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
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.
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
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.