Red Rock Canyon is a National Conservation Area of majestic rock formations and stark desert beauty found within a half-hour’s drive from Las Vegas, Nevada. For those feeling overwhelmed by the bright lights and non-stop action of Las Vegas, the panoramic vistas of Red Rock Canyon offer the perfect antidote. Encompassing nearly 800 square kilometres in the Mojave Desert, this protected area has a 21-km Scenic Drive to explore – entry fee required – with many trailheads and picturesque sights to stop at along the way. It’s a great place to explore on a hike or mountain bike ride, while the park’s soaring peaks and boulders offer plenty of challenges for rock climbers.

Whether you drive, hike or bike here, Red Rock Canyon is a fascinating place to discover. Its towering rock formations, caves and petroglyphs, its waterfalls, wildflowers, and desert wildlife are easily reached, yet a world away, from the Las Vegas strip.

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What are the highlights of Red Rock Canyon?

Red Rock Canyon is a marvel not just for its vivid desert landscape but also because it’s hard to believe that such an idyllic nature escape could be found so close to the glittering lights and glitz of Las Vegas. Those who can tear themselves away from the pulsating Vegas scene for a day will be rewarded with the awe-inspiring sights of limestone cliffs, wildflower-strewn valleys and wild desert vistas. Have a wild Las Vegas adventure of a different sort – with no risk of a hangover.

Red Rock Canyon’s Scenic Drive is a 21-km, one-way loop of paved road through the park that’s open for vehicles and cyclists year-round. Drivers will enjoy plenty of breathtaking views along the way, and there’s no difficulty to pull over to stop and take photos. The park’s hiking trails range from easy walks of a few hundred metres to challenging scrambles to the tops of mountains. Cyclists are not allowed on the hiking trails but there are some designated mountain biking trails to enjoy some off-road adventures. Red Rock Canyon is also popular with rock climbers with hundreds of climbing routes to try.  

Where to go hiking in Red Rock Canyon?

Red Rock Canyon is a hiker’s heaven with 26 trails leading through the glorious Mojave Desert landscapes. Hikers of all skill levels will be able to find a suitable trail, just be sure to bring along plenty of water and wear sturdy shoes to safely navigate the rocky, sometimes slippery terrain. Keep an eye out for local wildlife such as desert tortoise, sagebrush lizards and bighorn sheep.

A short, family-friendly hike is the Lost Creek waterfall trail, which has pictographs and informative signs along its scenic 1.3 km length. The 3.2 km Moenkopi Loop starts near the Visitor Center, and is an open country trail that traverses a limestone ridge. The moderately challenging Calico Hills trail from Calico Rocks to Sandstone Quarry takes you through a stunning moonscape of red sandstone hills. Turtlehead Peak is reached on a tough 4-hour trek but those who make it to the top are rewarded with panoramic views across Red Rock Canyon. Be sure to grab a trail map at the Visitor Center before you venture out.

Good to know about Red Rock Canyon

To get to Red Rock Canyon, drive west from Las Vegas for nearly 30 minutes along Charleston Boulevard (State Road 159), and you’ll find the Visitor Center on the right just inside the park entrance. It’s an easy drive but if you don't have your own wheels you could arrange a bus tour from Las Vegas. Some visitors take an Uber or Lyft to get here, but then their hiking options are limited since many of the trails start miles away from the entrance. As well, mobile phone service is spotty in the park so it might be difficult to connect to arrange for a ride back.

A National Conservation Area entry fee applies. The Scenic Drive is open every day year-round from dawn to dusk, although hours vary by season.

Las Vegas Red Rock Canyon

Location: 1000 Scenic Loop Dr, Las Vegas, NV 89161, USA

Open: Visitor Center open daily from 8 am to 4.30 pm

Phone: +1 702-515-5350

Lana Willocks | Contributing Writer