traversing the hillside (view E towards Calico Hills)
SMYC Trail
Grand scenery along the trail (view NE towards Turtlehead Peak)
SMYC Trail
Approaching second promontory (view SE)
SMYC Trail
Second promontory (view SE towards Las Vegas)
SMYC Trail
Icebox Canyon (view SW from near second promontory)
SMYC Trail
Descending from the hillsides (view SE)
SMYC Trail
Icebox Canyon (view W from trail)
SMYC Trail
Approaching Icebox Canyon trail (view SE)
SMYC Trail
Junction of SMYC, Icebox Canyon, and Dale's trails (view S)
SMYC Trail
Junction of SMYC, Icebox Canyon, and Dale's trails (view S)
SMYC Trail
Sign at trail junction (view W)

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
01 Lost Creek Trailhead 635573 4002262 4,476 . . GPS
02 SYMC Trail Jct 635497 4002238 4,474 0.00 0.00 GPS
03 Red Rock Wash 635504 4001973 4,442 0.19 0.19 GPS
04 Trail Junction 635725 4001637 4,398 0.39 0.58 GPS
05 Northern Promontory 635765 4001630 4,416 0.03 0.61 GPS
04 Trail Junction 635725 4001637 4,398 0.04 0.65 GPS
06 Southern Promontory 635899 4001402 4,382 0.36 1.01 GPS
07 Trail Jct 636035 4001277 4,348 0.15 1.16 GPS
08 Ice Box Canyon Trail Jct 636237 4001221 4,307 0.14 1.30 GPS
09 Ice Box Canyon Trailhead 636455 4001453 4,280 . . GPS

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

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