Nevada is known for more than just the gambling and excitement of the Las Vegas Strip. The desert state is also known for its remarkable landscape and outdoor adventure opportunities. One of the best outdoor activities to do with your family when visiting Las Vegas is to take a tour or trip to Red Rock Canyon.
About Red Rock Canyon
Red Rock Canyon is located west of Las Vegas less than thirty minutes from The Strip. The Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area encompasses nearly 200,000 square miles of the Mojave Desert and is a popular Nevada attraction that draws visitors from all over the world.
Red Rock Canyon is also a favorite place for geologists to visit and is particularly remarkable due to the red color of the Aztec Sandstone rock formations that stand thousands of feet high. The formation is more than 190 million years old and is made from a lithified dune during the Jurassic Era. The red color of the rock is because of the high iron mineral content and the resulting oxidization.
The bottom of Red Rock Canyon was an ocean basin 500 million years ago and is comprised of mostly limestone which visitors can see sea life fossil imprints in. There are thousands of feet of exposed limestone at LaMadre Mountain just North of Scenic Drive where hikers can see fossils. Paleontologists are currently working on sites where tracks of bipedal dinosaurs have been found as well as early humans and arachnids.
Things to Do at Red Rock Canyon
Red Rock Canyon is the perfect outdoor adventure for families who are just looking for a day out relaxing in the sun or adrenaline seekers looking for thrills away from the casino lights. Check out all the fantastic things to do at Red Rock Canyon:
The impressive Red Rock Canyon Visitor Center offers indoor and outdoor exhibits detailing the history and significance of Red Rock Canyon. Visitors can access restroom facilities, vending machines, the Elements gift shop, or stop by the information desk to speak with a volunteer about the programs offered, hiking trails, or special events. Visitor Center is open Daily from 8 am to 4:30 pm.
Visitor’s who prefer not to hike but still want to see Red Rock Canyon’s breathtaking landscape can explore the thirteen-mile Scenic Drive by car or bicycle. There are many stops along the route where visitors can park and take pictures, rest, or observe wildlife. You can even enjoy short walks on trails; however, there is an entrance fee that supports the Visitor Center and upkeep of the drive. Scenic Drive hours vary throughout the season, but it is open daily from 6 am to at least 5 pm in the winter and 8 pm during summer months.
Download the Red Rock Canyon guide which has maps, scenic drive information, and wildlfe info, hisotry, and more.
Hiking and Trails
Red Rock Canyon offers 26 trails that visitors can hike deep into the canyon or high up into the peaks. Each path also has georeferenced maps that work with any georeferenced map mobile application. Guided hikes are also available.
Climbing- Red Rock Canyon is a popular place for rock climbing and climbers from all over the world come to the canyon to scale the massive boulders and sheer rock sandstone rock faces. There are routes specifically for climbers, and climbing guides are available through the Visitor’s Center.
Mountain Biking is a popular sport at Red Rock Canyon with designated biking trails available and bicycling also allowed on Scenic Drive. Hiking trails are designated for pedestrians only and are marked as such. There are no repair facilities at Red Rock Canyon and no water stations along the loop so cyclists should be well prepared for their route.
There is one developed campground at Red Rock Canyon just two miles from the Visitor Center. The address of the campground is 3293 Moenkopi Road, Las Vegas, Nevada. The campsites are closed from June to September annually as there are no electrical, water or sewer hookups making camping in the desert heat dangerous. There are also no showers although there are drinking fountains located throughout the campgrounds.
Casual and personal use photography is permissible and a popular activity for both amateur and professional photographers at Red Rock Canyon. However, professional portraits, and still photography require film permits which can be obtained by calling 702-515-5000.
Off-Road vehicles are allowed on designated roads only and drivers caught off-roading in non-designated areas are subject to fines. Off Roading trails including Rocky Gap Road and Cottonwood Valley are located away from the Scenic Loop.
Touring Red Rock Canyon
Many tour companies offer tours of Red Rock Canyon from the strip or Downtown that include round trip transportation and a guide all inside of an airconditioned vehicle. Companies such as Pink Jeep offer off-roading tours of Red Rock Canyon. Other tours are available that include a visit to a working ranch once owned by Howard Hughes, and lunch at the visitor’s center.
Programs at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
Visitors can take part in special programming at the Red Rock Canyon Visitors Center. These events and programs can change throughout the year. Visitor’s should check the calendar of events often for special events or cancellations.
Some of the programs include meet and greets with animals found in the Mojave Desert, Wildflower Hunts, Nevada’s State Reptile, Campfire Talks, Conservation events, and themed guided hikes.
Weather at Red Rock Canyon
The Mojave Desert weather varies drastically throughout the year, and hikers need to be aware of the expected temperatures and weather conditions before beginning an adventure at Red Rock Canyon.
Check out the Red Rock Canyon webcam of the weather now.
Spring is often cool and windy. Wildflowers begin growing in the basin of the canyon which allows for beautiful hiking conditions.
Summer temperatures can sore well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and sun protection is necessary. Most guides advice against summer hiking.
Fall is the ideal time for hiking at Red Rock Canyon as the weather is warm but not scorching. However, Monsoon weather is a concern during the fall.
Winter hiking at Red Rock Canyon is peaceful, and light snowfall is possible. Temperatures typically stay in the 40s and 50s.
Depending on your elevation at Red Rock Canyon, visitors can expect a seven-degree difference in temperature in the canyon compared to the Las Vegas Valley reported temperatures.
Fees and Pricing
There is an entry fee for day use of the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. These fees help to fund the Visitor’s Center, keep the canyon clean and maintained, and fund programs and special events at Red Rock Canyon.
- Cars and Trucks- $15
- Motorcycle- $10
- Bicycle or Pedestrian- $5
- Commercial Tour Vehicle- $15 per vehicle +$5 per person
Driving to Red Rock Canyon from Las Vegas Strip
Visiting Red Rock Canyon by car is easy from the Las Vegas Strip or Downtown. Take E Flamingo Road to County Road 215 N. Take exit 26 for Charleston Boulevard. Merge onto Hughes Park Dr. E then turn left onto West Charleston Boulevard. You’ll be in the Conservation Area.
You can also put 1000 Scenic Loop Drive Las Vegas into your GPS and be taken to the Conservation Area. There is plenty of signage pointing to the Visitor’s Center and Fee Pay Station.