birdandhike.com logo
Home | Wilderness | Hiking | Red Rocks | Backroads
Red Rock Canyon Scenic Loop Road
Backroads Around Las Vegas, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
Scenic Loop Road
Scenic Loop Road
West Charleston Blvd, approaching Scenic Loop Road (view W)

Note: Phase II of work on the Scenic Loop Road will cause slowing and delays through summer 2017.

Overview

The Red Rock Canyon Scenic Loop Road is the main paved road through Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area and makes a horse-shoe shaped loop off the north side of West Charleston Blvd. Many people think the Scenic Loop Road is Red Rock Canyon NCA, but while this is the most scenic area, it is only a small part of the NCA. The road is one-way and 12.5 miles long, so if visitors miss something (perhaps a parking lot was full), just finish the loop, drive 2.2 miles back to the entrance, and drive the loop again -- the entrance fee is good all day. The road runs north and uphill along the bright red Calico Hills, loops to the west below the gray La Madre Mountain Range (La Madre Mountain Wilderness Area), and curves back down and south along the red-and-white Red Rock Cliffs (Rainbow Mountain Wilderness Area) to the highway.

The road provides access to two Wilderness areas, numerous hikes, scenic pullouts, rock climbs, picnic areas, and lots of grand scenery with a variety of desert vegetation types.

Link to Road Map.

Scenic Loop Road
West Charleston Blvd, approaching Scenic Loop Road (view W)

Watch Out

Other than the standard warnings about driving in the desert, ...this is a fairly safe drive except that there are lots of sharp curves, pedestrians, bicycles, small animals, seemingly blind drivers, and people stopping in the middle of the road to take pictures. The road has no center line, but it is two lanes wide, so fast drivers will try to pass on curves and anywhere they want to give it a try. The maximum speed limit is 35 mph, but some sections are posted 15 mph. Drive slowly, enjoy the view, and pay attention to warning signs.

Don't hug the right shoulder on sharp right-hand curves as you might clip a bicycle or pedestrian.

While out, please respect the land and the other people out there, and try to Leave No Trace of your passage. Also, even though this road is short, be sure to bring what you need of the 10 Hiking Essentials.

Scenic Loop Road
West Charleston Blvd at Scenic Loop Road (view W)

Getting to the Scenic Loop Road

From Las Vegas, drive out West Charleston Blvd to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. Pay the fee and start the Scenic Loop Road.

The Road

From West Charleston Blvd (Table 1, Site 0519), the paved Scenic Loop Road runs northwest to the Entrance Station. After paying the entrance fee, the Scenic Loop Road stays right, although drivers can turn left into a parking area or exit the area back to West Charleston Blvd.

The Scenic Loop Road shortly passes the turnoff (Site 1526) to the Visitor Center, which can be seen on the hill to the left. If stopping at the Visitor Center, drivers can loop back to the Scenic Loop Road.

Scenic Loop Road
Turning onto Scenic Loop Road (view NW)

Continuing, the Scenic Loop Road runs up over a low hill and presents drivers with nice views of the Calico Hills ahead and on the right, plus views left towards the Red Rock Cliffs. After dropping through a wash, the road begins winding relentlessly uphill. Pay attention to caution signs, although most along here deal with pedestrians, crosswalks (Grand Circle Trail), and tortoises on the road.

Notice in these hills that the vegetation on the left side of the road burned in the 850-acre Loop Fire in 2005. Farther along, the fire burned both sides of the road. After almost 10 years, some of the vegetation is growing back, but it will be a long time before the desert gets back to normal.

Passing Mile Marker 1, the road climbs onto a ridgeline at Calico 1 Parking (Site 0523). This is a nice place to stop, take in the views, and perhaps do a hike or a rock climbing route. Be careful driving here and watch for drivers pulling out without looking and pedestrians wandering into the road.

Scenic Loop Road
Fee schedule (March 2013)

Beyond Calico 1, the road runs along the spine of a ridge. To the right are the Calico Hills, but between here and there, a deep chasm blocks easy travel. Hiking trails run in the bottom of the gully and on the far hillside, so drivers might see hikers below. The red cliffs are quite popular among rock climbers, and often colorful specks can be seen creeping up the walls.

