Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area - Nevada

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A Natural Playground

Near Las Vegas 

A half-hour drive west of Las Vegas, this federally-operated recreation area offers superb geological views and opportunities for hiking and scenic touring. About 65 million years ago a strong earthquake rumbled under the southern Nevada desert, and two of the earth's plates collided with such force that part of one plate was shoved up over much younger sandstone formations.

The result is the Keystone Thrust Fault -- part of which is seen at Red Rock Canyon, a spectacular piece of geology, 20 miles west of Las Vegas. The conservation area, administered by the Bureau of Land Management, offers many opportunities for walking nature trails along the cliff face or hiking through narrow canyons to desert springs where bighorn sheep and other wildlife are seen. A modern visitor center overlooks the recreation area, with information on the geology and wildlife of the preserve.

For information, contact the BLM's Las Vegas office at 702-515-5000.

What to See & Do

Loop Drive

You will enjoy taking a 13-mile loop drive through the preserve. The paved, one-way road begins next to the visitor center and heads along the Calico Hills, with two pulloffs offering vistas of the crossed-bedded Aztec sandstone. There are short trails to the rock face from each of the vista points. A good place to stop and walk to the base of the sandstone is at the Sandstone Quarry parking lot (about one third of the way along the drive). Here, huge blocks of stone provide evidence of the extensive quarrying that took place in the early 1900s.

Picnic sites are located at two of the springs in the area: Willow Spring and Red Spring. There are more pulloffs along the route, providing views of wooded canyons and desert washes (at Icebox Canyon, Pine Creek Canyon, and Red Rock Wash). Flash floods occur following downpours, and you should be wary of crossing low places when the water is running.

Red Rock Canyon Trails

There are several short hikes that provide diversions along the loop drive. Icebox Canyon features a maintained trail for almost a mile. The end of the canyon (called Icebox because it's cool in the shade there) is reached by continuing on over the rocks. Another popular trail leads into Pine Creek Canyon. This 2-mile round trip leads to the ruin of an old homestead situated near a creek and tall ponderosa pines.

Climbing Red Rock Canyon

Red Rock Canyon is one of the finest climbing venues in the United States. Thousands of rock climbers come from far and away each year to climb the vertical walls of the conservation area.

Climbs are hundreds and thousands of feet high. More than 2,000 routes are available. Most climbing takes place from October through May. The summers are just too hot for long, full-day climbs.

These companies are licensed to guide rock climbing in Red Rock: Jackson Hole Mountain Guides; Mountain Skills Rock Climbing Adventures; National Outdoor Leadership School; and American Alpine Institute.

Camping near Red Rock

This is a day-use area, without camping facilities. The Toyaibe National Forest is immediately north of the conservation area, offering camping and hiking. Wheeler Pass Road leads to campsites from Highway 160 (head east from Pahrump).

Other public campsites are located north of Las Vegas, in the Mt. Charlestion Recreation Area. To get there, drive north from Vegas on Highway 95, and then take Nevada Highway 157. This is a scenic loop route through the Spring Mountains.


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