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Tikaboo Peak
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Area 51 from Tikaboo Peak
Tikaboo Peak
The road to Tikaboo (view N)


This short, but fairly tough 1.1-mile hike leads to one of the quintessential Las Vegas experiences: a view into Groom Lake and the secret military base at Area 51. The government still claims that Area 51 doesn't exist and that they don't fly captured alien UFOs out there, but hike up and take a look for yourself. The facilities are 26 air-miles to the west, so bring high-powered optical equipment and get an early start to ensure that the sun is low and at your back for optimal viewing. Even if you don't see any UFOs, the view is spectacular and gives the impression of being on top of the world.

Link to Overview Map, Route Map, or elevation profile.

Trailhead parking
Trailhead parking (view NW)
Much of the dirt road to the trailhead is maintained and can be driven at 35 mph. The very end of the road, about the last 1/4-miles, requires a 4WD vehicle, and the 1/4-miles of the trail can be driven if you dare. The route follows a use-trail and paint marks on steep, rocky hillsides through a pinyon-juniper forest.
Tikaboo Peak
Steep, old road (view S)

Watch Out

Other than the standard warnings about hiking in the desert, ...this is a safe, but pretty rough hike. The use-trail is steep and rocky, and there are many places where you could lose your footing. The only place to fall off something is the summit, so stay back from the edge. There is no water on the mountain. The elevations run from about 7,000 to 8,000 feet, so take it easy if you aren't used to the elevation. I've heard rumor that there are issues about black helicopters with shoot-to-kill orders, but you didn't hear about it from me.

While hiking, please respect the land and the other people out there, and try to Leave No Trace of your passage. Also, even though the hike is short, this is a remote area, so bring the 10 Essentials. Make sure this route is of the appropriate difficulty for your skills. Bring a trash bag and plan to pack out more trash than you bring in.

Route as seen from the road
The route (view SW from the old road)

Getting to the Trailhead

This hike is located in the Pahranagat Range (near Alamo), about 3 hours north of Las Vegas.

From Las Vegas, drive north on Interstate-15 for 21 miles to Highway 93 (Exit 64) (Table 1, Site 0674). Exit the interstate, turn left onto Highway 93, and drive north for about 66 miles (about 6 miles south of Alamo) to Old Corn Creek Road, an unmarked, well-graded dirt road to the left (Site 0871).

If you need gas, continue to Alamo. The little motel in the middle of town is clean and acceptable if you don't want to sleep out.

campsite at the end of the road
Campsite at end of jeep road (view SW)

Old Corn Creek Road leaves the pavement at milepost LN 32.2 (Site 0871); watch for a dirt road and a stop sign. The turnoff is about 0.4 miles north of the turnoff to Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters (which has a sign).

From the pavement, Old Corn Creek Road always the main road, runs west across the valley. The road winds around and runs up a canyon onto the bajada (about 1 mile out). The road eventually runs up into a broad canyon (about 2.5 miles out). Curving to the southwest, the road runs up the canyon, which is now somewhat narrower.

At about 5 miles out, the road curves to the left to run more southerly and forks; stay left on the main road. At 5.6 miles out, the road passes a barbed-wire gate (Site 1141). Leave the ranch gate as you found it: either open or closed. Staying on Old Corn Creek Road and generally continuing south, the road climbs up over a saddle (Site 0893; 6.8 miles out) and down the canyon on the other side.

steep route
Steep use-trail on the hillside (view S)

At 8.2 miles out (Site 0872), Old Corn Creek Road reaches a fork. Here, Old Corn Creek Road continues south as a minor road that eventually becomes quite sandy, and historically it did run south to Corn Creek, the field headquarters for Desert National Wildlife Range. The main road, now Badger Mountain Road, takes a hard right turn and runs up a canyon heading northwest (this road is not marked on USGS 7.5-minute topo maps).

Badger Mountain Road runs up the canyon, passing a rusty storage tank at about 11.5 miles out. From there, the road basically runs straight all the way to Badger Spring; don't take any of the side roads (e.g., major side roads at 13.5 [Site 1142] and 18.2 [Site 1143] miles out). At 21.7 miles out, the road forks at Badger Spring (Site 1144).

Steepest trail
Steepest use-trail on the hillside (view south)

The Badger Spring (dry) parking area is to the left. Stay to the right on the main road. Beyond the fork, the road narrows until it becomes steep and rocky, requiring 4WD for the last 0.2 miles. Drive as far as you want in a 2WD vehicle, as it would be fairly easy to back out if necessary. There is a campsite adjacent to the road at about 22.0 miles out, which is the last place to camp before the 4WD section. At 22.1 miles out, the road ends on the saddle (Site 0873). Park here; this is the trailhead.

For drivers with a jeep or other serious 4WD, consider driving another 0.23 miles up the hillside. The worst spot is about a 1-minute walk up the road, so check it out if you want to try driving to the very end of the road.

crossing the sideslope
Use-trail across the sideslope (view west)

The Hike

From the trailhead (Table 2, Waypoint 01), follow the old road south through a gap in the trees and up the steep hillside. The main road arrives on the saddle heading west, so this old road makes a 90-degree turn to the left. Walk up the old road, which initially is quite steep. The road levels out, more or less, and runs along the ridge.