To the left, the Red Rock Cliffs stand in the far distance, and most of the terrain between here and there burned in the 2005 fires.

Continuing to climb along the Calico Hills, the road reaches Calico 2 Parking (Site 0524). Similar to Calico 1, this site provides viewpoints and hiker access to the Calico Hills.

The road continues to climb along the spine of the ridge, providing grand views in both directions and passing Mile Marker 2. Quite close to the Calico Hills, the road crosses a highpoint and begins to descend towards Sandstone Quarry, which can be seen ahead in the near distance.

Scenic Loop Road
Red Rock Canyon Entrance Station (view NW)

Curving to the left, the Scenic Loop Road passes Sandstone Quarry Road (Site 0874). Sandstone Quarry Road provides access to a large parking area and trails to the historic quarry site and trails that run in all directions.

Past Sandstone Quarry Road, the Scenic Loop Road turns south on high ground adjacent to a wash. Passing Mile Marker 3, the road drops steeply into the wash and curves sharply to the right. I slid off the snow-covered road here and always take it easy these days.

The road begins climbing more steeply, and the winding road provides views in different directions. To the north are the gray limestone cliffs of the La Madre Mountain Range. Off to the right is the prominent Turtlehead Peak, a bit of the La Madre Range and a popular hiking destination. Ahead to the left, the White Rock Hills can be seen from time to time, as can the the Red Rock Cliffs off to the west. Just past Mile Marker 4, Turtlehead Peak rears its head high above the roadway, but keep an eye out for hikers in the crosswalk (second Grand Circle Trail crossing).

Scenic Loop Road
Fees: $7 per car; Bike, Motorcycle, and Pedestrians $3 each

Eventually the road curves to the left and the grade lessens. The road, however, begins to wind more sharply back and forth as it traverses the hillside running in and out of every wash. Be more careful on these curves than did other drivers (notice the skid marks running over the hillsides on the sharp curves).

The road winds up to the Highpoint parking area (Site 0403). This is a nice place to stop and enjoy views that stretch over the entire area. To the left (east), Turtlehead Peak stands high above the Calico Hills. Beyond the Calico Hills, urban Las Vegas can be seen in the distance. More straight ahead (south), the Visitor Center can be seen, and behind that is Blue Diamond Hill. Down the valley, views stretch past Highway 160, and of course, the Red Rock Cliffs tower above all views to the right (west). Don't miss the La Madre Range, standing high above the parking lot to the north.

Beyond the Highpoint, the road winds sharply past Mile Marker 5, then winds even more sharply as it begins to descend the hillsides. Be careful not to hug the right shoulder through here because walkers and bikers always seem to stop in the road where you can't see them (drivers tend to stop on the right too). The road eventually makes a long, straight run to the south. Watch the downhill speed here as the approaching curve is quite sharp.

Scenic Loop Road
Red Rock Canyon Entrance Station (view NW)

The Scenic Loop Road eventually turns west, passes Mile Marker 6, and arrives at White Rock Road (Site 0525), on the right. White Rock Road is a bumpy dirt road that runs north for 0.6 miles to White Rock Trailhead, which serves several hiking trails. At the intersection, watch again for hikers using the Grand Circle Trail crosswalk.

The Scenic Loop Road continues descending across the hillsides below the White Rock Hills, and the sharpest curves are now in the rearview mirror. The relatively long, straight sections provide nice views south across the valley and west to the Red Rock Cliffs.

The road runs down to cross a wash, then climbs past Mile Marker 7 as it runs up onto the side of the South Ridge of White Rock Hills. At a blind curve to the right, watch for pedestrian signs alerting drivers to a crosswalk where the Grand Circle Trail crosses the road for the last time.

The road turns a corner and begins descending across a hillside heading north towards Red Rock Canyon, eventually passing Willow Spring Road (Site 0526), on the right.

Scenic Loop Road
Departing the Entrance Station, stay right onto the Scenic Loop Road

Willow Springs Road runs north into the deep canyon between the Red Rock Cliffs on the left and the White Rock Hills on the right. This road provides access to Lost Creek Trailhead, Willow Springs Trailhead, Rocky Gap Road, interesting archaeological sites, numerous hiking trails, and Willow Springs Picnic Area.

