Imagine Las Vegas and you have images of neon lights, casinos and maybe a spectacular show. But Vegas has much more to offer than the expected modern pleasures. Fewer than 20 miles from The Strip is a different kind of spectacular view: Red Rock Canyon.
With 1.2 million visitors per year it’s hardly an unknown option. But seeing this magnificent group of sandstone cliffs and canyons isn’t the sort of thing that immediately comes to mind when you picture a Vegas vacation. But it should. They’re amazing.
Full of wildlife and flora of the area, Rangers will give you a guided hike at no charge. Bring your best hiking boots and see desert tortoises and bighorn sheep against the beautiful background scenery. Then hike over to the 3,000 foot high cliffs and be astounded.
You’ll get a view of petrified sand dunes, cascading waterfalls that flow into the canyons, and wide stretches of the Mojave Desert, one of the world’s hottest in summer. Above the expanse, you may be lucky enough to catch sight of one of the many Red-Tailed hawks that circle the area looking for prey.
Some of the peaks reach 8,000 feet above sea level, making them more than a mile in the air from your feet. There are enormous bands of red and white rock, with ravines running through much of the area. Joshua Trees dot the landscape.
There are several areas of interest to the visitor.
Calico Hills is a popular spot for climbers and features short trails and several views of the canyon with Las Vegas visible in the south. Hikers can pick out many of the distinctively-shaped casinos from there.
Lost Creek Canyon is the largest gash through the cliffs and has a 20-mile dirt track that winds its way through the multi-colored hills, as it crosses into the desert town of Pahrump. This one is best reserved for the truly hardy.
Spring Canyon provides a few of a 30-foot waterfall. Dry during the summer for most of its length, there is a section where it flows year-round. At any time of the year, though, the view is extraordinary.
Since it is the desert, be prepared with appropriate clothing for the time of day and year. Deserts are cool at night and can be scorching during the day. Bring a small backpack to store unused clothing and supplies. Pack plenty of water or, even better, a mineral-laden low-sugar drink.
Be sure to hit the correct spot, though. Nevada has three similarly named areas, including the Red Rock State Park. Just follow Charleston Boulevard, which crosses The Strip (Las Vegas Boulevard) a few blocks beyond Stratosphere Tower. The Tower is 1,149 feet high – you can’t miss it. Bend to the left as it becomes Blue Diamond Road/Highway 159.