While locals and tourists alike are well aware of the beautiful Red Rock Canyon and its close proximity to Las Vegas, it may not be known that a new, greener visitor's center has recently opened there.
The season of early morning and late evening hikes is upon us, but if you happen to visit Red Rock Canyon during a peak heat wave, stop in the new visitor's center and cool off via solar ran cooling units. Since 1982 Red Rock Canyon has always had a nice visitor's center with a respectable gift shop featuring Native American crafts, souvenirs, hats and the expected paraphernalia associated with a natural park. The visitor's center is now larger and greener.
The new visitor's center features hands-on exhibits that explain the geology, weather, flora and fauna, as well as the anthropological history of the park. There is also a large book store and gift shop. The center has become greener by using new solar panels to create energy for cooling systems - a much needed amenity in the Mojave desert. The old building was also incorporated into the new design, saving materials from going into the landfill.
After visiting the information center take a trek by vehicle on the 13-mile scenic loop and stop at a few well designed trails. The Children's Discovery trail at the Lost Creek trail head, half way through the loop, is a great easy hike along well signed points of interest. Pine Creek Canyon trail is also a great moderate hike past some of the more recent settlements made in the canyon before it became BLM property.
Red Rock Canyon is located 17 miles west of Las Vegas on Charleston Boulevard if you are heading out from the center of town or the Strip, or State Route 159 if you are coming from Blue Diamond. The hours of operation vary per season, but for the summer, the park opens at 6 am and closes it gates at 8 pm. The Visitor's Center is open from 8 am and closes at 4:30 pm.
Evening and early morning hikes are recommended during the summer, and when the sun sets the west side of the park is a cool retreat from the hot desert sun. Enjoy the desert, drink lots of water and take advantage of the green cooling system at the new Red Rock Canyon Visitor's Center.