Guardian Angel Pass: the ultimate hiking guide

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Guardian Angel Pass Hiking Stats

Trail DescriptionLoop
Trail LocationRed Spring, Calico Basin Rd, Las Vegas, NV 89161
Parking Lot36.14720, -115.41840
Round Trip Mileage3.2 miles
Average Time2 – 4 hours
DifficultyStrenuous
Elevation Gain~680 feet
Best time to visitFall, Winter, Spring
Entrance FeeFree as of May 2021. There is discussion to make this a fee area in the future.
Rating3.5 Mooses
Guardian Angel Pass summit
Guardian Angel Pass Summit

Our experience at the Guardian Angel Pass trail

Every time we drive to Red Rock Canyon we pass the beautiful entrance sign and wistfully dream about stopping to photograph it, but it’s always overflowing with tourists gleefully snapping photos.  This morning was different -no one was around!  It was a beautiful morning with crystal clear blue skies and the opportunity to finally get those shots I’ve been pining over.  Of course, our solitude was short lived but we were successful!

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area entrance sign
Welcome to the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area!

We arrived at the Red Spring parking lot to find more people on an early weekday than we would have expected.  The parking lot was already a third full at 8:15AM on a Wednesday. 

Guardian Angel pass in the distance
The start of the trail, Guardian Angel pass seen in the distance

We read online the best way to hike the trail is to traverse the trail counterclockwise so we set out to find the elusive stone carving of a “Guardian Angel” somewhere near the trail summit.  

The trail starts out well marked to the northwest of the parking lot and is relatively flat for the first mile or so.  We passed quite a few people on the trail and not more than 10 minutes into the hike Mr Moose spotted a large Chuckwalla enjoying the sun on the rocks.  It was pretty shy and hid every time a hiker went by, but after around 10 minutes we finally snapped a picture! 

Chuckwalla in Red Rock Canyon
Chuckwalla sunning on the rocks.

We continued on the trail and stopped just before the scramble to the peak of Guardian pass to watch climbers scale the tall red rocks on the trail. 

Climber in Red Rock Canyon
Climber in Red Rock Canyon

After watching the climbers for a while, we decided it was time to get going before the temperature rose too much. 

Climber Red Rock Canyon Park
Climber scaling the Red Rocks

The trail becomes less clear as you start the climb up to the summit.  There was a large group in front of us that had split into two and was picking their way up the rocks.  We found our own path weaving and climbing through the rocks towards the summit.  There is a false summit as you climb the trail and the large group in front of us never made it to the top.  They turned around about three-quarters of the way up.  

We continued on and were rewarded with a beautiful view of the valley and a wonderful large flat rock to rest on at the top.  By the time we had reached the summit, most of the people that were on the trail had seemingly disappeared and we enjoyed the top all to ourselves. 

Summit of Guardian Angel Pass
Summit of Guardian Angel Pass

It was finally time to head down the loop and try our hand at locating the elusive angel carving.  From the pictures, it appeared the carving was quite large and perched on the canyon walls high above one’s head.  Imagine our surprise when we came around the corner in the middle of the trail and there it was.  While intricate and neat to see, it was somewhat disappointing in its location and size.  It was not quite double the size of a human’s head and located near eye level on the trail.  With a variety of paths through the canyon area where the carving is located, it would be easy to walk right by and never see it.

Guardian Angel Carving
Angel carving

The trail ends up curving around to the left by more climbers and eventually intersects with one of more popular stops on the Red Rock Canyon scenic drive.  We did not linger at this area as it was overrun with tourists snapping pictures.  At one point we even saw a group of four hikers and every single one of them was staring at their phone while walking.  Maybe they should have stayed by a pool…

4 hikers on cell phone while walking
Hikers enjoying their phones while walking

If you’re using Alltrails and following the official Guardian Pass loop, it is advantageous to override its instructions and instead go up the ridge line on the back half of the trail. 

Guardian Angel Trail loop map
Trail map

We stumbled on this accidentally but were really pleased with this detour as you’re much higher up and can see more of the valley.  Plus, we got to see more rock climbers and the photo opportunities were off the charts!  We could see people on the intended trail down the hill and there is no way they had the same view we did.

