Las Vegas’ Surprising Neighbor; Red Rocks Canyon National Conservation Area

Just a half hour drive west of Las Vegas, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area hosts a 13-mile scenic drive with plenty of hiking, rock climbing and biking options to offer.

While currently the park is only allowing admissions at pre-booked times, exploring the park can take as much time as desired once inside. The scenic drive only runs counterclockwise, so make sure not to move on from stop unless you’re sure you’re done with the area. You’ll also have to stop at the Visitor Center first if you’d like to see it at all- there’s no turning around once you’ve passed it.

Perhaps due to its proximity to the entrance of the park, the three Calico stops are the most popular. The Calico Mountains themselves have such a unique texture. They shoot up out of the arid ground around them seemingly out of nowhere and the layers between the rocks are so distinct. We were able to get right up and personal with some of these rocks to admire the gorgeous striations- I’ve never seen anything quite like it. Looking at the rocks, you can almost see the different colored sands being blown around before becoming sedimentary rocks.

Further down the drive, the landscape changes entirely from the rolling red hills of the Calico Mountains to the more jagged lines of the White Rock Hills, and the crowds drop off dramatically. We didn’t have a ton of time, so we tried out the gentle Lost Creek and Petroglyph Wall trails and still managed to find some incredible views! I also noticed a fair amount of hikers with climbing gear, especially around the Pine Creek Canyon overlook- it seemed to be an excellent location for it.

While the trails were newly marked with signposts, many of them seemed inaccessible without a vehicle that could manage a little bit of off-roading, so make sure to visit in a high-clearance vehicle!

Outside of the main scenic drive loop, there were some other easy hikes a few miles down the road. While they are marked regularly with cairns, I always find myself getting lost on hikes primarily made of rocks- I have such a hard time finding and staying on the trail!

Despite turning back within a mile or so, we saw more wildlife on our hike through the Ash Spring trail than I ever would have imagined, including a surprise appearance from America’s most venomous lizard- the Gila Monster. Don’t worry; it’s also America’s only venomous lizard, and is more concerned with going about its own business than it is about biting unsuspecting hikers.

Having been to Las Vegas multiple times, I was shocked that I had never heard so much as a whisper of such a beautiful park just minutes away. It’s an excellent break from the glitz and glam of the famous “Sin City”, and I highly recommend adding it to any Las Vegas itinerary.

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