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Guide To Red Rock Canyon - Las Vegas Desert Playground

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is the premier Mojave Desert playground for Las Vegas. The red sandstone peaks offer a wide variety of outdoor activities and attract more than three million visitors each year.

Red Rock Canyon Las Vegas was designated as Nevada's first National Conservation Area in 1990.It is located just minutes from the glitz and glamor of the Las Vegas Strip but feels like a whole other world. 

The 198,000 acres area, just 17 miles west of the Las Vegas Strip, is a colorful collection of towering walls, deep canyons, and sandstone hills.

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area offers miles of hiking trails, world-class rock climbing on the shimmering red Aztec sandstone cliffs, and mountain biking, horseback riding, and many other outdoor recreation opportunities. It’s one place that should be on your Las Vegas Guide of places to visit your next trip!

Where is Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

Red Rock Canyon is located just off West Charleston Boulevard/State Route 159. If you are driving yourself and using GPS, set the location to:

Red Rock Canyon Visitor Center or 3205 State Highway 159, Las Vegas, NV 89161.

Red Rock Canyon Scenic Drive

The main portion of Red Rock Canyon is accessed by a one-way, 13-mile scenic drive that connects visitors to more than 10 trailheads with more than 20 hiking trails that penetrate deep into protected canyon country.

If hiking isn’t your thing, the scenic drive has many spots to pull over and take photos and, at the roads summit, visitors can get out, stretch their legs and take in a panoramic view of the entire park from the lofty elevation. The drive itself truly has something for everyone.

Red Rock Canyon Visitors Center

At the entrance to the scenic drive you’ll find the Red Rock Canyon Visitors Center. This beautiful LEED certified facility is open daily from 9am till 4.30 pm. 

The visitors center is an information hub that features indoor and outdoor exhibits detailing the flora, fauna, and wildlife that inhabit the area. It also has a wonderful gift shop, a live desert tortoise habitat, offers details on guided hikes and educational programs at Red Rock Canyon, and offers great views of Calico Basin.

As part of the educational outreach, the visitor center offers children an opportunity to learn about the natural, geological, and human history of the region with its BLM Junior Ranger program. Children can pick up the Junior Ranger workbook at the Red Rock Canyon visitors center, explore, answer questions, and receive a ranger badge! 

The Red Rock Canyon Visitor Center address is: 1000 Scenic Loop Drive Las Vegas, NV 89161

Here are Red Rock Canyon Visitor Center phone numbers:

  • General Information & Questions: 702-515-5350
  • Programs & Guided Hikes: 702-515-5367
  • Elements Gift & Book Store: 702-515-5379

Entrance Fees at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area and Visitors Center

To enter Red Rock Canyon, timed reservations are required for the scenic drive between October 1 - May 31. Timed entry reservations are available between 8 am -5 pm.

You can make your Red Rock reservations here

Entrance fees are as follows:

  • Personal Vehicle $15 per day
  • Motorcycle $10 per day
  • Bicycle/Pedestrian $5 per person 
  • Red Rock Annual Pass $30

Best Time to Visit Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

The best months to visit Red Rock Canyon are April and May, when the average high temperatures are in the high 60s to mid-70s, or September and October, when temperatures are in the 70s to mid-80s.

If you are in Red Rock Canyon May through September, when temperatures can reach 100 degrees by noon, start your visit in the early morning. October and November and March and April are all very comfortable months to visit all day long. 

You can check current Red Rock Canyon weather conditions here.

How To Visit Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

A great way to get your bearings and plan your trip is to stop at the Visitor Center, pick up a trail map, and then drive the 13-mile, one-way scenic loop. 

The BLMs Recreation at Red Rock Canyon page has a full list of recreation ideas for you to start planning your visit.

Best Things to do at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area In One Day

Red Rock is a true recreation paradise. Here are three perfect activities to see this area on your next day trip.

Rock Climbing Red Rock Canyon

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is one of the finest rock climbing areas in the world. The Aztec sandstone walls, some thousands of feet tall, are remnants of ancient sand dunes. 

Red Rock Canyon offers famous sport and traditional climbing routes and a number of climbing guides operate within the Area. If you are looking for a safe outdoor rock climbing experience regardless of your ability, hiring a guide is easy and a memorable way to see the canyon. 

