Less than 20 miles from the Las Vegas Strip, you can escape the hustle and bustle of the city with a trip to the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. With stunning natural landscapes set in the Mojave Desert, Red Rock Canyon welcomes over 2 million visitors each year. Use this guide to help you plan your weekend at Red Rock Canyon.
Begin at the Visitor Center
Start your trip to Red Rock Canyon at the visitor center, located near the entrance of the Scenic Drive. Even if you’ve visited before, you’re sure to learn something new about the history and geology of the canyon. The visitor center features indoor and outdoor exhibits detailing the ecology of the area, including the plant specimens found throughout the canyon. There’s also a desert tortoise habitat where you can observe these tortoises, which are native to the Mojave Desert.
While you’re at the visitor center, you can ask the information desk for recommendations about what trails to hike and stops to make along the Scenic Drive route. There’s also a gift shop in the visitor center, where you can purchase a souvenir to commemorate your trip to the canyon. The visitor center and gift shop are open daily from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m..
Take the Scenic Drive
One of the most popular ways to see Red Rock Canyon is by taking the 13-mile Scenic Drive through the canyon. You can enjoy the views from your vehicle as the one-way drive takes you through the varying terrain of the canyon, featuring cliffs that reach 7,000 feet. You’ll pass scenic overlooks, sandstone cliffs, red rock formations, and desert landscapes, and you can stop at the various trailheads if you want to hike.
You can also bike along the Scenic Drive route if you prefer to stretch your legs and get some exercise. The wide road and one-way traffic make it a safe path for cyclists. The Scenic Drive opens at 6 a.m. every day, weather permitting, and closes at 5 p.m. from November through February; 7 p.m. from March through October; and 8 p.m. from April through September. Entrance fees for the drive help provide upkeep along the route.
Hike a Trail
You can choose from 26 hiking trails at Red Rock Canyon, ranging from a quarter-mile easy overlook hike to strenuous hikes requiring rock scrambling. Whatever hike you choose, you’re guaranteed to see the stunning natural landscape of the canyon in a new way. Along your hike, you may encounter desert flora, colorful sandstones, historic rock art, or seasonal waterfalls. Here are a few of the popular hikes at Red Rock Canyon:
This hike offers spectacular views of the canyon’s red rock formations and shaded valleys. You can access the trail from two parking areas. Depending on where you start your hike, the trail is 2 to 6 miles in length. It’s rated as easy to moderate in difficulty.
While on this trail, which begins at the visitor center, you’ll see various desert flora and Triassic fossils. The trail continues to a limestone ridge, where you can take in panoramic views of the Wilson Cliffs. This 2-mile loop is rated as easy.
First Creek Canyon
Follow the First Creek Canyon trail along the desert valley to the mouth of the canyon. While often dry, seasonal waterfalls are located along this route. Cottonwood and willow trees will provide you with some welcome shade. Some rock scrambling is required along the route of this 4-mile trail, which is rated as easy to moderate in difficulty.
Go Rock Climbing
For some adrenaline-fueled fun, climb the cliffs along the trails in one of the top climbing sites in the U.S. Red Rock Canyon provides you with prime climbing opportunities with large boulders and rock faces. The canyon’s main rock type, Aztec sandstone, is considered a high-quality sandstone for climbing. Routes range from a 5.0 to a 5.14 on the Yosemite Decimal System, so you’ll find a suitable climb whether you’re a beginner or an expert climber. Bear in mind that you’ll have to do some significant hiking and scrambling to reach many of the routes.
Take a Bike Ride
Another popular way to explore the area is by taking a bike ride on designated roads and trails throughout the canyon. You can bike on the Scenic Drive, paved spur roads, and designated mountain bike trails, although you cannot bike on any of the hiking trails. While biking the designated roads and trails, you will get a chance to see some of the local flora and fauna. Note that some parts of the trail may be slick rock. Ask at the visitor center to get directions to the two bike trailheads.
Spend the Night Under the Stars
From Labor Day to Memorial Day, you can extend your trip to Red Rock Canyon by staying at its developed campground, located 2 miles east of the visitor center. The campground opened in 1998 and offers individual campsites, walk-to sites, and group sites. Individual campsites have a picnic table, fire ring, and a grill. A provided tent pad will fit two to three small-sized tents. Walk-in sites have no fire ring and are closer together than the other sites. The group sites offer a shade structure, a picnic table, and a grill and fire ring.
If you prefer a primitive camping experience, Red Rock Canyon also allows backcountry camping within the core area of the canyon above 5,000 feet. There is no developed trail system in this remote area. You must get a permit for backcountry camping, which you can request online. You can camp in either the backcountry area or the developed campground for up to 14 days.
There you have everything you need to know to plan your next trip to the beautiful Red Rock Canyon near Las Vegas. Have you been to the canyon before? If so, did we miss one of your favorite parts of the area? Contact our team at De Castroverde Criminal & Immigration Lawyers and let us know. We’ll be sure to add your suggestion to our guide. As a Las Vegas law firm, we’re committed to providing our clients with the best local recommendations.