Calico Tanks at Red Rock Canyon
The Calico Tanks hiking trail is located in Red Rock Canyon just outside of Las Vegas, Nevada.
For those looking for military equipment at the top will be sadly disappointed but don’t fret, the view at the top is pretty awesome.
When they named Calico Tanks, they used the other, less explody, definition to describe how the rocks have been molded over millennia to form these sometimes massive and sometimes small holes that collect water over the seasons.
Directions to Calico Tanks
Getting to Calico Tanks is easy only making you take two or three major roads to get there.
The first step is to hop onto the 215 W until you hit the exit NV-159 W/ W Charleston exit. After using the right two lanes to exit, turn right onto Charleston Blvd and follow that for 5.2 miles. After 5.2 miles on Charleston Blvd, which will turn into Blue Diamond Rd, take a right onto Scenic Loop Dr. to get to the entrance of Red Rock Canyon. Once you pass the entrance to the state park, follow the road for about 2.5 miles and then take a slight right onto Red Rock Canyon Rd. to get to the trail parking.
Red Rock Entrance Fee
Calico Tanks is in the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, which offers visitors free parking but there is an entry fee to the park itself.
If you have a National Park Pass, the cost is free and if you do not, then the cost is $15 to get in per vehicle and $5 per person if you walk in or ride a bike.
What that $15 gets you access to is a one day pass to over 26 different trails throughout the canyon, free parking at any trail, and a 13-mile scenic drive around all of Red Rock.
There’s a one-way road that spans the entire length of the scenic drive but it’s two cars wide to allow for passing.
Hiking Gear for Calico Tanks
Before hiking Calico Tanks, hikers should expect to bring the basic hiking gear to help them along the way. What the basics include are one to two liters of water, hiking boots or tennis shoes, snacks like jerky or trail mix, a backpack to store everything in, a light jacket depending on the weather, and sunscreen or a hat.
I personally always hike in hiking boots due to the added ankle support but I’ve seen plenty of people in tennis shoes hike this trail.
Calico Tanks at Red Rock Weather
Because of the way the trail is towards the middle, it can sometimes turn into wind tunnel which makes winter and fall hiking a little colder than normal. Taking a windbreaker or a thicker jacket may be needed if you’re hiking during the colder months as well as gloves because your hands will be out, unprotected from the wind and cold.
Red Rock can get around or even above 100 degrees Fahrenheit during the summer months so bring enough water to do the trail twice, plain and simple.
The trail does not offer visitors shade on the trail so you should start early during the summer months. If you decide to hike during the summer, it is recommended that you “make your own shade” in the form of a hat, sunhat, or even a thermal umbrella because of how unrelenting the sun can be.
Hiking Calico Tanks
Calico Tanks is a pretty easy out and back hike that can be found along the Red Rock Scenic Loop that’s 2.5 miles in distance. Hikers should take around two to two and a half hours to complete depending on their pacing. As stated before, this is a pretty easy hike with very few dangers as long as you stay on the trail and don’t walk too far out on the massive boulders where footing can be a little slick sometimes.
The ground at Calico Tanks consists mostly of gravel and sand until you get a little more than halfway through which it then turns into solid rocks and boulders. Along the trail, you will see trail markers, man-made paths, and stairs to help guide you to the top of the tanks.
At the top of Calico Tanks is where the main tanks reside surrounded by white and yellow sandstone, brush that somehow found a way to grow, and of course any water that may still be there from the last rainfall.
Do note that this stagnant water should not be used as drinking water or used to refill water bottles because it’s not flowing and could have bacteria in it that would ruin any trip.
For those who care to see what’s beyond the tanks, you can continue hiking up a couple hundred more feet to see the entire Las Vegas valley.
If you are a rock climber or repeller, there are a couple of places along the way that has right bolts drilled into the rocks. They’re pretty easy to spot because of the chalk marks all along the sides from previous climbers. This climbing site is just 20 feet off to the left of the trail.
Calico Tanks Trail Details
The trailhead, or starting point, to Calico Tanks starts at 4,322 feet and climbs up to about 4,755 feet making the elevation gain 433 feet.
The image shown below will say that the total ascent was 511 feet vs. the elevation gain of 433 feet. All this means is that while the point A to point B of Calico Tanks is 433 feet, you can expect to tack on another 100 or so feet from climbing up and down all the boulders as well as any extra walking you may do during the hike.
Every parking lot or trailhead in Red Rock will have bathrooms, and Calico Tanks is no exception. There is one men and women’s bathroom located just before the trail starts and once you start hiking, there aren’t bathrooms located on the trail.
Cell service is spotty at best out on the Scenic Loop and while you’re hiking Calico Tanks, cell service is dead or non-existent.
The trail is dog-friendly as long as you keep them on leashes and pick up any messes they may make.
Due to the ease of the hike, Calico Tanks is also kid friendly but not stroller friendly because of all the gravel, rocks, sand, and “rock stairs.”
Click here to read our article on Hiking in Las Vegas With Kids.
Calico Tanks at Red Rock Canyon Photos
- I am a hiking enthusiast and not an expert, the information shared here is from my personal experiences and research to share with others as a reference.
- All stats such as distances, elevations, elevation gains, ratings, and times are approximate based on mobile apps, GPS data, Google Earth, and other references compiled as a resource.