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discovering God's creation

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

The Red Rock Canyon NCA is a spectacular scenic area to the west of Las Vegas, Nevada.

From the Visitor Center there is a 13 mile scenic drive that winds through the reserve. There are numerous scenic overlooks and trails that can be hiked.

The trails vary in length from less than a mile to over 6 miles. Several trails can be linked to give a longer hike. The trails vary in difficulty from easy to very difficult.

Trail Rating

Overall ratings = easy to difficult

Distance: 0.75 to 6+ miles – easy to moderate
Elevation gain: 200 to 2000 feet – easy to difficult
Terrain: Gravel or Boulder strewn trails – easy to difficult
Exposure: None – easy

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

Getting There

The Visitor Center and Scenic Loop are 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

The Scenic Loop is a one way 13 miles long drive with maximum speed limit of 35 miles per hour.

Scenic Road Through Red Rock Canyon

Scenic Road Through Red Rock Canyon

The Trails

Moenkopi Loop
Distance 2 miles; Average time: 1.5hrs; Difficulty: EASY Triassic fossils and various desert flora can be seen on this open country trail which starts at the visitor center and traverses a prominent limestone ridge. In addition to panoramic views of the two Calico parking areas. A side trail runs from the fee booth parking lot and connects with this trail (2 – 6 miles, easy to moderate).

Calico Hills
Distance 2-6 miles; Average time: 1.5 – 3.5 hrs; Difficulty: MODERATE This trail runs along the base of the Calico Rocks from Calico Basin to Sandstone Quarry. Distance is variable since the trail can be accessed at either end or from either of the two Calico parking areas. A side trail runs from the fee booth parking lot and connects with this trail (2 – 6 miles, easy to moderate).

Calico Tanks
Distance 2.5 miles; Average time: 2hrs; Difficulty: MODERATE This scurry over jumbled sandstone leads to a hidden water pocket and a great view of Las Vegas. Calico Tanks is a great trip for families or those wanting a relatively short introduction to Red Rock Canyon, because this hike combines elements of the prehistory, history, geology, beauty, and fun that makes Red Rock famous.

Turtlehead Peak
Distance 5 miles; Average time: 3.5-4.5hrs; Difficulty: STRENUOUS This hike features sweeping views from a choice Red Rock Canyon peak. Although it’s not an easy climb, Turtlehead Peak is one of the most accessible peaks. If it’s warm weather, you’ll want to get an early start. If it’s windy, you’ll want a windbreaker to protect you from the wind up top. At the top, you’ll be treated to one of the best panoramic views of Red Rock Canyon.

Keystone Thrust
Distance 2.2 miles; Average time: 1.5hrs; Difficulty: MODERATE Hike along this trail to see the intersection of great and colorful geologic eras. Sixty million to 65 million years ago, the Pacific and North American continental plates got into a shoving match. The conflict pushed up the Sierra Nevada mountains to the west. The same force pushed the deep limestone layers up and over the sand dunes in what is now Red Rock Canyon.

White Rock – Willow Springs
Distance 4.4 miles; Average time: 2.5hrs; Difficulty: EASY-MODERATE From the upper parking lot at White Rock Spring, take the trail on the west side to where it splits. The trail to the right descends to a guzzler [man made water hole]. The trail to the left heads downhill and through a wash, then climbs over a ridge and drops you into the Lost Creek area [2 miles]. From there it is only a short distance to Willow Springs. Starting from Willow Springs, just reverse the previous instructions.

White Rock – La Madre Spring Loop
Distance 6 miles; Average time: 3.5hrs; Difficulty: MODERATE This loop takes you through a secluded pocket of life, around the rugged sandstone of Red Rock Canyon to La Madre Spring, where the water splashes life on this otherwise desert landscape. La Madre Spring is in the 47,000-acre La Madre Mountain Wilderness Area, designated by Congress in 2002.

Lost Creek – Children’s Discovery
Distance .75 miles; Average time: 1hr; Difficulty: EASY This self-guided interpretive trail introduces kids of all ages to the many different features of the Mojave Desert at Red Rock Canyon, including petroglyphs, lessons of desert life, towering views, and a hidden waterfall in the canyon.