Iconic red rock canyon
View of Red Rock Canyon from the alternate trail
Hiker exploring red rock canyon
Hiker exploring the red hills

It was getting really warm at this point and we were out much longer than we anticipated.  We decided to pick up the pace and head back to the car by finishing the loop. Starting just to the east of the Calico 1 parking lot, the trail became unclear at times, but it was manageable.  The official trail after the Calico 1 parking lot is called the Lower Calico Hills Trail.  After a rocky area, and before you turn left to wrap back around the hills and officially re-join the Red Spring Ridge trail, it becomes clear again.  I recommend utilizing the Alltrails app or at the very least, keep the hills to your left and the main scenic drive loop to your right as you hike around the loop counterclockwise. 

Red Spring Boardwalk

Nearing the end of the trail we saw a boardwalk in the distance and wondered how in the world we had missed it when we started out earlier that day.  

Boardwalk trail sign in red spring meadow
Boardwalk trail sign
Boardwalk running through red spring meadow
Boardwalk winding through the Red Spring meadow area

The boardwalk was constructed to protect the fragile ecosystem created by the permanent Red Spring water source in the area.  The water allows growth of a beautiful saltgrass meadow, cottonwood trees, and much more.  Originally constructed in 2005 and upgraded in 2019, the boardwalk is around one half mile around and has plenty of benches and shady spots to rest.  Interpretive signs dot the trail giving history of the area and nearby you can find a picnic area and restrooms.  A great way to end our Guardian Pass loop hike! 

Boardwalk area seen from the trail to Guardian Angel Pass

Visit or skip?

Rating: 3.5 Mooses

  • What we liked
    • The views at the summit of Guardian Angel Pass
    • The scrambling on the trial was a fun challenge
    • Watching the climbers scale up the beautiful red rocks
    • The boardwalk at the end of the trail was a nice surprise
  • What we didn’t like
    • The trial wasn’t well marked in many places and it was easy to get off track
    • The crowds in parts of the trail were a bit much
    • The angel carving was disappointing and easy to miss on the trail

Verdict:  There were parts of the trail that were great and others that weren’t.  We enjoyed Turtlehead Peak and the Kraft Mountain Loop to Upper Gateway more.

Know before you go

  • There is scrambling on the trail which will require hands and feet to traverse the summit to Guardian Pass
  • Bring sturdy and grippy shoes to make the climb easier
  • We found parts of the trail easy to get turned around and recommend downloading the offline version of Alltrails (subscription required)
  • Keep your eye out for lizards and other wildlife on the trail
  • The trail took us longer to navigate than we expected and it gets hot out there, so bring extra water and snacks
  • Check out the boardwalk before you leave the parking area for a nice stroll
  • Dogs are allowed, but the scrambling on the trail will make it difficult at times
Yellow and Black butterfly
Butterfly on the Guardian Angel Pass loop

Frequently asked questions about Guardian Angel Pass

Is a pass needed to park in the Red Springs parking lot?

As of May 2021, no pass is needed.  There is discussion of blocking off access to the Calico area and making it a fee area like the rest of Red Rock Canyon.  It is currently still free to use.  Going early on a weekend is critical to getting a parking spot.

Where is the angel located on the trail?

If you’re headed counterclockwise on the hike, the angel is located about 1/8 of a mile west of the summit in the middle of the trail on a rock.  The angel is not on the canyon walls as we expected.  If you’ve turned left (south) on the loop to continue the trail, you’ve gone too far. 

Is clockwise or counterclockwise on the Guardian Angel Pass trail better?

Most people go counterclockwise on the trail to get the scrambling out of the way earlier by going up rather than down the steep area.  We enjoyed going counterclockwise on the trail and would highly recommend it.

More Information for your trip to Red Rock Canyon

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The information contained on this website is for entertainment purposes only and references only opinions of the author. Nothing contained within should be considered professional advice, including but not limited to, health, safety, financial, legal, or psychological advice.

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