Red Rock Canyon is on the west side of Las Vegas about 20 miles from the Strip.
How much does it cost and what is it?
~The fee to get into the Conservation Area is $7.00. This fee doesn’t include camping. If you are over 62 years of age you can purchase a Golden Age Lifetime Pass for $5.00. If you are a U.S. citizen with a disability there is the free Golden Access Lifetime Pass, which you can get at the visitor center.
~This conservation area is 197,000 acres. It has been created over time through marine and prehistoric dune deposits, severe faulting and because of the faulting erosion. It dates back 600 million years so a lot of changes have happened over time including exposure of sediments to the atmosphere which allowed some of the minerals to oxidize which resulted in red and orange colored rocks. Thus the name!
The visitor center and the park’s hours:
~I don’t often rave about visitor centers, but this was one of the better ones I have seen, so you definitely want to stop here first.
~The Visitor Center is open daily from October through March from 8:00am until 4:30pm and from April through September from 8:00am until 5:00pm. It is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas day and New Year’s day.
~The area, which in general, is called the “Scenic Drive,” is open April through October from 6 am to 8 pm and late October through March from 6 am to 5 pm.
~At the visitor center you will do a number of things. You will get a brochure and a newsletter. The newsletter will give you suggested drives and hikes and what to do depending on how much time you have. Anything you need to know will be in here. You will find exhibits on the cultural, natural and geological history of the Red Rock Canyon. You can also get updated information here on road and trail conditions, weather, safety, regulations and special events.
~Definitely do the self-guided tour. It is short – about 20 minutes and well worth it. The displays are very good. You hold a hand-held audio box that allows you to hear each exhibit at your own pace. There is also a gift shop where you can buy some wonderful books about the area and other items.
What to wear:
~We went in February and the weather changed several times during our visit so wear layers. From June to September the temperature can go over 100 degrees F. It was in the high 50s to 60s while we were there. On one hike I had to take off my layers one way I was so warm and then on the way back I had to put them back on because of the wind. You can’t do any walking without sneakers or preferably hiking boots. I had on sneakers and I would love to go back just to hike and be better prepared. If you plan on hiking wear long pants. The trails are not flat, paved or graveled and there is brush along the way.
~There are wheelchair accessible trails at the Visitor Center and another area called the Willow Spring Picnic area. There are also handicapped restrooms at the visitor center and most pullouts along the Scenic loop.
What you will see:
~My opinion of this Conservation area is very different than that of Valley of Fire. Most people, from what I can tell, visit Red Rock as a scenic drive and in my opinion, there isn’t much to see. At Valley of Fire we didn’t even have to get out of the car to see incredible rock formations. Red Rock certainly has some beautiful scenery and you will want to stop at the pullouts and take a look, but after a little while I got bored because everything was starting to look the same. Please note: This will not be your experience if you do any serious hiking or even a couple of hours of walking. But in order, in my opinion, to think this is great, viewing it from the sidelines just isn’t all that exciting.
~Although there are animals that live in the area, burrows and wild horses to name two, we saw nothing except some cacti, some of which were unusual but not so unusual if you have seen cacti before.
~I have heard that the sunrise here is fantastic so if you can get up early you may want to experience that.
~The loop is 13 miles and if you just stop at the scenic view points along the way and the visitor center, it will take about 1 hour. If you take a couple of short hikes (Which is what we did.) it will take you about 1-1/2 hours and of course, the more you hike the longer you will spend there.
~There is a Children’s Discovery Trail, which is 3/4 of a mile and will take about 25 minutes. It is an easy walk. There were children on the trail we walked on and I was surprised because it was really rocky and downright dangerous. The parents were letting them wander around! Of course, I also saw someone jogging so nothing should surprise me.
~The newsletter will give you each trail’s name, the level of difficulty and how many feet up it is and the round-trip time and distance. For example an easy trail, Lost Creek Trail, will take about 25 minutes and is 3/4 of a mile. We started walking at the Oak Creek Canyon Trail listed as easy to moderate. It really was easy but I didn’t have hiking boots on so found it difficult. We also were not prepared and didn’t have a backpack for the layers I was taking off but we did bring water (Vending machines with water are at the Visitor Center.) which you must have. In any case we never did walk the 2 miles. We turned around about 3/4 of the way. I wasn’t impressed at all. At Valley of Fire everywhere I looked I saw something interesting. Not so here, although I am sure there are. You just need to be very prepared to hike.
~The campground is two miles east of the Visitor Center and has 66 campsites. Most have a picnic table, grill and water with toilets nearby. There are no hookups. The fee is $10 per night with no more than 10 people and 2 cars. Group campsites are available for groups between 10-20 people. Advanced payment and a reservation are required. Call 702-363-1921. What I would like to do is back country camping. That is limited to one night and you have to have a permit (no charge). In order to back country camp you have to go above 5,000 feet and call 702-647-5050.
~I have been relying on some information such as hours and phone numbers through the newsletter and just saw the great website Red Rock Canyon has. I know it looks wonderful and it may be. That just wasn’t my experience.
My Final Thoughts:
~I think we took two pictures here so that says it all for me. I should have taken a dozen but there weren’t a dozen views of which to take a picture. If you are looking for something to do and have only a couple of hours including travel, then for the money it is worth the ride around the loop and I will recommend it. The mountains are gorgeous; they just get boring after the first 5 miles. Pets are allowed on leashes.
Please leave the Canyon the way you found it!