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Tikaboo Peak
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Area 51 from Tikaboo Peak
Tikaboo Peak
Trailhead parking (view NW)


This short, but fairly tough 1.1-mile hike leads to one of the quintessential Las Vegas hiking 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 spacecraft from 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 hiking map or elevation profile.

Tikaboo Peak
Start of the trail (view S)

Watch Out

Other than the standard warnings about hiking in the desert, ...this hike is rough, but pretty safe. The use-trail is steep and rocky, and there are many places where hikers could lose 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, the area is remote, 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.

Tikaboo Peak
Steep, old road (view S)

Getting to the Trailhead

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

From Las Vegas, drive north on Interstate-15 to Highway 93. Drive north on Highway 93 about 66.8 miles Badger Valley Road, an unmarked, well-graded dirt road to the left (Milepost LN 32.2). Drive west, then south, and finally northwest on Badger Valley Road for 22 miles to the end of the road. Park here; this is the trailhead.

Tikaboo Peak
The route (view SW from the old road)

The Hike

From the trailhead (Table 1, Waypoint 01), the use-trail starts on the old road heading south through a gap in the trees and up the steep hillside. The old road, which initially is quite steep, levels out, more or less, and runs up the ridgeline.

There are several places along the old road where the entire route and the summit are visible, so it is worth taking a minute to get orientated for the rest of the hike. From the end of the old road, the use-trail runs south and then west 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 old road runs out for 0.21 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 to the right and heads west through the trees.

Tikaboo Peak
End of the old road (view SW)

The use-trail runs southwest and up the hillside, staying to the left 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 gravel, 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 angling off towards the top of the ridge.

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 (left) of the ridge to pass the large rocky knob, and then drops into a saddle with a campsite and a big fire ring (Wpt. 06; 0.84 miles out).

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

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.

At this point, the use-trail starts up the hillside on the left edge of a fairly large, barren rock face. The use-trail cuts up the rock face and curves a bit to the left (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.

Tikaboo Peak
Start of the use-trail (view SW)

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. Not visible from the fire ring, but after getting started, red and white paint marks on the rocks lead to the summit, which is about 5 minutes away.

On the summit (Wpt. 10), hikers built a blockade-type rock shelter (with four railroad ties) that provides a sheltered place to hide from the wind, or whatever you need to hide from, while gazing to the west. The vegetation on the summit is mostly pinyon pine and juniper, with a bit of mountain mahogany, sagebrush, grizzlybear cactus, Mormon tea, some bunchgrasses, and other odds and ends mixed in, but none of it blocks the grand views. The military base at Groom Lake lies 26 miles west, but with a spotting scope and a clear day, visitors can see activity at the base.

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

steep route
Steep use-trail on the hillside (view SW)
Tikaboo Peak
Steep use-trail on the hillside (view SW)
Steepest trail
Steepest use-trail on the hillside (view south)
crossing the sideslope
Use-trail across the sideslope (view west)
the ridge
Use-trail on the ridge (view west)
route from the saddle
Route (view west from the rocky knob)
route above saddle
Campsite on the saddle (view west)
paint mark and cairn
Paint marks and cairns on hillside above the saddle (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)
Area 51
Buildings on the edge of Groom Lake (view W)
Tikaboo Peak
Sunset over Groom Lake (view W)
Tikaboo Peak
Grand scenery (view N)
Tikaboo Peak
Grand scenery (view S)

Table 1. 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 170714

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