About Red Rock Canyon
While the Las Vegas Strip is an adult's playground for gambling, partying & shows, the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is Vegas' natural playground for hikers, bikers, climbers and campers. Red Rock Canyon features a Scenic Loop Drive, with excellent views all around, multiple hiking & biking trails, camping, rock climbing areas and an educational Visitor's Center & gift shop. If you're only in town for a few days, you probably won't have time to see everything the park has to offer but you can fit in a few short hikes and it's well worth the effort if you do. The views are spectacular and the unique geological formations make this park a must-see in Vegas. While you're there, do shop at the Elements Gift & Book Store. Your purchase will help support the Red Rock Canyon Interpretive Association (RRCIA), which offers educational programs, free guided hikes, school field trips, and interpretive programs to the public.
Red Rock Canyon is located about 25 miles west of the Las Vegas Strip (map). There is no public transportation to Red Rock Canyon, so renting a car or getting a taxi or ride-sharing company (Uber, Lyft, etc.) to drive you there is your best bet (if you do call a taxi or ride-sharing company, be sure to schedule your pick-up ahead of time as there is little to no cell phone service in the area). We had a 3-day Vegas trip planned and since we were staying on the Strip, we rented a car just for one day so we could drive out to Red Rock Canyon ourselves. This is the best option, I think, because it enabled us to see more of the park by driving along the Scenic Loop Drive, which loops around the entire park. Be sure to pack some water and snacks to take along with you, and as always, be sure to recycle and Leave No Trace!
The Red Rock Canyon Interpretive Association has a dowloadable trail map on their website (click here to download the pdf). We studied the map a bit before our trip to find short hikes along the Scenic Loop Dr. that would fit into the time that we planned to be in the park. There are parking lots at the entrance of the trail heads, so if you've rented a car, it's easy to hop from one trail to the other. Most of the trail heads will have a display with information about the geological formations in that particular area. We suggest heading out to Red Rock Canyon early in the morning when the weather is a bit cooler. Plus, this will leave more time later in the afternoon to shower before heading out to dinner or a show on the Strip in the evening. There is a lot to see in Red Rock Canyon so if you're only in Vegas for a few days and can only visit the park for a few hours, we recommend picking several short hikes around the park vs. one or two long hikes so you can experience more different areas of the park. You really can't go wrong in what you pick - there are gorgeous views to be had all around. We loved Calico I & II, which are the first two stops in the park. The contrast of the red and yellow rocks is striking and we had a blast climbing around and exploring among the boulders. Another favorite feature is Turtlehead Peak.
We decided to pack very light to avoid a lot of extra airline baggage charges on our flight to Vegas. I'm not not the greatest minimalist packer, so this was a special challenge for me. If you don't mind looking like you're about to hit the trails on your flight, try the following tips as you pack and plan for your trip.
1. Wear your hiking clothes & hiking shoes on the plane. Hiking shoes tend to be bulkier than most other shoes so to save room in your bag, wear them on the day of your flight. If you have the room to pack them away in your suitcase, I suggest placing your hiking shoes in a plastic shopping back to keep the rest of your clothes dirt-free. It was July when we went so my light weight running shorts and dry-wicking tee rolled up really small to fit inside my bag. I thought I could get by with just bringing my running shoes (they were more packable than my hiking shoes), however, I quickly regretted that decision when I began walking around on the rocks. My running shoes do not have the traction that my hiking shoes have so I had to be extra careful to avoid slipping (plus, I felt every. single. rock. under my feet). So, if I were you, I'd make the extra effort to bring hiking shoes, even for a short half-day hike.
2. Use your Camelbak as your personal item on your flight. You can stuff your wallet, purse, iPad, etc. into it - just make sure you've emptied the bladder before you go through security :) We didn't take our Camelbaks on our trip, but I wished that we had. We purchased water bottles on the drive out to the canyon, which was fine, but there were a few times I wished I had both hands free (we LOVE to climb around on the boulders!).
3. Don't forget your hat and sunglasses! You're in the desert - a hat and sunglasses, along with some sunscreen, are a MUST. I had a small visor that rolled up easily into my bag and I bought travel-sized sunscreen beforehand.
Las Vegas is a place we enjoy going back to time and time again. Now that we've discovered Red Rock Canyon, we're excited to visit again even more. I love that there's a place near the action of the Strip to experience the desert and do what we love best - exploring the great outdoors together. The next time you book a trip to Las Vegas, be sure to plan a visit to Red Rock Canyon. You won't be disappointed.
Have you visited Red Rock Canyon? We'd love to hear about your experience. Comment below with any thoughts or questions you might have and don't forget to follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook (@outdooruseonly). We love connecting with others :)