AAA Editor Notes
Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is about 16 mi. w. on Charleston Blvd. (SR 159) from jct. I-15 exit 41; follow signs to the visitor center. Even the drive to this 197,000-acre conservation area is spectacular, leaving behind the Strip's neon glitter for stark desert landscapes. The varied terrain encompasses sandstone hills, ravines, canyons and rugged peaks. Ponderosa pine, creosote bush, Joshua tree and many types of cactus plants are among the native flora; wildlife includes cactus wren, red-tailed hawks and bighorn sheep.
Casual sightseers can experience Red Rock Canyon by traveling the 13-mile scenic drive, which branches off SR 159 and is one way for both vehicles and cyclists. Hiking trails are accessible from designated parking lots. More than 30 hiking and multiuse trails lead you to iconic desert views, some through canyons, and if you're here in the right season you may spot a waterfall or tinaja.
The Moenkopi Loop, a 2-mile trail that begins at the visitor center, is an easy hike up to a lookout point. But most visitors head for the Calico Hills, the park's main red rock formations, where a hiking trail runs along the base of the rocks. Another popular hike is the Calico Tanks Trail (2.5 miles round-trip). This moderately strenuous trek skirts some nice red and white sandstone formations before heading up into a pretty side canyon, where lots of big rocks offer opportunities for a little off-trail scrambling and exploring.
The visitor center has a display of Native American rock art and a video slide show about the growth of Las Vegas over the past century. Chat with a volunteer at the information desk. Hands-on outdoor exhibits offer a crash course on the park's natural features.
Note: Red Rock Canyon can get very crowded from fall through spring, especially on weekends; visit mid-week or get an early start if you prefer a little more solitude.
Pets on leash are allowed. Camping is permitted. Picnicking is permitted. Time: Allow 2 hours minimum.