Nothing compares with the glitz and glamour of the Las Vegas Strip. After a few days, however, you may need a break from the noise and neon. Mother Nature provides just the antidote needed. At the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, only 17 miles west of the Las Vegas Strip, you can hike, rock climb or just take a leisurely scenic drive through some of the Mohave Desert’s most spectacular landscape.
At the gate you’ll get a visitor’s guide with a map of the driving loop and the nineteen hiking trails, as well as a description of the trails. I recommend stopping in the visitor center, as well, for additional information and to watch the orientation film.
Trails throughout the park range from .75 miles (3.2 km) to 6 miles (9.6 km), and according to the visitor guide, are mostly easy to moderate in level of difficulty. The hikes typically take from 55 minutes to 4.5 hours to complete.Of course, you always have the option of only driving the 13-mile scenic drive, which is what we did, getting out of the car at several overlooks to take photos.
Judging from the name “Red Rock,” I was surprised to see that not all the rock in the park is red. Rather, the rock coloration varies, often with vibrant red contrasting with grays, blacks and tans, creating a stunning view.
It took us about 2.5 hours, including a short stop to enjoy a picnic lunch, to complete the loop. If we were to go back, I’d definitely plan on getting there early in the morning and hiking at least one of the trails.
TIPS for visiting Red Rock Canyon
▪ Visit on a weekday rather than on a weekend, if possible. We were there a Tuesday, and it was quite crowded. I can only imagine what it must be like on a weekend.
▪ Several of the overlooks offer similar views. Visitors tended to stop at the first overlooks but stop at fewer farther down the trail. Consider passing by those overlooks with the crowds and move on.
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▪ The loop is a one-way road. However, your fee is good for admission all day, so you can drive back around to areas that you missed, if you’d like.
▪ National Park passes are valid at Red Rock Canyon. Skip’s senior pass (lifetime senior pass is available to U.S. citizens 62 and older for $10) waived the $7 admission fee. Check the National Park Service website for more information on senior and other passes.
▪ Don’t miss the overlooks outside the park, which are also listed on the visitor guide map. We stopped at Red Spring and walked the short boardwalk trail, where we saw some unusual rocks, petrified wood and petroglyphs.
For additional information about the Red Rock Canyon Conservation area, visit the conservation area’s web site.
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