Red Rock Canyon

by Wendy VanHatten

Las Vegas has plenty of glitz, entertainment of all types, and neon. When you want a change from all of that, head west of the Las Vegas Strip into the Mojave Desert. Spend a day at Red Rock Canyon.

Red Rock Canyon was designated as Nevada’s first National Conservation Area.  Located 17 miles west of the Las Vegas Strip on Charleston Boulevard/State Route 159, this area is visited by more than two million people each year.

In marked contrast to a town geared to entertainment and gaming, Red Rock offers enticements of a different nature including a 13-mile scenic drive, miles of hiking trails, rock climbing, horseback riding, mountain biking, road biking, picnic areas, nature observing and visitor center with indoor and outdoor exhibits as well as a bookstore.

In 1990, special legislation supported by the Nevada congressional delegation, changed the status of the Red Rock Recreation Lands to a National Conservation Area, the seventh to be designated nationally. This legislation provides the funding to protect and improve the area.

Keep in mind, you’re in the desert. The best time to visit would be morning. Take plenty of water, sun protection, and be smart about your visit.

We spent several hours along the 13-mile scenic drive, after first stopping at the Visitor Center. With indoor and outdoor exhibits, plant specimens, and live Desert Tortoise habitats, we learned much about the desert, the landscape, and the petroglyphs found here. Desert Tortoises wandered close to us, on their side of the fence. Surprising how fast they could move.

Along our drive we stopped to marvel at the different layers of rocks, the multitude of colors, and the amazingly different landscapes and canyons.

We took one hike to the Petroglyph wall, where we were able to see the historical wall art that dates back at least 800 years.

Reservations are required to enter the area, with timed entries given when you register.

For more information on reservations, check out .

If You Go: Take West Charleston Blvd which is State Route 159 from Las Vegas. Take water, sun protection, and your camera.