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Las Vegas is known for its bright lights and non-stop entertainment. But if you’re looking for a change of pace for a few hours, welcome to the enchanting world of Red Rock Canyon in Las Vegas—a breathtaking desert escape that starkly contrasts the Strip’s glitz.
Red Rock Canyon in Las Vegas is just a short drive away from the hustle and bustle of Sin City. As you approach the entrance off Route 159, the landscape unveils a rugged beauty that feels like a different universe.
I make it a point to visit every time I’m in Las Vegas because I love the towering crimson cliffs, sweeping panoramic views, and a sense of tranquility that can only be found in the heart of nature. It’s not just a destination; it’s a sanctuary where the desert landscape comes alive with a palette of colors that dance under the desert sun.
I generally visit in spring before the temperatures soar. This makes it a great time to explore. Crowds are fewer, making access easier. The fall is another excellent time to visit. Early mornings can be chilly, so make sure to pack a sweatshirt.
If you’re a nature enthusiast or an adventure seeker, you’re in for a treat. In this blog, we’re diving deep into the heart of Red Rock Canyon, uncovering the secrets of its majestic landscapes and providing you with all the insider tips for an unforgettable experience.
Whether you’re gearing up for a Red Rock Canyon hike, are planning to cruise the Red Rock Canyon scenic drive, or simply eager to soak in the natural wonders surrounding this gem, we’ve got you covered. Short or long stay, you won’t be disappointed with a stop at this Nevada icon.
Join us on a virtual journey as we explore the wonders of hiking in Red Rock Canyon, sharing the must-visit trails, the hidden gems, and the breathtaking vistas that await.
Table of Contents
History of Red Rock Canyon in Las Vegas
Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is located in the Mojave Desert in southern Nevada, just a few miles west of Las Vegas. It was designated as a National Conservation Area in 1990 by the United States Congress and is managed by the Bureau of Land Management.
The area’s history dates back over 10,000 years, when the first Native Americans settled in the region. The first European to explore the region was probably Francisco Garcés, a Spanish Franciscan priest who passed through the area in the late 18th century. The first non-Native American settlement in the area was established in the 1860s when a ranch was built near the park’s base.
In the early 1900s, the area became a popular destination for tourists and outdoor enthusiasts. In 1931, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) built a camp in the area, and the CCC constructed many of the roads, trails, and facilities that visitors enjoy today.
In the mid-20th century, the area became a popular location for Hollywood movies and TV shows, including Westerns and science fiction films.
In 1990, the area was designated as a National Conservation Area, which protects and preserves the natural and cultural resources found in the area while allowing for recreational opportunities for visitors.
Getting to Red Rock Canyon In Las Vegas
Address: 1000 Scenic Loop Dr, Las Vegas, NV 89161
Coordinates: 36°08′08″N 115°25′38″W / 36.135574°N 115.42724°W
Hours: 6 am – 8 pm daily
Red Rock Canyon in Las Vegas is located about 17 miles west of the Las Vegas Strip on Charleston Boulevard/State Route 159. The Scenic Drive and Visitor Center is five miles east of the Park Boundary.
The Visitor Center is located at 1000 Scenic Loop Drive and can be used for map apps that will take you to the Visitor Center near the beginning of the Scenic Drive.
Red Rock Canyon has 198,000 acres of unique, gorgeous desert landscape for you to explore. The area has more than three million visitors yearly, so you will have plenty of company. The Scenic Drive, a 13-mile, one-way paved road, provides access to the many notable canyons and sandstone hills in the park’s heart.
There are 12 trailheads and parking areas to begin your Red Rock hiking adventure. The world-class visitor center at the beginning of the drive provides an excellent introduction to this area’s unique natural and cultural history, along with safety and orientation information.
Because of Red Rock Canyon’s incredible popularity, timed entry reservations and entry passes are REQUIRED to see Red Rock Canyon scenic drive between October 1st and May 31st. They MUST be purchased in advance.
It’s important to note that reservations remain mandatory even on “fee-free days.” To secure your reservation, visit Red Rock Reservations for Timed Entry or contact (877) 444-6777. No reservations are needed from June 1st to September 30th.
How Much Does it Cost to Get into Red Rock Canyon?
Fees for one day:
Best things to do while visiting Red Rock Canyon in Las Vegas
Whether you love wildlife, photography, or mountain biking, there is something for everyone at the park. Here is our list of the best things to do while visiting.
Red Rock Canyon Scenic Drive
The Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area Scenic Drive is a 13-mile loop that takes visitors through some of the park’s most stunning scenery. The time it takes to complete the drive depends on several factors, including traffic, the number of stops along the way, and the amount of time spent at each stop.
How long does it take to do the Red Rock Canyon Scenic Drive?
On average, most visitors spend about 1-2 hours completing the scenic drive, but it can take longer if you choose to stop and explore some of the viewpoints, trails, and other attractions along the way. Some popular stops along the scenic drive include the Calico Hills, Red Rock Overlook, and High Point Overlook.
