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Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area - Area Overview
Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
 
Overview Getting There Hours Fees Camping Watch Out Rules and Regs
Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

OVERVIEW

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is located on the west edge of the Las Vegas Valley and includes the red and white sandstone cliffs that can be seen from most places in town. The scenery is spectacular and always worth a visit.

The sandstone cliffs lie up against the Spring Mountains, and as the name implies, there are many springs and other water out there. Many of the hikes lead up narrow canyons to creeks and waterfalls, which during summer give a nice respite from the heat. During winter, full-sun hikes can be warm and delightful.

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is large (197,000 acres), but many locals refer to the Scenic Loop area as "Red Rocks." When locals say that they are going to Red Rocks, they usually mean that they are going to the Scenic Loop area, which is only a small portion of the National Conservation Area.

The Visitor Center is located near the start of the one-way, Scenic Loop Road. Stop at the Visitor Center to learn about the area, then drive around the Scenic Loop Road. This is a 12-mile, one-way road, so get a map and plan your trip so that you don't pass something that might interest you. You can always drive the loop again, but good planning will save you some time and gasoline.

The Scenic Loop provides access to a number of scenic overlooks and hiking areas, plus bird watching areas and picnic areas. As you drive the loop, you will pass the two Calico Hills Overlook areas, Sandstone Quarry, the Scenic Overlook, White Rock Springs, Willow Springs and Lost Creek, Icebox Canyon, Pine Creek, and the turn off to Oak Creek Canyon. Except for the Scenic Overlook, all of these are trailheads.

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

GETTING TO RED ROCKS

Link to map.

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is located on the west edge of the Las Vegas Valley, about 30 minutes from downtown. A good place to start your visit is the Visitor Center on West Charleston Blvd.

From town, drive out to the intersection of West Charleston Blvd. and the Western Beltway (Highway 215) (Table 1, Site 516). From the intersection, drive west on West Charleston for 5.3 miles to Scenic Loop Road (Site 519). Turn right onto Scenic Loop Road and drive for 0.2 miles to the Entrance Station. Pay the entrance fee and proceed to the Visitor Center (Site 389), which you can see from the Entrance Station.

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

Red Rocks and the Scenic Loop also can be reached from the south. From Las Vegas, drive west on Hwy 160 (Pahrump Highway) to Highway 159 (Blue Diamond Road) (Site 848). Turn right onto Highway 159 and drive north for 10.6 miles to the Scenic Loop. Start by following signs to Blue Diamond.

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

A Note About Mileages on the Scenic Loop Road: The Scenic Loop Road is said to be 13 miles long; actually, it is only 12.15 miles long. The mile markers along the road are only 0.95 miles apart, so by the time you get to the end of the loop, your odometer will be 0.6 miles off. This causes problems for describing trailhead locations because odometer readings from the start of the Scenic Loop Road differ from mileage relative to the mile markers. For example, the intersection of Scenic Loop Road and White Rock Road is 5.70 miles from the start of the Scenic Loop, but Mile Marker 6 is a couple of feet before the intersection (implying mile 6.01 rather than 5.70). I've decided to describe locations relative to the Mile Marker System, such that White Rock Road is at Mile Marker 6 rather than 5.7 miles out.

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

HOURS

The Visitor Center is open from 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM daily except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years, including the eves. The Scenic Loop Road opens every day at 6 AM, but it closes at different times during the different seasons. During winter, the Scenic Loop Road closes at 5 PM, during spring and fall, it closes at 7 PM; and during summer, it closes at 8 PM (watch for signs). In general, the road is open from about sunrise to sunset.

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

ENTRANCE FEES

Access to the Scenic Loop Road area (including the Visitor Center) costs $7 per day per car (Golden Eagle and Red Rock annual passes accepted). Motorcycles, bicycles, and pedestrian cost $3 per day. All other areas are open sunrise to sunset and admission is free.

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

CAMPING

Backpacking and overnight permits can be arranged at the Visitor Center, but backcountry camping is only permitted above about 5,000 feet elevation. Wood fires are not permitted.

There is one drive-in campground, Red Rock Campground (formerly Moenkopi Campground), which is located off Charleston Blvd. about halfway between the Beltway (Highway 215) and the entrance to the Scenic Loop Road. Driving west on Charleston, turn left onto Moenkopi Road and drive south to the end of the road. You can see the campground from atop a hill before you get to the end of the road. The campground may be closed during summer.

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

WATCH OUT

Other than the standard warnings about hiking in the desert, ...this is a pretty safe place, but people fall off the cliffs and die at Red Rocks every year. Extreme caution should be exercised anytime you are high enough to fall and get hurt. Red Rocks is a winter-time mecca for technical rock climbers, but don't let watching the experts goad you into doing something you shouldn't. Also, the Scenic Loop Road is popular with walkers, bicyclists, and high-performance motorcycles, so drive carefully and look both ways before crossing the road.

The Scenic Loop Road is a one-way road, however, I've seen people driving and riding bikes the wrong way, so watch out for idiots too.

In case of emergency, call 702.515.5350 between 8 AM and 5 PM. After 5 PM, call 702.293.8998 or 911. Emergency phones are located along the Scenic Loop Road at Sandstone Quarry, the turnoff to White Rock Spring, Ice Box Canyon, and Pine Creek.

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

SOME RULES AND REGULATIONS

As the name implies, this is a conservation area. Do not collect plants, rocks, fossils, or artifacts, and do not disturb the wildlife or feed the burros. Drive only on roads. Pack it in, pack it out.

Get permits for backcountry camping at the Visitor Center. You can cook with a stove, but collecting wood, including dead or down wood, is prohibited.

Pets must be on a leash (six foot maximum) and under your physical control at all times. Never leave your pet in a closed vehicle because temperatures inside a car parked in the sun can exceed 120 degrees in just a few minutes, quickly cooking your pet.

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

FOR MORE INFORMATION

For more information, visit the official Red Rock Canyon website or give them a call at (702) 515-5350 between 8:00 AM and 4:30 PM. The Friends of Red Rock Canyon also have a nice website with good information.

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
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Red Rock Canyon
Pay attention to highway signs!
Red Rock Canyon
Do Not Feed Wild Horses and Burrows $500 Fine
Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area more to come ...

 
Table 1. Highway Coordinates (NAD27; UTM Zone 11S). Download Highway GPS Waypoints (*.gpx) file.

Site # Location Latitude (°N) Longitude (°W) UTM Easting UTM Northing Elevation (feet) Verified
0389 Red Rocks Visitor Center 36.1358 115.4270 641539 3999954 3,790 Yes
0516 Charleston at the Beltway 36.1592 115.3358 649697 4002685 3,141 Yes
0519 Charleston at Scenic Loop Road (entrance) 36.1319 115.4207 642112 3999532 3,710 Yes
0848 Highway 160 at Blue Diamond Road 36.0351 115.3581 647927 3988884 3,140 Yes

 
Happy hiking!
Note: All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
 
Thanks for coming to visit!
© 2014 Jim Boone; Last updated 140425

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