Red Rock Canyon, Las Vegas
I'd heard so much about Red Rock Canyon and because I'd rented a car I decided to drive out and see it. Take a left down Charleston Blvd., drive a half an hour or so (interesting to see that part of town, so much construction on the outskirts).
There's a $5 a car charge, and I enjoyed looking around the interpretive center (even bought my nephew a stuffed rattlesnake as a gift). However the wind was blowing so hard it was impossible to go hiking. I did get a nice photo of a cactus blooming on the scenic loop.
While it was a nice outing, I wasn't quite as impressed as many people seem to be, probably partly because I couldn't get far off the road because of the wind.
But also I love the sandstone formations of Utah (places like Arches National Park or Zion or even along the freeway) and while Red Rock was nice enough, it didn't quite measure up.
However, it is a good change especially for city or Eastern people who want to get away from the bright lights and experience the desert for awhile.
One of the best things about Las Vegas is that you sure can get to a lot of great places from here. I'm kidding about that, but when you're sick of buffets, booze and big time gambling losses, there are a host of recreational opportunities less than an hour away.
Red Rock Canyon is one of the most popular. This National Conservation Area is a land of sculpted red rocks, trees and mountains in the background. A 21 mile loop road crosses the area and provides numerous viewpoints to stop and look at the scenery. Numerous sightseeing, hiking and ATV tours are offered from the Strip as well. But the biggest sports related draw is the great rock climbing of all levels that is available here.
To get to Red Rock Canyon, take 95 north to Charleston Boulevard, head west and follow the signs.
Red Rock Canyon is a beautiful Desert state park that's not to be missed. It's located only about a half hour from Vegas. Beautiful mountains and canyons to explore. There is also a chance you might see some Big Horn Sheep! It has a loop drive that you can take with stopping points where you can get out and hike a bit. We rented a car, so we drove, but there are tons of tours that will take you there as well.
Absolutely gorgeous! The vivid colors within Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area with blow you away. There is a fantastic loop drive if you simply want to view the fantastic rocks, and there are numerous trailheads from which a world of desert exploration could begin.
What first amazed me about this place was the vegetation - the hardy scrub on the desert floor, the moist ferns in the cool canyons, the random placement of conifers. And yet still, it continues to impress me.
After several visits, I remain overwhelmed with how many trails there are, and a wide range at that - loop trails, mountain climbs, rock scrambling, pet or child-friendly routes, and canyon routes. Something for everybody!
Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is about a 30 minute drive from the Strip, but it seems a world away. This is the place to head if you need a quick, close break from the lights, noise, smoke, and money-hemorrhage of Vegas. There is a nice visitor center surrounded by a desert tortoise habitat, and nothing but desert hills and mountains as far as the eye can see. You can see an awful lot from simply driving the one-way 13-mile loop that goes through the area, but I highly recommend getting out and doing some walking/hiking. When you enter the area you'll receive a map that details all the trails -- what you'll see, how long they take, and how hard you'll have to work. I hiked the Ice Box Canyon trail, which took about 2 hours altogether.
Keep an eye out for a travelogue or two that will highlight the photos I took in this gorgeous landscape. (Be sure to enlarge the photo here to see the whole panorama.)
To get there from the Strip, head north on Las Vegas Boulevard and turn left on Charleston Boulevard (also called Hwy 159). The entrance is about 17 miles away, on your right.
One of our favorite outdoor destinations is Red Rock National Monument. We take all of our visitors there and they are all inspired, especially those who have never experienced desert beauty. It takes about an hour from the strip to get there, but you are a world away. It costs just $5 per car to enter. The road takes you on a 13 mile loop around the canyon. There are plenty of places to stop and gawk, or even take a hike, if you are inspired. Many people bike the loop. There are probably tour companies that will rent bikes if you are interested. I think the small nearby hamlet of Blue Diamond might have a vendor. Also, this is a world class climbing destination. If you look closely, you might see climbers on the walls. Take drinks and snacks. There are no stores out there. Also, although it is higher in elevation than Las Vegas, I personally would not go in the summer, too hot.
About 10 miles from Las Vegas lies Red Rock Canyon. Here, the mountains have a beautiful reddish color and they rise 8,000 feet. There are cliffs and ravines composed of grey, white and red rock.
The wide empty plain beneath the hills are studded with Joshua trees and other desert plants. Call me stupid; but until I went here I had no idea of how many colorful flowers a cactus could have.
We went on a horseback riding tour to see
further than we thought our legs would take us. At one point, our guide pointed out deep ruts in the desert floor; she said these were tracks still here from when the wagon trains used to travel through the area.
One hint if you do take this tour is to wear jeans, or very thick sunscreen. We were visiting here in May, and once the tour was over, our thighs were extremely sunburned.
