Red Rock Canyon, Las Vegas, Nevada

Red Rock Canyon is located about 20 minutes west of the Strip in Las Vegas, Nevada, off Highway 159, making it easy to get to if you are in Vegas for a show or conference. We rented a car on the strip and drove out early in the morning as a day-trip which was very convenient. The trails we hiked were easy to moderate trails with optional rock hopping; there is a visitors center with washrooms and a gift shop just past the fee station. While this was not a boogie van adventure, further exploration of this area is clearly a future one. After a couple of short hikes we really wanted to come back and explore the canyon further, plus other parts of Nevada and the 4-Corners area. There is a campground in this area that would be great to try in the cooler season. Sorry, no trace for our hikes, but have a look at the map and the other park resources found later on in the post.

NOTE: There is potentially dangerous heat and poisonous critters dependent on season throughout this area, including rattlesnakes and the infamous Gila Monster. We were there in August which is when many of the poisonous critters hibernate (we were told) however, I doubt that means you can run barefoot through the low grass without fear of stepping on something that bites. Despite the heat (over 100F the morning we were there) some folks still only had a single little water bottle for their hike. We recommend you kit yourself out for full sun, extreme heat, and sufficient supplies for the duration of your hike.

Having done some research prior to our day-trip, and being fond of the mountains, we were looking to hike up Turtlehead Peak. We stopped in the Visitors Center for some information and trail maps, but found out the trail we wanted to hike was closed. Sadly, due to paving crews being in the area, we were unable to head out towards Turtlehead or the petroglyphs. Bummer. However, there are a plethora of trails in the area so we moved on to plan B. We drove the 13 mile Scenic Loop to sight-see and get an idea what the place would hold for hikes. We made the best of our time and spent some time in about four different areas of the park. We stopped midway around the loop for a photo-op, enjoying the terrain that is so different from our own boreal forest.

Ice Box Canyon.

Located on the W/NW side of the Scenic Loop, this trail leads to a dead-end canyon with a waterfall that will have seasonal water level fluctuations; there wasn’t much water when we were there. If you climb up the smooth rock face there is a pool under the falls you can swim in. We considered this an easy hike although park staff in the visitor’s center told us it was difficult as you had to jump over rocks the size of small cars. That seemed like just our thing, but sadly, there were few boulders that size to play on. Mostly the trail is not so rocky or difficult. There is a parking area at the trailhead to Ice Box Canyon and it appears this is also a popular area with rcok climbers.

This is the trailhead.

The scrub gets denser in portions of the trail. Not an area to kick off the shoes and run barefoot.

Where there is water, there is life. The area in the canyon is shadier and thus cooler for more of the day, plus this is where the water would run in the rainier time of year. This is looking back from the trail towards Scenic Loop.

There was some rock-hopping, just not enough on this trail.

The end of the trail where the waterfall is. Not much water flowing in August, but a few pools to be found.

Looking down from the upper pool. Shoes off, this is not a difficult place to climb up to. Several young people from Mexico were here enjoying the pool this day.

On the way out, looking across the valley to Turtlehead.

Red Rock Overlook.

When you exit Scenic Drive you end up back on Highway 159. Turning NE towards the entrance again you can stop at a pull out and look back over the valley from a different angle. This looks like it would be much wetter in the rainier season.

Calico 1 and 2.

These striped red and tan hills are really picturesque. You can enjoy their colour and unique formations from the viewing areas by the parking lot, or you can go where we went and take the lower trails to rock hop and climb.

Opportunities to rock-hop are endless.

This is down lower in a crevice in the hills.

My amazing wife parting the rocks so we can get out.

Red Spring, Calico Basin.

Behind the Calico Hills, out of the valley, east up Highway 159 you can turn onto a road that takes you to the Red Spring. This area had lots of homes around it, is moist by comparison to the Red Canyon, and amounted to an oasis where we stopped. There is a boardwalk here that was unfortunately closed during our trip, perhaps it will be open again in the future. Whilst my wife used the facilities I took a walk on the trails beside the boardwalk where there was more vegetation and I heard a sound I thought was local insects. When I did some research into the sound a rattlesnake makes, I found the sound I heard at Red Spring was likely just that. A reminder that one needs to have a greater understanding of what critters one will find in unfamiliar territory, and how they announce themselves. My sandals were not snake-resistant.

We really enjoyed our hikes in Red Rock Canyon, but did find one needed to be mindful of the heat. We are in good shape and stay well hydrated, but we were unaccustomed to a long duration in the mid-day sun. The rental car was like a blast furnace when we opened the doors after a hike. However, this is an area we will come back to for further exploration and more adventures, hopefully next time with the boogievan.

Park Resources:

Trail Map
Southern Nevada Conservancy

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