If you have never climbed at Red Rock Canyon and are unfamiliar with route locations, climbing guides are available with photos, route descriptions, and directions to provide you a brief idea of where to find established traditional and sport routes.

Mountain Biking Red Rock Las Vegas

Red Rock Canyon also offers exciting opportunities for mountain biking with nearly 40 miles of trails. Please note that bicycles are not allowed on any trails off of the 13-Mile scenic drive.Two extensive mountain bike trail systems are accessible at:

  • Cottonwood Valley Trails System- located off of State Route 160, approximately four miles west of the State Routes 159/160 intersections. The 4x4 roads behind the Cottonwood trailhead, en-route to Black Velvet Canyon off spectacular open desert riding.
  • Twilight Zone Trails-  this trail network is located in the quieter, far northern portion of Red Rock Canyon off mile marker 12 on Kyle Canyon Road/State Route 157.

Horseback Riding Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

Keeping with the wild West spirit, there are a  number of designated equestrian trails within Red Rock Canyon. Horseback riding is limited to these trails, which can be accessed via the aforementioned Cottonwood Valley Trails System,  Twilight Zone Trails and also the Scenic Drive Trails, which can be accessed at the White Rock parking area, located off the 13-Mile scenic drive, and the parking lot near the exit of the scenic drive. 

Red Rock Canyon has several permitted tour guides that offer short horseback tours through the Canyon. Cowboy Trail Rides offers 1 and 2 hour rides in a beautiful part of Red Rock Canyon.

Red Rock Canyon contains both wild horses and burros; living symbols of the Western mining history of the region. Please always observe burros from a distance; do not feed them, or touch them. Wild horses are more apt to keep to themselves but burros will approach you if you have open food. If so, seal it and leave the area. 

There are many other Las Vegas Adventure Tours available in the region as well.

Hiking Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

With more than 100 marked trails, from cool, shady canyons to dry sandstone summits, Red Rock Canyon has unlimited options for trekking adventures. 

Here are some of the most popular Red Rock Canyon hikes we recommend:

Icebox Canyon Trail

  • Distance 2.2 miles
  • Average Time: 2 hours  
  • Difficulty: Strenuous

The Icebox Canyon trail derives its name from the shady location in a box canyon that holds cool water nearly year round. The narrow canyon is also a photographer's favorite due to the seasonal waterfalls, most often found in January and February, that fall down bouldered washes. This hike is significantly cooler than the open desert so layer up before you go.

Oak Creek Canyon Trail

  • Distance: 2 miles
  • Average Time: 1.5 hours
  • Difficulty: Easy

Oak Creek Canyon is a Red Rock classic; beautiful rock views open up above a clear seasonal desert stream. Be prepared for a wildflower show each spring!

First Creek Canyon

  • Distance: 4 miles
  • Average Time: 2 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate

This hike begins as an open desert valley walk to a riparian area that is full of wildlife and vegetation, including juniper, cottonwoods, and willows. In winter and spring follow the creek to see a number of small waterfalls as well.

Calico Basin Trail

  • Distance: 1.5 miles roundtrip
  • Average Time: 1 hour 
  • Difficulty: Easy

Visitors can explore the base of the rainbow colored Calico Hills on this short trail that doubles as the access point for some of the most famous rock climbing sport routes in all of Red Rock Canyon.

Turtlehead Peak Trail

  • Distance 4.5 miles 
  • Average Time: 3-5 hours
  • Difficulty: Strenuous

Red Rock Canyon’s most famous and accessible peak offers one of the best panoramic views of Red Rock Canyon. This is not an easy hike, with a few steep sections of loose rock, but if you start early and take your time you’ll be rewarded with unlimited vistas, plentiful wildlife, and even have a chance to see bighorn sheep.

Keystone Thrust Hike

  • Distance 2.4 miles
  • Average Time: 1.5 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate

This is a popular trail for birding and trail running. It offers a glimpse into the geological history of Red Rock Canyon. Hikers can see exposed sections of the Pacific and North American continental plates along Keystone Thrust. The impact between these two plates lead to the formation of the high Sierra Nevada mountains and all of Red Rock Canyon.

