Wanderlust Wednesday: Turtlehead Peak, Hoover Dam, and Las Vegas

Turtlehead Peak, Hoover Dam, and Las Vegas

March 2014

wanderlust wed - Copy


Wow this is the first Wanderlust Wednesday I’ve done in eons!!

School has been consuming me a lot lately (hence my extreme lack of posting). Per usual, the semester cranked up to level 20,000 intensity during the final months. But today is “reading day” and I only have one test left before I graduate college (HUZZAH!!), so I thought I’d finally write up a recap of our family trip to Nevada over Spring Break!

We landed in Las Vegas and spent some time touring the city, doing all of the tourist-y stuff like playing slots at Caesar’s palace (I made 10 cents!! haha!), seeing the Bellagio fountains, and checking out the Mandalay Bay aquarium. Let’s just say the city wasn’t my cup of tea. The amount of X-rated porno ads/alcoholics/druggies/smokers circling around every place you turned got very disgusting VERY fast. I’m not used to that kind of atmosphere at all, and wanted to leave after about an hour of exposure.

VegasThankfully, Vegas wasn’t all we had planned.

The majority of our vacation was spent outside of the city; exploring Red Rock Canyon, hiking to Hoover Dam, and taking in some great scenery!

I’ll begin with Turtlehead Peak!

Turtlehead Peak TrailJust some quick stats on the hike itself:

  • Difficult hike with rock scrambling
  • Route climbs about 2,000 feet in 2.15 miles, but the hard part is climbing the 800 vertical-feet in the rocky, gully/chute system that leads to the summit ridge in only 0.4 miles
  • Marked trail signs end after 0.6 miles
  • Summit is 6,285 feet
  • Offers views of the city and all of Red Rock Canyon

The weather was perfect for hiking–cold enough to need a light jacket, but warm enough not to be teeth-chattering cold. The skies were clear, the trail wasn’t busy, and the birds were singing songs that invited us to have an adventure. My dad and I were stoked!

The beginning of the hike was pretty easy, just very gravel-y and rocky, so you constantly had to be looking down to prevent rolling an ankle on the random rocks. I guess it was a blessing in disguise though, since it also made you keep an eye out for snakes.

turtlehead peak hiking (6) turtlehead peak hiking (2)

After about an hour, we got to the rocky, runoff/chute area, and it started to get steep. Since there was no clear, marked trail at that point, we kind of hopped around, looking for the safest, best route up the mountain. Soon, it got so steep that we had to crawl like monkeys up the big boulders and rocks that littered the landscape. Even though our heavy, water bottle-laden backpacks made it a bit of a challenge, it was SO fun!! I am definitely a fan of rock scrambling.

Eventually, after some pit stops to catch our breath, we made it to the plateau before the final climb up to the summit.

turtlehead peak hiking (3)

Once we reached that point, the wind that had been blocked by the peak hit us like a tidal wave! It was cold and extremely gusty, so we had to bundle back up in the layers we’d stripped off during the hike.

Then we finally made it to the top! A random dude from Chicago was up there in shorts and a t-shirt with no backpack or water, so we offered him some agua and he offered to take our picture!

Turtlehead Peak Summit

We didn’t stay at the peak very long because it was so windy and cold, but we still managed to snap physical and mental pictures of the beautiful scenery.

turtlehead peak hiking (4)

The way down was dicey at times due to rocks that would avalanche under our boots, but it was definitely easier to see a trail route from sky view. And it was nice to be out of the wind once we rounded the peak’s corner.

Once at a lower elevation, we explored some of the red rocks near the base of the peak. We saw people and dogs hanging out near the top of these tall formations and decided to scale them ourselves. They sure looked a lot harder to climb from the ground, but we were surprised to find out easy it was to climb!

turtlehead peak hiking (7) Red Rock Canyon

After driving around the park for a bit, we got out of the car and roamed around Red Rock Canyon.

turtlehead peak hiking (8) turtlehead peak hiking (1)

We took a random trail and saw some rock climbers scaling massive vertical walls! It was amazing! It started to get late, so we figured we should head back to our hotel to hang out with mom after her “spa day” 🙂

The next day, my dad and I took an abandoned railroad trail to Hoover Dam!

Here are some stats on that hike:

  • 8 miles round trip
  • Trail follows an old railroad bed high above Lake Mead
  • Runs through five 25-ft-diameter tunnels cut through volcanic ridges
  • Easy, pleasant hike with no major elevation changes
  • Destination is the Hoover Dam visitor’s center

We started out early to beat the sun and boy was the weather perfect again. There were little informational signs that told you about the history of the railroad along the path, beautiful views of Lake Mead, and big volcanic-like rocks everywhere. But my favorite part was definitely the tunnels! They were huge!


After walking through the 5 tunnels and a railroad “graveyard,” we finally made it to the Hoover Dam!

It was a lot more massive than I pictured, and it was bustling with a lot of tourists. The Arizona/Nevada line is located on the Dam so my dad and I joked about “walking to another state” haha!

Hoover Dam Hoover Dam Overlook

After exploring, we decided to turn back. It started getting hot by then, but we got to see some neat little lizards and this HUGE iguana dude sunning on a rock!

Hoover Dam hike

Also, a lot of helicopters taking tours over Lake Mead and the Dam flew overhead really low and it was cool to be surprised by them when they’d pop out through a canyon! 🙂

All in all, it was a pretty neat experience! While some aspects of the city scarred me for life, the hiking was awesome! I definitely recommend checking out Red Rock Canyon and all of the hiking opportunities if you’re ever in the Vegas area!

turtlehead peak hiking (5)


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