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Red Rock Canyon: A natural alternative to Las Vegas glitz and glitter

Wild burros
Wild burros

The contents of your pockets have been transferred to the casinos, you’ve seen the high-priced shows, and your waistline can’t take another buffet without switching to the fat pants. You’re feeling the need to get back to nature, take in some scenery, and maybe stretch your legs on a hike. Just a short drive from The Las Vegas Strip, you can have your wish.

Red Rock Canyon
Photo by Heidi Young

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area encompasses 197,000 acres and is located in the Mojave Desert, only eighteen miles west of Las Vegas. The Scenic Loop Drive is 13 miles of one-way road that begins near the visitor center, and has stops at various scenic points. More than twenty miles of trails await your hiking boots, with numerous panoramic views, American Indian rock art, and an assortment of plant and animal life. Bicycling is popular in the Canyon, although the roads can be challenging. The huge boulders and sheer cliffs draw rock climbers from all over the world, and horseback riding is also available.

Because the elevation in Red Rock Canyon can be as much as 5,000 feet higher than Las Vegas, it has double the annual rainfall and a wider variety of plants and animals. Most of the wildlife works the night shift, and is visible during the cooler, early morning or late evening hours. This includes mule deer, coyotes, mountain lions, badgers, and bobcats. You might have better luck spotting bighorn sheep, wild horses and wild burros. Be careful with the Jacks (male burros) and Jennies (female burros). They sometimes wander into the road and can be hit by fast-moving cars. Also be mindful of snakes. There are three poisonous varieties here: the sidewinder, Mojave green, and Mojave speckled. When the temperatures get above 70 degrees, snakes like to come out and play.

The Red Rock Canyon Campground is located two miles east of the visitor center on W. Charleston Boulevard (State Route 159). There are 71 individual campsites, and five group campsites. No electric, water, or sewer hookups are provided, and there is no dump station or showers. Drinking water faucets are provided throughout the campground, as are vault toilets. Individual campsites are $10 per night, and there is a maximum 14 day limit in a 28-day period. For more information on camping, call (702) 515-5350.

Even though this canyon is in the Mojave Desert, the brilliant, red rocks and springtime flowers provide unexpected splashes of color, as you will see in the slide show below. Bring your camera.



  • Lindsay Godfree - Cross Country Travel 5 years ago

    When I lived in Las Vegas for a few months looking for work I hiked there almost every day. It is bigger than it looks and so unexpected in Las Vegas when you only think of Casinos. And it is not far to drive.

  • Gene Bowker, Augusta Road Trips 5 years ago

    Sounds a lot better than wasting time in the "fantasyland" downtown to me.

    Nice story

  • Nancy 5 years ago

    Thank you for another wonderful article. How refreshing to have such a beautiful, natural "wonderland" so close to "fantasyland", as Gene so aptly called the Las Vegas downtown area. I'm eager to see Red Rock Canyon and hike it myself. You've written another fabulous article. Thank you so much!

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