Descending beyond Willow Springs, the road passes Mile Marker 8 and shortly arrives at Icebox Canyon Trailhead and Overlook. This is a nice place for a close-up view of the Red Rock Cliffs and a place to connect with trails along the bottom of the escarpment.

Descending beyond Icebox Canyon, the road runs down and eventually crosses Red Rock Wash. Use extra care when water is flowing across the road, and stay out of flashflood waters.

The road crosses the wash, climbs out the other side, curves left, passes Mile Marker 9, and shortly passes Red Rock Wash Road (Site 1524), on the left. Red Rock Wash Overlook provides a quiet place to stop and relax on benches overlooking the wash and the mountains beyond.

Scenic Loop Road
Hours of operation for the Visitor Center and the road (view N)

The area around Red Rock Wash Overlook is heavily vegetated with a diversity of shrubs and lots of Buckhorn Cholla cactus. A little farther along, the road enters the upper edge of the 2005 burn area. Driving along, notice the contrast between the left and right sides of the road. Eventually both sides are burned; this is a result of the 1,600-acre Scenic Fire of 2006.

The road makes a sweeping curve to the right, then climbs the hillside back into the unburned area and passes Mile Marker 10. Sweeping back to the left and running south, the road provides nice views of the valley and the Red Rock Cliffs.

Running fairly straight, the Scenic Loop Road passes Pine Creek Road (Site 0875). Pine Creek Road provides access to Pine Creek Trailhead and trails along the base of the escarpment.

Descending through a bit of a canyon, the Scenic Loop Road passes Mile Marker 11 and curves to the left, parallel to Pine Creek Wash. Along this section, notice the Ponderosa Pine, Canyon Live Oak trees, and other heavy shrubbery that thrive on water and cool breezes flowing down Pine Creek.

Scenic Loop Road
Turnoff to Visitor Center (view N)

On the left, the burned hillside is more of the 2006 Scenic Fire. The road runs fairly straight and flat out into the broad desert valley. After a gentle curve to the right, the road pass Mile Marker 12 on the banks of Pine Creek Wash (don't enter if flooded) and then passes Oak Creek Road (Site 0530). This road leads about 3/4-miles to Oak Creek Road Trailhead, which provides access to trails in the Oak Creek Canyon area and along the base of the Red Rock Cliffs.

Beyond Oak Creek Road, the Scenic Loop Road runs east across desert flats, then makes broad sweeping curves right and left to arrive at the exit from the Scenic Loop Road at West Charleston Blvd (Site 0532). Just to the left is the Scenic Road Exit Trailhead, which provides access to several trails on the desert flats.

From here, drivers can turn left to return to the Red Rock Visitor Center and Las Vegas, or turn right towards Spring Mountain Ranch State Park and the south end of Las Vegas.

