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Slab Rift Route
Hiking Around Las Vegas, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
Rift Slab Route
Rift Slab Route

Overview

I have a report that this is now a 4th or minimal 5th class route with exposure.

This route is a 3rd-class scramble through some interesting rock features to an enormous crevice (Slab Rift) and a lookout at the top of the Calico Hills. One side of the crevice is the crest of the Calico Hills, and the other is perhaps the largest free-standing boulder in Red Rock Canyon. After clambering through the rift, hikers are rewarded with a narrow, shady ledge very high above the ground that provides grand views out across Calico Basin and a nice place for lunch. On cold days, hikers might prefer a sunny overlook surveying the Scenic Loop Road and all of the Red Rock (Wilson) Cliffs. The route takes a short detour to visit petroglyphs.

Link to map.

Rift Slab Route

Watch Out

Other than the standard warnings about hiking in the desert, ... this hike is a 3rd-class (maybe harder) scramble with all of the usual scrambling hazards (e.g., falls from high places, loose rocks), but nothing unusual. While the scrambling is only 3rd-class, falls from many places would ensure sudden death, and it would be easy to find routes through the rocks more difficult than 3rd-class. Also, while shrubs might provide handy handholds, branches tend to break, so avoid hanging on the bushes.

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 route is short, be sure to bring what you need of the 10 Essentials.

Rift Slab Route
Hikers approaching Cannibal Crag (view NW)

Getting to the Trailhead

This hike is located in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, about 25 minutes from town, but not in the Scenic Loop fee area.

Drive out West Charleston Blvd, turn right towards Calico Basin, then drive into the Red Spring Trailhead. Park here; this is the trailhead. The parking area closes at sunset, so don't stay too late and get locked in.

Rift Slab Route
Northeast corner of Cannibal Crag (view NW)

The Hike

From the trailhead (Table 2, Waypoint 01), the route starts on a trail by the restrooms on the northwest side of the parking lot. The trail heads northwest towards a rock outcrop with petroglyphs, and the rock outcrop, known to rock climbers as Cannibal Crag, can be seen from the trailhead.

The trail runs northwest, merges with a wider trail (Wpt. 02), and continues to the base of Cannibal Crag (Wpt. 03). The petroglyphs are on the northeast corner of the crag. The rock art here is not extensive, but it is always interesting to contemplate the lives of people who made this area home so long ago. More rock art can be see along the Red Spring Boardwalk.

Rift Slab Route
Rock art on Cannibal Crag (view NW)

From Cannibal Crag (Wpt. 03), the route follows the wide trail northwest along the base of the Calico Hills. After only 100 yards, Slab Rift can be seen to the southwest atop of the Calico Hills. Look for what appears to be an arch (or perhaps just sky through a hole in the rocks) on the skyline, a bit left of the largest slab of rock (Riding Hood Wall) on the skyline.

Continuing on the wide trail about 300 yards past Cannibal Crag, the trail arrives at a point (Wpt. 04) directly below Slab Rift.

In this vicinity, it becomes necessary to locate Heart Rock (Wpt. 05), which is up the hillside below Slab Rift and the key to finding the rest of the rock features along the route. Heart Rock is a relatively small, heart-shaped alcove, so it is hard to see from below, but a large, flat-faced boulder (photos) lies just below Heart Rock. Heart Rock is on the base of the headwall, and the flat-faced boulder is at the top of the "gentler" slopes.

Rift Slab Route
First view of Slab Rift (view SW)

After locating Heart Rock, leave the trail (Wpt. 04) and climb the hillside to the Heart Rock alcove (Wpt. 05). Heart Rock is a fun place for couples to get their photo taken, but remember it takes 3rd-class scrambling to get there.

From Heart Rock, the route climbs through the "Tunnel of Love." From Heart Rock, slide into the gully on the right (west) edge of Heart Rock. Climb the gully, staying to the left -- hard against Heart Rock. The route tunnels under a massive boulder, passing through the Tunnel of Love, to a ledge with a nice view.