There are several places along the old road where you can see the entire route and the summit, so take a minute to get orientated for the rest of the hike. From the end of the old road, a use-trail runs south and up the hillside to the ridge on the skyline, then runs west along the ridge, passing behind a large rocky knob. The trail then drops into a saddle and runs up the next hillside to the summit.

the ridge
Use-trail on the ridge (view west)

Follow the old road for 0.23 miles to an open area with a campsite (Wpt. 02), which is at the base of a steep hillside. About 10 steps before reaching the fire pit, a use-trail cuts west through the trees. Follow the use-trail southwest and up the hillside, staying to the east of the cliffy areas. Starting in this area, there are white spray-paint marks (a single, 8-10 inch long stripe in the direction of travel) on rocks along the trail. Although the marks are not necessary here, they are helpful beyond the saddle.

The use-trail is fairly steep with lots of loose rocks, and it generally zigzags straight up the hillside. The trail runs fairly steeply until it becomes really steep (Wpt. 03). Fortunately, the steepest part is fairly short, and the use-trail levels out (relatively speaking) (Wpt. 04) as it cuts west across the sideslope and angles off towards the top of the ridge.

route from the saddle
Route (view west from the rocky knob)

From the top of the ridge (Wpt. 05; 0.65 miles out), the faint use-trail runs west and downhill along the ridgeline, drops off the south side of the ridge to pass the large rocky knob, and drops into a saddle with a campsite and a big fire ring (Wpt. 06; 0.84 miles out).

From the fire ring, the trail continues in the same direction, passing under and to the left of a large pinyon pine adjacent to the campsite. On the other side of the tree, the use-trail becomes obvious again as it winds around a few shrubs and hits the base of the next hillside.

route above saddle
Campsite on the saddle (view west)

At this point, the trail starts up the hillside on the south edge of a fairly large, barren rock face. The use-trail cuts up the rock face and curves to the south (Wpt. 07). Watch for the paint marks and the few cairns, as it is easy to lose the trail on this hillside. On the way up, I missed the trail here and climbed the hillside without the advantage of the use-trail. There is a use-trail all the way up, so if you aren't on a trail, you are off-route.

Following the use-trail, the route runs up and slightly to the south across the hillside, then turns back to the northwest (Wpt. 08) and crosses a flat area with another campsite and large fire ring (Wpt. 09) before continuing up the hillside.

From the fire ring, the route runs west through a gap between a pinyon pine and a large mountain mahogany, heading towards a dead tree lying on the rocks. You can't see them from the fire ring, but after you get started, red and white paint marks on the rocks lead to the summit, which is about 5 minutes away.

paint mark and cairn
Example of paint mark and cairn on hillside above the saddle (view west).

Someone built a blockade-type rock shelter (with four railroad ties) on the summit (Wpt. 10) that provides a sheltered place to hide from the wind, or whatever you need to hide from, and gaze off to the west. The vegetation on the summit is mostly pinyon pine and juniper, with a bit of mountain mahogany, sage, old-man prickly pear, Ephedra, some grasses, and other odds and ends mixed in, but none of it blocks the view.

Return to the trailhead by following your footprints back down the mountain.

Area 51
Buildings on the edge of Groom Lake (view W)
view west from summit
Campsite on the summit. Groom Lake is 26 air-miles away (view W)
Tikaboo Peak
Early morning with sun at your back (view W)
Tikaboo Peak
Sunset over Groom Lake (view W)
Tikaboo Peak
Grand scenery (view north)
Tikaboo Peak
Grand scenery (view south)
Tikaboo Peak
Trailhead parking (view north)
Tikaboo Peak
Rough end of the road (view north)

Table 1. Highway Coordinates Based on GPS Data (NAD27; UTM Zone 11S). Download Driving GPS Waypoints (*.gpx) file.

Site # Location UTM Easting UTM Northing Latitude (N) Longitude (W) Elevation (ft) Verified
0674 I-15 at Hwy 93 689188 4028063 36.38091 114.89089 2,215 Yes
0871 Hwy 93 at Old Corn Creek Rd 666807 4127439 37.28044 115.11846 3,326 Yes
0872 Old Corn Creek Rd at Badger Mt 660229 4119167 37.20707 115.19441 4,345 Yes
0873 Badger Mt Rd at Tikaboo Parking 646527 4134754 37.34977 115.34568 6,915 Yes
0893 Old Corn Creek Rd at Saddle 660079 4121446 37.22763 115.19561 4,607 Yes
1141 Old Corn Creek Rd at Gate 659808 4123084 37.24243 115.19831 4,394 GPS
1142 Badger Mt Rd at Side Road-1 655810 4125179 37.26198 115.24292 4,909 GPS
1143 Badger Mt Rd at Side Road-2 650979 4130992 37.31516 115.29620 5,831 GPS
1144 Badger Mt Rd at Badger Spring 646976 4134342 37.34599 115.34069 6,770 GPS

Table 2. Hiking Waypoints 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 646527 4134754 6,974 0.00 0.00 GPS
02 End of Jeep Road 646503 4134445 7,096 0.19 0.19 GPS
03 Steep Use-trail 646201 4134210 7,512 0.28 0.47 GPS
04 Trail Contours West 646149 4134150 7,645 0.07 0.54 GPS
05 Ridgeline 646052 4134130 7,662 0.07 0.61 GPS
06 Saddle and Campsite 645776 4134141 7,558 0.19 0.80 GPS
07 Trail Crosses Hillside 645737 4134148 7,637 0.03 0.83 GPS
08 Use-trail Bends Northwest 645566 4134043 7,760 0.14 0.97 GPS
09 Campsite Below Summit 645534 4134110 7,818 0.05 1.02 GPS
10 Tikaboo Summit 645441 4134128 7,873 0.07 1.09 GPS

Happy Hiking! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 160524

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