La Madre Spring Hike

  • Distance 3.6 miles
  • Average time: 2 hours 
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Following Rock Gap Road for the first mile, hikers then walk below a sandstone cliff band to a perennial spring, La Madre Spring, where a variety of wildlife can be seen year round.  The vegetation in the canyon is fairly dense with scrub oaks everywhere as well as cacti, juniper, and pinyon pine.

Bridge Mountain Hike

  • Distance: 15.8 miles
  • Average Time: 5-8 hours 
  • Difficulty: Strenuous

The mother of all Red Rock Canyon hikes, this big day hike to the top of Bridge Mountain is a bucket-list adventure of all serious desert mountaineers. You’ll work your way up pinyon-juniper forest to a massive slickrock bench and then climb a sandstone peak that has a weathered natural arch near its summit. This is a strenuous mountain trail but the rewards from the top – sweeping 360 degree views of the entire Las Vegas Valley – make the pain worth it!

Camping at Red Rock Canyon

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area offers a single developed campground. It is located two miles east of the Red Rock Visitor Center off State Route 159.

Red Rock Canyon Campground’s physical address is 3293 Moenkopi Road, Las Vegas, NV 89161. 

From Charleston Blvd/State Route 159, turn south on Moenkopi Rd. and drive for a mile (past the BLM Fire Station). The road dead ends at the campground. 

There are 53 individual standard sites and six RV sites which have room for one RV and a vehicle in the campground. An additional seven large group sites can accommodate up to 20 people. 

All the sites are located in a shadeless area with beautiful views and contain picnic tables, grills and campfire circles. Water and restrooms are available on-site. The campground does not offer showers,  electrical, water sewer hook-ups, or dump stations for recreational vehicles. 

The campground is always busy and advanced reservations are highly recommended. During the hot summer months, usually between Memorial Day and September 1,  the campground is closed for the season. Visitors can reserve single or group campground sites by calling 1-877-444-6777 or visiting www.recreation.gov.

Important information for visiting Red Rock Canyon

The desert environment around Red Rock Canyon can be extreme and unforgiving. Please remember these important safety tips before your visit:

 

  • This is a land of temperature extremes so be prepared. 
  • In the summer, temperatures can climb to more than 110°F.
  • In the winter cold, blizzard-like conditions are not uncommon. The elevation here is a few thousand feet higher than the Las Vegas Strip.
  • Summer monsoon storms can cause  flash floods. Never enter dry washes when it is raining.
  • There are poisonous animals in Red Rock Canyon.  Rattlesnakes, scorpions, black widows, and velvet ants all call this desert environment home.

FAQs About Red Rock Canyon

Where Is Red Rock Canyon?

Red Rock Canyon is located 17 miles west of the Las Vegas Strip on Charleston Boulevard/State Route 159.

How many people visit Red Rock Canyon every year?

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is visited by more than three million people each year.

Is there public transportation to Red Rock Canyon?

Public transportation options are not available to take visitors from Las Vegas into Red Rock Canyon. Visitors will have to drive their own vehicles to access this location. In addition, the 13-mile loop road does not offer shuttle service so visitors are required to either drive, bike, or hike into the park once past the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area visitors center.

How Far Is Red Rock Canyon From the Las Vegas Strip?

From the heart of the Las Vegas Strip, the entrance to Red Rock Canyon is approximately 20 miles to the West. It takes approximately 30 minutes to reach the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area visitors center from the Las Vegas Strip.

Is Red Rock Canyon A National Park?

Red Rock Canyon is not a National Park. The Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is part of the Bureau of Land Management's National Landscape Conservation System, and was designated as a National Conservation Area – Nevada's first – in 1990.

Is There Camping at Red Rock Canyon?

Red Rock Canyon offers one developed campground with 53 individual standard sites and six RV sites.  See full details on the Red Rock Canyon Campground

What are the most popular things to do at Red Rock Canyon?

Some of the most popular activities at Red Rock Canyon include driving the 13-mile Red Rock Canyon Scenic Drive, visiting the Red Rock Canyon Visitors Center, rock climbing on the famous Aztec sandstone walls, hiking Calico Basin and other locations in the park, and seeing petroglyphs along the Petroglyph Wall Trail.