Scenic Loop Road
Signs at turnoff to Visitor Center (view N)
Scenic Loop Road
Sign: One way next 13 miles (watch for crazy bikers!)
Scenic Loop Road
Sign: Tortoise Crossing - Caution! Tortoise on road
Scenic Loop Road
Keep an eye out for tortoises and other wildlife crossing the road
Scenic Loop Road
Really getting started on the Scenic Loop Road (view N)
Scenic Loop Road
Watch for pedestrians (view N)
Scenic Loop Road
Watch for more pedestrians on Grand Circle Trail (view N)
Scenic Loop Road
Calico Hills (view N)
Scenic Loop Road
Watch for upcoming curves (view N)
Scenic Loop Road
Watch for walkers too (view N)
Scenic Loop Road
Mile Marker 1
Scenic Loop Road
Calico 1 Parking
Scenic Loop Road
Loop Fire of 2005 and Red Rock Cliffs (view NW)
Scenic Loop Road
Approaching Calico 2 Parking (view N)
Scenic Loop Road
Calico 2 Parking (view N)
Scenic Loop Road
Mile Marker 2 (view N)
Scenic Loop Road
Loop Fire of 2005 and grand scenery (view N)
Scenic Loop Road
Steep hillside below the road (view N)
Scenic Loop Road
Climbing towards a high point (view NW)
Scenic Loop Road
Descending towards Sandstone Quarry
Scenic Loop Road
Descending towards Sandstone Quarry
Scenic Loop Road
Approaching Sandstone Quarry Road (view NW)
Scenic Loop Road
Sandstone Quarry Road, on the right (view NW)
Scenic Loop Road
Nice view of Red Rock Cliffs (view SW)
Scenic Loop Road
Mile Marker 3 (view SW)
Scenic Loop Road
Approaching bridge over Sandstone Wash (view W)
Scenic Loop Road
Bridge over Sandstone Wash (view W)
Scenic Loop Road
Historic Photo: crossing the flashflood-prone wash (view SW)
Scenic Loop Road
Climbing towards White Rock Hills (view NW)
Scenic Loop Road
Climbing towards the La Madre Mountain Range (view N)
Scenic Loop Road
Climbing towards the Red Rock Cliffs (view W)
Scenic Loop Road
Mile Marker 4
Scenic Loop Road
Turtlehead Peak (view NE)
Scenic Loop Road
Grand Circle Trail crossing (view N)
Scenic Loop Road
Climbing towards the La Madre Mountain Range (view N)
Scenic Loop Road
Climbing towards the Red Rock Cliffs (view W)
Scenic Loop Road
Skid marks -- yes, people really do skid off the road!
Scenic Loop Road
Starting to curve west (view N)
Scenic Loop Road
Climbing towards the highpoint (note sign; view S)
Scenic Loop Road
Approaching the Highpoint Scenic Overlook (view S)
Scenic Loop Road
Highpoint Scenic Overlook (view S)
Scenic Loop Road
Just past Highpoint Scenic Overlook (view N)
Scenic Loop Road
Mile Marker 5
Scenic Loop Road
Winding across the hillside (view W)
Scenic Loop Road
Again, winding across the hillside (watch the curve; view W)
Scenic Loop Road
Long straight -- watch the downhill speed ...
Scenic Loop Road
... because many people slide off the road here (view SW)
Scenic Loop Road
Gentle curve (view W towards White Rock Hills)
Scenic Loop Road
Another long, straight section -- watch the downhill speed ...
Scenic Loop Road
... but this curve isn't so sharp (view SW)
Scenic Loop Road
Approaching White Rock Road (view W)
Scenic Loop Road
Mile Marker 6
Scenic Loop Road
White Rock Spring Road, on the right (view W)
Scenic Loop Road
White Rock Spring Road sign (view W)
Scenic Loop Road
Gentle curve and grand view along the Red Rock Cliffs (view SW)
Scenic Loop Road
Descending towards the Red Rock Cliffs (view W)
Scenic Loop RoadGentle curves and grand view of the Red Rock Cliffs (view W) Scenic Loop Road
Descending towards a wash (view S)
Scenic Loop Road
Mile Marker 7 (view SW)
Scenic Loop Road
Climbing a last hill (view SW)
Scenic Loop Road
Watch for pedestrians (view W)
Scenic Loop Road
Grand Circle Trail crosses the road for a last time (view NW)
Scenic Loop Road
Descending into Red Rock Wash (view NW)
Scenic Loop Road
Approaching Willow Springs Road (view NW)
Scenic Loop Road
Willow Spring Road (view NW), on the right
Scenic Loop Road
Sweeping curve to the left (view SE)
Scenic Loop Road
Descending along Red Rock Wash (view SE)
Scenic Loop Road
Mile Marker 8 (view SE)
Scenic Loop Road
Approaching Ice Box Canyon Overlook (view SE)
Scenic Loop Road
