Red Rock Canyon: A Natural Oasis Just 20 Miles from The Strip
Red Rock Canyon is one of the hidden gems of the Southwest, and by far, one of the best things to do on any Vegas vacation. After a few exciting, yet tiresome days of soaking in all the excitement and glamour of The Strip, it makes sense to plan a relaxing day trip to one of the great natural natural wonders of Nevada, many of which are easily accessible via a short day trip. Unfortunately, many tourists come and go without seeing the “other side of Nevada.” One of these fascinating, must-see natural wonders is Red Rock Canyon, a gorgeous 200,000 acre conservation area just 20 miles or so from the craziness of The Strip.
The best attraction off-the-Strip
At this park, you will find miles & miles of hiking trails, a 13 mile scenic drive, several scenic overlooks, and a great interpretative center. In terms of the best-of-the-best off-the-Strip attractions, it does not get any better than Red Rock Canyon. Whether you choose a leisurely scenic drive, a challenging bike ride, or a refreshing hike, you will get to enjoy the same towering red rock formations and sandstone and limestone cliffs. Red Rock is a magnificent place with breathtaking vistas in just about every direction.
There are several scenic overlooks in which you can just sit back for a bit and enjoy the mesmerizing views. Hiking a trail or 2 is the most optimal way to enjoy the views (there are 26 diverse options), although combining the scenic drive with stops at the overlooks gives you more than enough to do, so even those preferring to take it easy on their vacation (or hung over from the night before) should plan a relaxing visit to Red Rock.
Flora & fauna of Red Rock Canyon
6 different Native American cultures where said to frequent the Red Rock Canyon area due to its’ abundance of plant and animal life not found in the surrounding desert areas. Petroglyphs throughout the park have been discovered. On your visit, you will notice just how different the landscapes are here then the surrounding desert. Both plant and animal life are abundant, and water can occasionally be seen during the winter months. Wild Burro and Bighorn sheep are occasionally spotted, as well as other smaller mammals and lots of birds.
Hiking & Scenic Drives
Hiking is one of the best ways to enjoy the beauty of the park. Hikes range from easy loops of under 2 miles to all day adventures of 10+ miles only suited for the most advanced fitness enthusiasts. There are several seasonal waterfall hikes including IceBox Canyon, First Creek, and LostCreek, with December-April being the best time to catch a glimpse of these desert rarities. If you are an avid cyclist, you may want to consider a ride along the scenic loop drive. The road is very hilly, and thus, only recommended for advanced cyclists. I’ve never seen so many cyclists out at one time, so I guess the popularity with locals says something!
A few views from the scenic drive
Why are the rock formations red?
The striking red hues are due to the presence of iron oxide, which results naturally from exposure to the elements. These sandstone cliffs are really old, being that they formed over 180 millions years ago during the Triassic Period. On an interesting side note, the tracks of therapod dinosaurs have been found in the Aztec sandstone in several locations, of which paleontologists are studying today. Red Rock Canyon in a way reminds me of Sedona, and although the scenery in Sedona is much more breathtaking, Red Rock Canyon surely does not disappoint!
A perfect relaxing escape from The Strip
You have likely noticed these gorgeous mountains in the backdrop on any Vegas trip as they are clearly visible in the distance. Why not take some time out on your next trip to explore this gorgeous area in person?! This great little day trip is less than a half hour away, so if you need a break from the Neon lights or slots for a bit, Red Rock is sure to offer the natural R&R you are seeking. If you are driving into Vegas, Red Rock will be super easy to get to. If flying and not planning on renting a car, Uber is the way to go over a pricey cab ride.
Best time to visit
Red Rock Canyon is located within the beautiful Spring mountains. Although the elevation is a little bit higher than The Strip, the temps here still soar into the 90’s regularly during the summer, and keeping in mind that there is no shade, it’s definitely better to plan your visit in the cooler fall or winter months.
Location & Pricing Info
Red Rock Canyon is located at State Highway 159, Las Vegas, NV 89161. Admission is $10 per vehicle, although an Annual National Parks Pass is also valid, which I really recommend getting if you visit national parks on a regular basis – it’s a wonderful deal for the frequent traveler!