The Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is located about 20 miles west of the Las Vegas Strip. From nearly every vantage point in the city you can look to the west and see these majestic red rocks towering above the skyline. Red Rock is located in one of the easternmost parts of the Mojave Desert; the lowest elevation of the area. The beautiful sandstone peaks and walls are a popular destination for rock climbing and hiking and the area is visited by over two million people each year. The Conservation area also hosts over 600 species of plants and many types of wildlife as well. On any given day you can see burros, rabbits, maybe even some bighorn sheep in the elevations. It’s also a national conservation area for the desert tortoise and the Visitor Center actually houses as many as 10 tortoises. The visitor center is located just inside the park entrance on the 13 mile, one-way, scenic loop road which is a gorgeous drive. From this road there are many side roads and parking areas where you can access various trailheads. Here is a list of the many adventurous things to do in Red Rock Canyon.
Hiking– There are 19 well mapped hiking trails on the loop, ranging from .75 miles to 6 miles. Here are a few of my favorites:
Calico Tanks, which leads to a hidden water basin and has views of the city. It’s a moderate 2-hour hike, but is currently closed and expected to re-open Sept 2017.
White Rock- LaMadre Springs Loop- This is a 6-mile, moderate difficulty hike that takes about 3-4 hours. It will surely tire you out but the scenery is worth it. Be sure to bring plenty of water for this one.
Lost Creek- Children’s Discovery- This is an easy 1 hour hike through trees and rock that leads to a hidden waterfall and is suitable for children. Sometimes in the winter months, you can find the water frozen, its breathtaking.
Ice Box Canyon- This hike is 2.6 miles, moderate difficulty and takes approximately 2.5 hours. Once through the initial desert, this hike leads into a cool, shady box canyon and may even have a seasonal waterfall.
Driving-The 13- mile scenic loop allows visitors to take in the beauty of the canyon from their vehicle or bicycle. There are many scenic stops along the way and plenty of photo opportunities. Daily rates to enter the park and scenic loop are $7 per vehicle, $3 for bicycles and motorcycles, or for those that frequent the area, a $30 per person annual pass can also be purchased. The scenic loop opens at 6am everyday and closes at sunset, which varies from 5pm-8pm depending on the season.
Biking– There are a number of options for those that want to bike the Red Rock Loop. It begins heading mostly up on an incline, then levels out and heads into the second half of the loop as downhill. It’s a $3 entry fee for bikes if you have your own, or there are rental options for tourists or locals who don’t own bikes. Prices range from ½ day electric bike tours from $90, to mountain bike tours around $135, and road bike tours at $130. You can even rent scooters or segways to tour the loop. Most of these tours will shuttle you from the Strip or a local bike shop and back. Links and info for many of the tours can be found here.
Picnics– There are four picnic areas in Red Rock. One near the Visitor Center, which is just inside the loop entry, another about halfway around the loop called Willow Springs Picnic Area. Here you’ll find trash cans, approximately 28 picnic tables and toilets. There’s the Red Rock Scenic Overlook Picnic Area, which is located on Route 159 and does not require paying park access. Then there is the Red Spring Picnic Area, which is located two miles east of the visitor center on Calico Basin Road. This area is also free to access and has covered picnic tables, trash, and toilets, as well as bbq grills in the colder months. Bbq grills are allowed in Red Rock during most of the cooler months. Please keep in mind that all picnic areas are a first come, first serve basis and groups larger than 15 may require a permit.
Camping– Red Rock has one developed camping area. It’s located 2 miles east of the visitor center on Charleston Blvd. then one mile south on Moenkopi Road. The campground is accessible 24 hours a day and is a mix of tent and RV camping, individual and group sites. There is no electrical, water or sewer hook ups, or showers here and toilets are vault toilets. Please note the campground is closed during the summer months. More detailed camping information can be found here.
Horseback Riding– Another way to enjoy the beautiful scenery is by horseback. There are designated horseback riding trails in Red Rock for anyone who has horses, and there are also designated tour guides for visitors without. Check the Bureau of Land Management website at the link above for more info.
Pink Jeep Tours– For those that want to splurge a little, Pink Jeep offers guided tours with pickup right from your hotel, for $99 per person. Admission and fees is included, it features a personal guided and narrated tour, and unlimited bottled water in their famous Pink Jeeps. For reservations and more info, check out their website.
With so many ways to experience the stunning Red Rock Canyon, you’re sure to have a memorable experience just a short drive away from the Las Vegas lights.