May is the premiere month for hiking the trails, canyons, and peaks in Red Rock Canyon. The average temperature is 88 degrees. It doesn’t get any better than this. The days stretch into the night allowing hikers to tackle the longest and toughest hikes. If you are limited to hiking on the weekends, get an early start (no later than 8:30 am) to ensure a parking spot if access to the trailhead is along the Scenic Loop drive.
Hiking Tip of the Month:
Warm Weather Hiking
It can get toasty in Red Rock during May. So how do you stay hydrated and cool without a Slurpee and an air conditioner? First, drink plenty of fluids. Water and any of the sport drinks are fine; Slurpees are not. Many hikers now use Camelbaks or similar types of daypacks. They double as a daypack and a hydration system. Inside every Camelbak is a bladder that holds up to 100 ounces of water, which allows for hands free drinking via a small hose. The rule is you should drink before you become thirsty.
Tips: Put ice in your bladder, water container etc. the morning of your hike. Your water will stay cold and you will drink more.
If it’s an up and back hike, you can cache water on the ascent and pick it up on the descent and drink. Most fruit contains lots of water.
Normally, you never want to wear clothing made from cotton while hiking. Why? Cotton retains water. If the wind kicks up or the temperature drops when you are wet, you’ll become cold. However, if it’s hot, then cotton is an option. Since it retains your perspiration, it has a cooling effect. Cotton is appropriate for the long treks up and down the sandstone mountains in Red Rock Canyon when it’s hot. Also, don’t wear dark colored clothing. Why? It retains heat and that’s the last thing you want when it’s hot.
Do hikes that have shade. You can’t control the sun, but you can do hikes that have a lot of shade. This will keep you significantly cooler.
Tip: Kraft Mtn, West route, Oak Creek Overlook, and Las Vegas Overlook aka The Muffin Boulders are hikes that have early morning shade. These hikes are in Red Rock Canyon.
Don’t forget the sunscreen and sunglasses. The sun can burn your skin in less than 30 minutes and the sun’s reflection off the white sandstone has a blinding effect. Save your skin and eyes by applying sunscreen and wearing sunglasses.
It’s much cooler in the morning than the afternoon. The hottest part of the day is around 5 pm. Red Rock Canyon opens at 6 am year round. By starting your hike in the morning you will avoid the hottest part of the day.
Hike of the Month: Fern Canyon
Hike: Fern Canyon — Trail and route
Trailhead: Pine Creek — marked
Elevation gain: up to 300 feet
Highest elevation: 4,275 feet
Time: 1.5 to 2 hours – up and back
How easy to follow: 2
Waypoints (WGS84): See Page 5
Fees: $7 per car; $30 for a yearly pass. National Park Pass accepted.
Best season: Spring and autumn
Driving directions: From the Mirage on Las Vegas Boulevard (the Strip) go north three miles and turn left (west) onto Charleston. Drive 16 miles on Charleston to Red Rock Canyon. Drive past the fee booth and through the Scenic Loop gate. The signed parking area for Pine Creek Canyon is 10.3 miles past Scenic Loop gate.
Comments: This hike has various stopping points. Once in the wash there’s running water year-round and it’s less than 100 yards to the ferns.
The Hike: Pine Creek Trail descends in a southerly direction and soon turns to the west toward the mouth of the canyon. Looking toward the canyon, you see Ponderosa Pines towering above the desert floor. It is rare to encounter these pines below 6,000 feet. The elevation along the trail is about 4,000 feet. Mescalito, a small, but majestic pyramid-shaped mountain, splits the canyon into north and south forks. This route heads into the North Fork, also known as Fern Canyon. When the trail passes the cement foundation of the old Wilson homestead, you have hiked 0.8 of a mile. The trail divides a little past this foundation. Head right a juniper tree is your landmark. In about 30 yards the trail divides; again take the right fork. The trail again divides in about 40 yards. Take the right fork which weaves through scrub oak trees. If you miss this fork, you will descend into the wash way too soon.
Once the trail emerges from the trees, it climbs (class 1) red sandstone ledges. Just after the ledges the paths start to spider web. Ascend to the highest path, which eventually drops into the wash further than other paths. The path ends at the wash. You are now in Fern Canyon. A popular rock climb named Dark Shadow starts here.
Route through Fern Canyon:
Start by heading west (right) in the wash. In a few yards the route crosses the water and then heads to the south (left) wall. You’ll come to a very pretty spot with ferns. This is one of the best spots to end the hike and enjoy the beauty of the canyon. If you are lucky, you might see ducks! +
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