The Trail Dirt crew had to attend a family gathering in Las Vegas during the winter months. We thought about places to get into the outdoors along the way, and considering the short daylight hours and distance from the city, we decided that Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area due west of Summerlin was a good bet–and it paid off in spades.
Getting there is half the fun.
To get there, once you are in Las Vegas find West Charleston Boulevard (also State Route 159), then head west toward the mountains and follow the signs. Soon enough, you will be turning into the entrance station for Red Rock Canyon, which is very new and very trendy. Red Rock Canyon NCA is managed by the Nevada Bureau of Land Management, not the National Park Service–but most people don’t notice that, and once they see the sandstone blobs of red and gold nestled right up against the mountains, it’s all about the area and not the agency.
There is a small day-use fee (currently $7 per car). Once you park, you walk into the LEED Gold Visitor Center, which is a gorgeous building. The main room at the visitor center has a long vista window looking out toward the red rocks, and its views create the centerpiece of the building (and make you want to get out and see the rocks). After getting all the useful information you may need, head back to your car and drive on the Scenic Drive loop around the mouth of the canyons to get a view of all the sandstone slickrock magnificence.
The Trail Dirt
There are many hiking trails here, and you have your choice of levels, from easy to strenuous. We got out and hiked at the White Rock Trailhead, choosing the hiking trail to the Keystone Thrust. It was like going back in time to our days spent hiking around Escalante, Utah. Although the canyon we hiked down was not as deep and dramatic as some in the Canyons of Escalante, it was so much like Utah canyon hiking that it was a joy to wander through; it was like seeing an old friend for the first time in a long time.
There are also many technical rock climbing opportunities at Red Rock Canyon NCA (you will need a permit), and a campground (with 71 individual sites and seven group sites) if you want to stay and explore all of the hiking trails. If you are considering a technical climb and need gear and lessons, or would like a vehicle tour of the area’s considerable beauty on 4×4 roads away from the scenic loop, here is a list of the BLM-permitted guide services that you may hire (along with ropes, 4×4, horses, and hiking, there is a yoga outfitter as well).
Hike by day, play at night.
Considering that this gorgeous gem of a hiking area is only 25 minutes from the Las Vegas Strip, anyone in Vegas who has a couple of hours to kill should go out and see it. It’s nice to get away from all the man-made sights and sounds and get into the mountains and canyons. Red Rock Canyon is open year-round, and winter days in the desert are pleasant (perhaps perfect, except for the shortened daylight hours) hiking days. I will return to Red Rock Canyon, and I hope I get to see it during rain or snow. That would be amazing. The Trail Dirt crew has hiked in many places; we aren’t easily won over, but Red Rock Canyon handily exceeded our expectations in scenery and its hiking opportunities.