Reported by Nick 3/31/2016: Before there were helper rocks to climb above the ledge. With the helper rock it was easyish Class 3 with mild exposure ... now it is considerably more difficult and exposed.

Continuing up the same crack system, the route climbs to the Spiral Staircase. Climb the crack to a headwall, step left and up onto a ledge, then turn back, step across the crack to the other side, and continue up the crack system.

Rift Slab Route
Close-up: first view of Slab Rift (view SW)

The route ascends what is now a broad gully choked with boulders and shrub live oak to the crest of the Calico Hills, at which point, hikers can turn around and look back down into Slab Rift. The geology is quite spectacular, and photos do not do it justice.

Hiking down into the rift, the right side leads to a shady ledge with a grand view to the northeast. The left fork leads to a hole called the Kitchen Window, a small ledge with a grand view, and above the Kitchen Window is the Attic.

When finished inside Slab Rift, hikers can return to the crest and walk south onto the obvious knob some 100-ft distant. This is a nice, sunny place with a view out over Calico 1 Trailhead to the Red Rock Cliffs.

Return to the trailhead by following your footprints in the sandstone, or find any of dozens of other routes down, but be careful as it is easy to get into 4th-class situations.

Rift Slab Route
Hikers on route
Rift Slab Route
Overview of Heart Rock and the flat-faced boulder
Rift Slab Route
Close-up: Heart Rock and the flat-faced boulder
Rift Slab Route
Looking up at Slab Rift (Heart Rock is to the right)
Rift Slab Route
Hikers on route
Rift Slab Route
Approaching Heart Rock
Rift Slab Route
Heart Rock
Rift Slab Route
Calico Basin (view N from just below Heart Rock)
Rift Slab Route
Heart Rock and the Tunnel of Love
Rift Slab Route
Just friends
Rift Slab Route
Heart Rock and the Tunnel of Love
Rift Slab Route
Heart Rock alcove
Rift Slab Route
Hiker below Tunnel of Love
Rift Slab Route
Hiker entering Tunnel of Love
Rift Slab Route
Hiker on ledge past Tunnel of Love
Rift Slab Route
All alone in the Tunnel of Love
Rift Slab Route
Gully above Tunnel of Love (something has changed here)
Rift Slab Route
Stepping across the Spiral Staircase
Rift Slab Route
Above Spiral Staircase nearing the crest
Rift Slab Route
Slab Rift (view NE from above)
Rift Slab Route
Hiker inside Slab Rift (view NE from above)
Rift Slab Route
Inside Slab Rift (view SW from below)
Rift Slab Route
Inside Slab Rift (view NE from above)
Rift Slab Route
Hikers inside Slab Rift (view SW from below)
Rift Slab Route
Lunch Ledge (view E)
Rift Slab Route
Lunch Ledge (view W)
Rift Slab Route
Kitchen Window (view NE)
Rift Slab Route
Hiker in Attic above Kitchen Window (view NE)
Rift Slab Route
Hiker in the Attic (note typical sloping attic roof; view NE)
Rift Slab Route
Slab Rift (view NE from above)
Rift Slab Route
Calico 1 overlook (sunny lunch ledge; view W)
Rift Slab Route
Hikers departing Calico 1 overlook (view N towards Slab Rift)

Table 2. Hiking Coordinates and Distances 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 Trailhead 642323 4001239 3,513 0.00 0.00 GPS
02 Trail Junction 642083 4001355 3,656 0.21 0.21 GPS
03 Cannibal Rock 641984 4001423 3,691 0.08 0.29 GPS
04 Depart Use-Trail 641766 4001523 3,706 0.19 0.48 GPS
05 Heart Rock 641697 4001405 3,906 0.18 0.66 GPS
06 Crest of Calico Hills (Slab Rift) 641665 4001309 4,148 0.12 0.78 GPS
07 Calico 1 Overlook 641666 4001280 4,181 0.02 0.80 GPS
01 Trailhead 642323 4001239 3,513 0.80 1.60 GPS

Happy Hiking! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 160403

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