Whenever I mention to fellow nature lovers that I’m heading to Las Vegas, the No. 1 place they recommend I go is Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. The family and I finally checked it out last weekend. And it certainly didn’t disappoint.
Except for the heat, of course. But what can you expect when you visit the Mojave Desert in June? The temperature outside was just shy of 100 degrees Fahrenheit when we arrived in late afternoon and neither of The Explorers wanted anything to do with hiking.
But no worries. We were still able to explore the area thanks to the breathtaking 13-mile Scenic Drive. Bonus? We could stop at any number of pullouts along the route to take a closer look.
Red Rock Canyon is considered an oasis in the desert – and definitely offers a breathtaking diversion from the harsh landscape surrounding it. Its deep sandstone canyons provide a perennial water supply, cool temperatures and a wide variety of vegetation. The result is an ideal habitat for many plants and animals, including tons of birds, wild burros and even the desert tortoise.
Our adventure along Red Rock Canyon’s Scenic Drive started right inside the entrance. The one-way road is paved and speeds are capped at 35 m.p.h. If you drive straight through, it’ll take about 45 minutes. But you’ll want to stop and take a closer look, for sure.
We all agreed that the most dramatic views come at the first couple of pullouts (where the rocks are actually red). Here you’ll find great places for kids to try their hand at rock climbing and rock scrambling. And the Lost Creek trail at turnout 8 is recommended especially for kids.
If you can stand the heat – or visit some time other than the summer – Red Rock Canyon offers a ton of activities for nature lovers. The area features some 30 miles of hiking trails, rock climbing, horseback riding and mountain biking – along with picnic areas and a visitor center with exhibit rooms and a book store.
Or you might opt to sit back and enjoy a leisurely drive in the comfort of an air-conditioned car. Just be sure to stop along the way, get out and go exploring!
Update: We’ve since been back and had a chance to try exploring on foot. Check out Hiking at Red Rock Canyon in Las Vegas for the scoop.
Tips for Visiting With Kids
- Start at the Visitor Center. Located just inside the entrance, it’s the best place to ask questions, plan your visit & learn more about the area & its inhabitants.
- Climb on some rocks. The first two pullouts along the 13-Mile Scenic Drive are best for this. Head just a short way down the trail and let the kids have a go of it.
- Hike the Lost Creek trail. This ¾-mile hike is the known as the Children’s Discovery trail because it offers a glimpse of varied plant life, a pictograph & an agave roasting pit site – plus a waterfall during the winter.
- Red Rock Canyon is open 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. April through September, 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. November through February, 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. in March & October
- There is a $7 day use fee
- There is a Visitor Center just inside the entrance (open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily)
- Allow at least 45 minutes to drive the single lane, one-way, paved 13-Mile Scenic Drive; more if you plan on stopping at pullouts along the way (which you will definitely want to do)
- Accessible restrooms are available at the Visitor Center and most pullouts on the scenic loop
- No restaurants or other food concessions available
Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is located at:
205 State Route 159
Las Vegas, NV 89161