Willow Springs Loop
Distance 1.5 miles; Average time: 1.25hrs; Difficulty: EASY From the parking lot follow the trail by the restroom south. This takes you past a pictograph site and Agave roasting pits, to the Lost Creek parking lot. There the trail heads to the right to where the two trails fork. . Bear to the right and continue to the Willow Springs parking lot. Part of this trail is paved and is readily accessible from the parking lot. [1.5 miles round trip, easy]

La Madre Springs
Distance 3.3 miles; Average time: 2hrs; Difficulty: MODERATE This nice hike follows an old road up a canyon with red and white sandstone cliffs on one side and gray limestone mountains on the other. The trail does not actually go to La Madre Spring; rather it ends at a concrete dam built in the 1960s. The dam now provides water for wildlife and a pleasant contrast with the desert environment. For the Red Rock area, the vegetation in the canyon is fairly dense, and the pinyon pine, juniper, and scrub oaks actually feel like a forest.

SMYC
Distance 2.2 miles; Average time: 2hrs; Difficulty: MODERATE SMYC stands for “Spring Mountain Youth Camp,” which is a long-term correctional facility for young men. In partnership with the U.S. Forest Service, these guys have done nice trail work on Mt. Charleston for more than 30 years. They did a nice job on this trail too. This is a pleasant trail with relatively little elevation change that generally runs at gentle grades. There are two short, steep sections, but both are associated with nice viewpoints.

Ice Box Canyon
Distance 2.6 miles; Average time: 2.5hrs; Difficulty: MODERATE Ice Box Canyon is a good hike for a hot day. The trail takes you through a cool, shady box canyon with seasonal waterfalls in the heart of Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. The narrow canyon rarely sees sunlight, and the cool water and air pouring down from the mountains keep it significantly cooler than the open desert. But you will have to cross the open desert for a mile to get there, so it’s a good idea to start early to beat the heat.

Dale’s
Distance 4.4 miles; Average time: 2.5hrs; Difficulty: MODERATE Dale’s Trail is a 2 . 1-mile segment of the Escarpment Route that runs through open desert along the base of the Wilson Cliffs. Dale’s Trail runs between Icebox Canyon and Pine Creek Canyon. The trail runs at a fairly gentle grade most of the way, but it has several short, steep sections.

Pine Creek Canyon
Distance 3 miles; Average time: 2hrs; Difficulty: EASY-MODERATE Pine Creek Canyon offers some of the best of the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area–beautiful and diverse plant communities nestled at the bottom of monolithic canyon walls. The ponderosa pine forest at the mouth of the canyon is a remnant from the last Ice Age, but it survives here thanks to the cool air and water flowing down Pine Creek Canyon.

Fire Ecology
Distance .75 miles; Average time: 1hr; Difficulty: EASY This easy, .75-mile loop trail runs out into Pine Creek Wash through an area where the BLM performed a prescribed burn in 1997 to clear brush and reduce the chances of a catastrophic wildfire that might kill the tall ponderosa pines in the wash. Little evidence of the fire remains, but the efforts have been successful.

Oak Creek Canyon
Distance 2 miles; Average time: 1.5hrs; Difficulty: EASY-MODERATE Oak Creek Canyon is one of several beautiful canyons cutting into the Red Rock escarpment. It receives fewer visitors than other canyons in the area, and the hike has two distinct personalities: The beginning approach across open desert offers sweeping views of the Red Rock escarpment and the freedom of open desert, and the canyon itself offers challenging hiking over jumbled boulders and steep slopes.

Arnight
Distance 2.4 miles; Average time: 1.5hrs; Difficulty: MODERATE The Arnight Trail is a 2 . 4-mile segment of the Escarpment Route that runs through open desert along the base of the Wilson Cliffs. The Arnight Trail runs between Oak Creek Canyon and Pine Canyon. The trail winds among boulders and shrubs, and passes little washes, as it climbs the bajada at a slight grade. Along this part of the trail, there are many low-growing shrubs dominated by blackbrush with some yucca, cholla, brittlebrush.

Knoll
Distance 3.5 miles; Average time: 2.5hrs; Difficulty: MODERATE There are many small boulders on the little ridge that make for a nice place to stop for lunch. While there, watch or listen for white-tailed antelope squirrels (often confused with chipmunks) These little squirrels often sit up in the bushes or in buckhorn cholla where they watch for predators and other squirrels. Also watch for the various species of birds that occur out here (e.g., Juniper Titmouse, Western Bluebird, Western Scrub-jay, Common Raven, and House Finch).

First Creek Canyon Trail
Distance 3 miles; Average time: 2hrs; Difficulty: EASY-MODERATE This is a pleasant 3-mile walk across a desert valley to a little waterfall with cottonwood trees, willows, and other shade trees. Except for the last few feet, the hike follows a well-maintained trail. At the falls, the route follows a use-trail down the side of the wash to the falls. As with other falls in the area, these often are dry.

These are some of the pictures that we took.
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