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Keystone Thrust Fault, Red Rocks, Nevada

The most significant geologic feature of Red Rock Canyon NCA is the Keystone Thrust Fault. The Keystone Thrust is part of a large system of thrust faults that extend north into Canada. A thrust fault is a fracture in the earth’s crust that drives one crustal plate over the top of another. This results in the oldest rocks on the bottom of the upper plate resting directly above the youngest rocks of the lower plate.

At Red Rock Canyon NCA, the gray carbonate rocks of the ancient ocean have been thrust over the tan and red sandstone in one of the most dramatic and easily identified thrust faults to be found. The Keystone Thrust Fault extends from the Cottonwood Fault along State Route 160 north for 13 miles along the crest of the Red Rock escarpment. It then curves east along the base of La Madre Mountain before it is obscured by very complex faulting north of the Calico Hills.

Trail Rating

Overall rating = easy

Distance: 2.2 miles total – easy
Elevation gain: 400 feet – easy
Terrain: Gravel trail – easy
Exposure: None – easy

To see the trail rating system used here see Trail Rating System

Getting There

The Keystone Thrust Trail is located in the Red Rock National Conservation Area about 15 miles west of Las Vegas, Nevada. Take exit 41B west off Interstate I15 onto W Charleston Boulevard, Route 159, and follow the signs for the Red Rock NCA.

Google Map

Exit 41B from I15 to W Charleston Blvd to Red Rock Canyon

To reach the Keystone Thrust trail, drive 10.5 miles on the scenic loop and turn north on the White Rock road 0.5 miles along the rough gravel road to the trailhead parking lot.

Scenic Road Through Red Rock Canyon

Scenic Road Through Red Rock Canyon

The Trail

The trail starts at the White Rocks parking lot.

After a short distance you cross a gravel filled wash then travel up hill for most of the trail. The older gray thrust rocks are straight ahead and above and to the right of the trail. The trail traverses to the west of this up-thrust and then curves around behind the up-thrust to the younger red sandstone rocks behind and below the gray older rocks.

These are some of the pictures that we took.
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