The canyon is easily reached, by Las Vegas Boulevard ('The Strip'), which is one of the busiest east-west routes running through the center of the city. The strip leads directly to the park entrance - Charleston Boulevard, which crosses the strip. The standard entry fee is $5 per vehicle.
The horseback tour we took was through Cowboy Trail Rides. I have included their phone number and website address below.
For $89, they'll pick you up from Las Vegas, drive you out to the Red Rock Canyon, and send you on a 2 hour horseback tour. We were very happy with them.
Phone: Cowbot Trail Rides 702 948-7061
A short drive out side of the the bright lights and glitter of Las Vegas finds you in scenic Red Rock Canyon. This marvel of nature is 20 miles or so from downtown and the "scenic loop" is only 13 miles but you can spend an eternity exploring the trails of this amazing landscape. the rocks are red due to the change in the land and sea levels over the last 600 or so million years. Gray limestone and oxidized iron minerals form the layers of red in the canyons.
The visitor's center hours of 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM but the canyon road is open from April 1 through September 30 from 6:00 AM to 8:00 PM.
From most anywhere in Las Vegas, head West about 20 miles on Charleston. Just past the new community of Summerlin the entrance to the loop road is on the right.
For the adventursome, climbing permits are availble. Call 702-515-5050 for detailed information. There are strict rules on the information required to get a permit so be prepared. Limited over nighte permits are allowed but only at certain location.
It is $5 to enter this state park with your car. There is an information and park shop with exhibits and some lovely things for sale. Arts and crafts, books. I bought two cacti in a box. One of the cactus keeps producing lovely white flowers.
There are picnic areas here, toilets, vending machine with cold drinks, but no food on sale.
The magnificent backdrop of the canyon has been used for many films over the years. In fact in 1932 Boris Karloff's The Mummy was partly filmed here.
Red Rock Canyon is in the Mojave dessert and if you have a car available when you visit Las Vegas then try and drive up here. Only 17 miles west of Las Vegas, Red Rock Canyon has a 13 mile scenic loop. There are lay- byes where you can stop to take pictures and admire the view.
West of Las Vegas Charleston Boulevard (North of Sahara Avenue), follow Route 159
One excursion I chaperoned was a horseback riding trip which took place at an area just across from the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. As the name indicates, there's a fairly large area of "red" rock which is visible for quite a distance away. This piqued my interest, and once our business function was over and my wife flew out to join me we went back to the area for an afternoon to explore.
I think I could have spent a week there just hiking and taking it all in. If you have the time, I recommend going out to see it. Also, just past this area the land appeared to get quite rugged, and the road seemed to disappear into the rock face. (Hmm, perhaps a drive is in order?)
A half hour drive from Las Vegas Strip is a place that seems a world away. Forget the neons, the smoke, the gambling and enjoy the nature at its best in the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. You will need a car to get there and the $5 entrance fee, but I believe it's worth seeing this place. The landscape is beautiful, with its grey limestone and the bright red sandstone rock formations (hence the name). A 13 mile one way scenic road loops around the area. You can enjoy some short hikes and good rock climbing. We were there on a weekday and there weren't many people around. I imagine this place is a lot more crowded on weekends.
This is the polar opposite of the strip. The beauty here is quiet and overwhelming. The best perspective of the red rocks is from the overlook area off of 159. Unfortunately there was a wildfire there recently and the area right around the overlook has burned, but the view is still breathtaking.
Take 215 north to Charleston (Hwy 159). Turn left on Charleston and follow approx 17 miles to the entrance.
Just a 30-minute drive from Las Vegas, Red Rock Canyon offers great rock scrambling, hiking, and rock climbing opportunities to nature enthusists. Even those that don't want to get out into nature will appreciate the 13-mile scenic drive through the canyon.
The rocks of the canyon range from a mustardy yellow color to deep red making for spectacular surroundings. The sunlight plays on the colors turning them different colors throughout the day. The canyon boasts more than 30 miles of hiking trails as well as trails for horseback riding and mountain biking. There are also overnight campgrounds for those that want to spend a night camping.
You can get to Red Rock by taking West Charleston Blvd (State Route 159).
Admission into the conservation area is $5 per day. An annual permit can be purchased for $20.
** Don't let the blue sunny sky fool you in these photos... it was actually VERY cold **
Depending on how long you are in town, Red Rock Canyon is a great way to actually see what the Nevada landscape is like, minus all the neon and fake lakes of the strip. A good day trip or even half day trip. I like to go early in the day to avoid the crowds and in the summer, the heat.
It is really easy to get to (with a car) and it shouldn't take longer than 30 minutes in travel time. Even if you don't plan to tackle any of the hikes in the park, the 13 mile senic drive that circles the area will give you an idea of Canyon's geological mysteries... such as the secret waters called tinajas and the "Keystone Thrust Fault."
From Las Vegas the Conservation Area can be approached from Charleston Boulevard [north of Sahara Avenue], which will turn into State Route 159