Ice Box Canyon Overlook, both sides (view SE)
Scenic Loop Road
Ice Box Canyon Parking; watch for pedestrians (view SE)
Scenic Loop Road
Last sharp curve ahead (view E)
Scenic Loop Road
Approaching bridge over Red Rock Wash (view S)
Scenic Loop Road
Bridge over Red Rock Wash (view S)
Scenic Loop Road
Approaching bridge over Red Rock Wash (view S)
Scenic Loop Road
Bridge over Red Rock Wash (view S)
Scenic Loop Road
Historic Photo: Crossing Red Rock Wash (view S)
Scenic Loop Road
Historic Photo: Stranded van swept away when water rose again
Scenic Loop Road
Mile Marker 9 (view E)
Scenic Loop Road
Approaching turnoff to Red Rock Wash Overlook
Scenic Loop Road
Red Rock Wash Overlook turnoff sign (view E)
Scenic Loop Road
Scenic Loop Road at Red Rock Wash Overlook turnoff (view NE)
Scenic Loop Road
Scenic Fire (2006) burned the right side (view E)
Scenic Loop Road
Scenic Fire (2006) burned both sides (view E)
Scenic Loop Road
Climbing back towards the Red Rock Cliffs (view NW)
Scenic Loop Road
Climbing back towards the Red Rock Cliffs (view NW)
Scenic Loop Road
Mile Marker 10 (view W)
Scenic Loop Road
Curving along the escarpment
Scenic Loop Road
Running along the escarpment
Scenic Loop Road
Long and straight (view S across the valley)
Scenic Loop Road
Long and straight (view S across the valley)
Scenic Loop Road
Long and straight (view S along Red Rock Cliffs)
Scenic Loop Road
Approaching Pine Creek Trailhead (view S)
Scenic Loop Road
Pine Creek Trailhead Road, on the right (view S)
Scenic Loop Road
Mile Marker 11 (view S)
Scenic Loop RoadBetween the Scenic Fire (left) and Pine Creek Wash (right; view SE)
Scenic Loop Road
Long, straight road during winter (view SE)
Scenic Loop Road
Long, straight road during summer (view SE)
Scenic Loop Road
Sign about the Scenic Fire (view NE)
Scenic Loop Road
Again, watch for water across the road (view SE)
Scenic Loop Road
Approaching Pine Creek Wash during summer (view S)
Scenic Loop Road
Approaching Pine Creek Wash during spring (view S)
Scenic Loop Road
Mile Marker 12 during winter (view S)
Scenic Loop Road
Mile Marker 12 during summer (view S)
Scenic Loop Road
Crossing Pine Creek Wash (view S)
Scenic Loop Road
Approaching Oak Creek Road during summer (view S)
Scenic Loop Road
Oak Creek Road, on the right (view SE)
Scenic Loop Road
Long and straight across desert flats (view E)
Scenic Loop Road
Broad, sweeping curve right (view SE) ...
Scenic Loop Road
... broad, sweeping curve left (view S)
Scenic Loop Road
Approaching the end of the Scenic Loop Road
Scenic Loop Road
Tire spikes - don't back up
Scenic Loop Road
Scenic Loop Road at West Charleston Blvd (view E)
Scenic Loop Road
Various travel options (view SE)
Table 1. Highway Coordinates based on GPS data (NAD27; UTM Zone 11S). Download Highway GPS Waypoints (*.gpx) file.
Site Location Latitude (N) Longitude (W) Elevation (ft) Point-to-Point Distance (mi) Cumulative Distance (mi)
0519 Hwy 159 at Scenic Loop Rd Entrance 36.13169 115.42062 3,681 0.00 00.00
1526 Scenic Loop Rd at Visitor Center Rd 36.13421 115.42327 3,707 0.27 00.27
0523 Calico 1 parking area 36.14595 115.42991 3,995 1.19 01.19
0524 Calico 2 parking area 36.15180 115.43653 4,097 0.57 01.76
0874 Scenic Loop Rd at Sandstone Quarry 36.16042 115.44812 4,280 0.93 02.69
0403 Scenic Loop Highpoint 36.17063 115.46532 4,780 2.02 04.71
0525 Scenic Loop Rd at White Rock Rd 36.16600 115.47418 4,664 1.14 05.85
0526 Scenic Loop Rd at Willow Springs Rd 36.15603 115.48927 4,441 1.54 07.39
0522 Scenic Loop Rd Icebox Canyon Parking 36.15028 115.48328 4,288 0.54 07.93
1524 Scenic Loop Rd at RR Wash Overlook Rd 36.14223 115.47232 4,144 0.97 08.90
0875 Scenic Loop at Pine Creek Rd 36.12959 115.47238 4,061 1.60 10.50
0530 Scenic Loop Rd at Oak Creek Rd 36.11692 115.45570 3,804 1.36 11.86
0532 Hwy 159 at Scenic Loop Rd Exit 36.11116 115.44850 3,846 0.65 12.51

Happy Hiking! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 170829

Backroads Hiking Around Las Vegas Glossary Copyright, Conditions, Disclaimer Home

 

Google Ads