It’s important to note that the scenic drive is one-way, and visitors cannot drive in the opposite direction. The road is also subject to closures and restrictions due to weather conditions or maintenance work, so visitors should check ahead of time to ensure that the drive is open and accessible during their planned visit.
Hiking in Red Rock Canyon
The park has over 30 miles of hiking trails that range from easy nature walks to strenuous hikes through rugged terrain. Popular hikes include Calico Tanks, Ice Box Canyon, and Turtlehead Peak. Download your Trail Map here.
Much like its gorgeous sister, Valley of Fire State Park, Red Rock Canyon in Las Vegas offers a variety of hiking opportunities for all levels of hikers, here are some of our favorite hikes in Red Rock Canyon:
- Calico Tanks Trail – This moderately difficult hike is approximately 2.5 miles round trip and offers beautiful views of the Las Vegas Valley. The trail leads to a natural water tank and offers stunning views of the sandstone formations and the city below.
- Ice Box Canyon Trail – This 2.5-mile round-trip trail is a bit more strenuous but is worth the effort. The trail leads through a narrow canyon with walls towering 100 feet above you. There are several waterfalls along the way, and in the summer months, you can find relief from the heat in the shade.
- Turtlehead Peak Trail – This is a challenging 5.6-mile round-trip trail that leads to the summit of Turtlehead Peak, offering panoramic views of Red Rock Canyon and the Las Vegas Valley. The trail is steep in places, and hikers should be prepared for some scrambling.
- White Rock – La Madre Springs Loop Trail – This 6.7-mile loop trail is a bit longer but offers a great way to explore the diverse landscapes of Red Rock Canyon. The trail winds through various ecosystems, from sandstone formations to pine forests, and passes by a seasonal spring.
- Lost Creek Children’s Discovery Trail – This easy 0.8-mile round-trip trail is perfect for families with young children. The trail follows a small stream and leads to a hidden waterfall, where children can play in the water and explore the surrounding area.
Rock Climbing in Red Rock Canyon
The park is a popular destination for rock climbers, with over 2,000 climbing routes ranging in difficulty from beginner to advanced. Some of the most famous climbs are:
- Solar Slab– This climb stands out as a sought-after climbing route renowned for its extended length, with each pitch rated at 5.6 or below. This climb promises a thrilling ascent, spanning nine pitches and towering over 1200 feet. Begin your adventure from the Oak Creek Canyon parking area, navigating the clear trail for approximately 45 minutes to an hour. A distinctive path guides you to the right, unveiling the unmistakable Solar Slab Gully or the alternative route of Johnny Vegas. Ascend either of these options to reach the terrace, positioned 500 feet above, and embark on an exhilarating climbing experience.
- Olive Oil- is an enjoyable, straightforward climbing adventure featuring five high-quality, consistent pitches. Commence your ascent from the left side of Rose Tower, following a gully-like path at the base of a substantial corner/ramp. This route promises a great experience, blending ease with quality pitches for an engaging climb.
- Birdland– A diverse array of movements characterizes this captivating ascent. This climb remains bathed in sunlight throughout the day, ideal for the cooler months. Navigate your approach to “The Brass Wall,” specifically targeting the route on “Brass Wall Left.” Notably, the initial pitch commences another climb known as “The Big Horn.” Your journey begins from a ledge adorned with a solitary scrub oak, offering a picturesque starting point for this unique and rewarding climb.
- Dark Shadows– Escape the sun’s rays with this fantastic route, providing a refreshing change of scenery. A small stream adds to the charm, creating a relaxing spot to linger by and easily cross in the spring to reach the rock. Be cautious, though; if not handled carefully, your rope might contact the water during the descent. Opting for a single 60m rope suffices for rappelling, utilizing the anchor shared with Chasing Shadows/Edge Dressing, eliminating the need for a second 60m rope. This climb offers shade and a unique and practical approach to rappelling.
The park is home to wildlife, including bighorn sheep, desert tortoises, and coyotes. Other animals to watch are gray foxes, birds, snakes, lizards, mule deer, and burros.
In the spring, you will also spot colorful desert flowers like the dune primrose, desert larkspur, and apache plum. After a rain, the desert will be alive with blooming flowers.
Geology of Red Rock Canyon
The park’s unique geological formations, including towering sandstone cliffs and rock spires, provide an excellent opportunity for geology enthusiasts to explore.
Mountain Biking in Red Rock Canyon
The park has several mountain biking trails ranging from easy to challenging. Bicycles are allowed on designated paved and unpaved roads and trails designated for mountain bike use.
Bicycles are restricted on trails branching off the 13-mile Scenic Drive and within designated wilderness areas. Mountain bike enthusiasts can access the trails from two primary trailhead and parking locations:
- The Cottonwood/Late Night Trailheads are situated along State Route 160, about four miles west of the intersection of State Routes 159 and 160, forming part of the expansive Cottonwood Valley Trails System.
