Spotlight: Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
Beyond the bright lights of the Las Vegas Strip
What You’ll Find
In marked contrast to a town geared to entertainment and gaming, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area offers enticements of a different nature. Visitors may experience a 13-mile scenic drive, miles of trails for hiking, horseback riding and mountain biking, as well as opportunities for road biking, rock climbing, picnic areas and nature observing. There is also a visitor center complete with a gift store.
Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is 30 minutes (17 miles) from the Las Vegas Strip. If you are using a GPS unit, type in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area instead of a physical address. Public transportation does not extend to Red Rock, yet tour buses and commercial tours may be available from your hotel.
Looking for a Red Rock emersion experience? Stay overnight at the campground (first-come, first-serve only). For those who don’t plan to bring a sleeping bag, you’ll find a variety of lodging opportunities in Las Vegas.
Make Sure You
Get outside and get active! Red Rock Canyon has outdoor activities for everyone, from extreme options like rock climbing, horseback riding or mountain biking, to milder options like a visit to the Red Rock Canyon Visitor Center where the innovative exhibits are primarily outdoors. The visitor center offers a picnic area with beautiful views, where you’ll also find access to a quiet, easy stroll along the Moenkopi trail. You might even see the reclusive desert tortoise.
Free guided hikes and programs are available year-round at the visitor center. Commercial Jeep tours and guided hikes, bike riding, horseback riding, technical rock climbing and yoga are available in the area as well; check at the visitor center for details.
About 180 million years ago, a giant sand dune field formed over what became the western United States. Powerful winds shifted the sands back and forth, forming angled lines in the sand. Over time, the sheer weight of the layers of sand compressed into stone. This formation, locally known as Aztec Sandstone, is quite hard and forms the cliffs of Red Rock. Exposure to the elements caused some of the iron-bearing minerals to oxidize. This oxidizing process can be more easily thought of as a “rusting of the sand,” which resulted in the red, orange and tan colored rocks you’ll discover at Red Rock.
Temperatures at Red Rock can range from 29 to 97 degrees Fahrenheit depending on the time of day and year, so pack accordingly. Please bring plenty of water and be aware that mobile phone coverage is unreliable.
Fees at Work
Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area charges amenity fees.
As you travel around the 13-mile scenic drive, your fees are evident in interpretive and educational programs for visitors and school groups, well-maintained roads, interpretive trail signs, restful picnic areas, clean restrooms and trash receptacles. Conservation of critical habitat for desert tortoises and other wildlife, protection for wild horses and burros and cultural resource preservation are benefits of your support of this area. Trail maintenance and repair, as well as law enforcement support are funded by amenity fees to sustain a safe place for you, your family and friends to recreate.
Red Rock Canyon represents some of the best examples of the Mojave Desert’s unique geologic features, plants and animals.