- Mile Marker 12 along Kyle Canyon Road/State Route 157 unlocks access to the enthralling Twilight Zone Trails. Explore the scenic wonders awaiting you in this specific location.
The park has several picnic areas with tables and grills, making a picnic lunch after hiking, biking, or a photography outing fun. And if you’d like to take the picnicking up a notch, some great RV and tent are camping in the area, even at the Red Rock Canyon campground. Check out our blog on RV Parks in Las Vegas for more info.
The park offers a variety of interpretive programs, including guided hikes, wildlife talks, and geology talks.
For more fun and adventure for the family, consider seeing the sights on horseback. The park has several trails open to horseback riding, including the Calico Hills Trail and the White Rock Loop Trail.
Several companies in the area provide safe, guided horseback excursions through Red Rock Canyon. The Morning Maverick Horseback ride leaves at 7:15 and includes breakfast and roundtrip transportation from your hotel.
There are also sunset tours and BBQ tours. Get all your information here: Book Your Horseback Trip Here.
The park’s visitor center provides information about the park’s history, geology, and wildlife. It also has exhibits and a gift shop.
Other ways to see Red Rock Canyon
Guided Hike and Tour of Red Rock Canyon
Led by a professional guide, explore the scenic Nevada wilderness with its captivating sandstone formations and desert vegetation. Stay hydrated with provided bottled water as you learn about this desert landscape’s ecological and cultural features.
With morning or afternoon options and the flexibility to choose your preferred trail, this tour of Red Rock Canyon allows you to tailor your adventure to your schedule and abilities.
Enjoy the wind in your hair and the sun on your face with a scooter tour of Red Rock Canyon. Opt for a morning or afternoon departure and journey through desert landscapes, exploring captivating red- and buff-colored rock formations, sandstone, and limestone cliffs reaching elevations up to 7,000 feet.
Most tours include entrance fees, a helmet, bottled water, and convenient pickup and drop-off from select Las Vegas hotels. This scooter tour provides a fun and leisurely alternative to a bike tour, allowing you to experience the breathtaking scenery of Red Rock Canyon in Las Vegas without physical exertion. Book your scooter here: Scooter Tours
Embark on a genuine western adventure with a horseback ride through the breathtaking Red Rock Canyon. Led by a friendly cowboy wrangler, traverse the rugged landscape of desert valleys and ravines, immersing yourself in the mystical beauty of the Nevada desert. Whether you’re a first-time rider or an experienced equestrian, touring by horseback offers an exhilarating perspective on the desert’s natural wildlife and plants.
A narrated helicopter flight gives a new perspective on the entire area. Select from various daily flight times or opt for a sunset upgrade as you head to the conveniently located heliport just off the Strip. Soar above the dazzling lights of Sin City and the rugged beauty of Red Rock Canyon while your pilot shares intriguing stories about the landmarks below.
This small-group flight ensures a personalized sightseeing experience, allowing you to witness the highlights of both Las Vegas and Red Rock Canyon in one remarkable journey. The package includes an air-conditioned vehicle and gratuities, with a fuel surcharge also covered.
What is so special about Red Rock Canyon in Las Vegas?
This National Conservation Area is known for its natural desert beauty, unique rock formations, and wildlife. There is very little NOT special about it.
Is Red Rock Canyon Worth Seeing?
Three million visitors a year can’t be wrong. This is a beautiful park that is well worth visiting. I go every time I get to Las Vegas, and it is one of my favorite places to hike.
Can you enter Red Rock Canyon without a reservation?
Yes. From May 31st to September 30th, no reservations are needed.
Can you drive through Red Rock Canyon scenic drive for free?
You can drive through Red Rock Canyon for free on the following days:
April 20th, June 19th, August 4th and September 28th.
NOTE: You will still need to make reservations on any days that fall between October 1st to May 31st.
Red Rock Canyon–Go!
With its majestic sandstone formations, diverse wildlife, and endless outdoor adventures, Red Rock Canyon in Las Vegas is an awe-inspiring escape just minutes from the bright lights of the Las Vegas Strip.
The park is a nature-lover’s paradise, showcasing the stunning beauty of the Mojave Desert. From scenic drives to rugged hiking trails, horseback rides at sunset, and guided tours, Red Rock Canyon offers unique experiences for all interests and abilities.
Don’t miss your chance to explore this otherworldly landscape on your next trip to Las Vegas. With exceptional amenities like the visitor center and accessible trails, Red Rock Canyon in Las Vegas is well worth the visit and a nice getaway from the casinos.
So, make unforgettable memories by hiking in Red Rock Canyon, taking in the breathtaking Red Rock Canyon scenic drive, or taking a guided tour of Red Rock Canyon. This desert oasis beckons you to uncover its wonders!