You probably can’t tell from the casino floor between the psychedelic carpeting and the pretty waitress serving you drinks, but outside of Las Vegas are miles upon miles of some of the most beautiful desert landscape in all of the Southwest. And right in Vegas’s backdoor is the gorgeous Red Rock National Conservation area. Red Rock Canyon is the quickest way to get out of Vegas and get into nature, and because it is not as well-known worldwide as the Grand Canyon and other nearby sites, you will see relatively little traffic (both people and vehicle) even on the busiest of Vegas weekends.
Getting there is easy. The fastest is hoping on the 215 west and taking the Charleston exit then continuing west. The easiest way and the least miles is by heading just north of the strip (a bit North of Sahara blvd) to Charleston, and taking Charleston West until you’re there. The trip is 15-30 minutes tops, if you’re in a cab for an hour then the driver is steeling from you.
Obviously Red Rock Canyon is named for the beautiful color of the stone all across the canyon. Mineral deposits give much of the rock a deep red hue that is absolutely stunning. Some of the formations are layered almost as if a painter took his brush and created red, blue, grey, and green patterns across each. This against the stunning backdrop of distant larger hills, and the flat desert landscape and beautiful desert bloom in the spring and summer makes for a completely different Vegas experience.
Red Rock Canyon is part of 197,000 acres inside the Mojave Desert, and is of great interest to geologists worldwide because of the unique stone features, and of course because of its beauty. Another interesting feature that can only be found here and in a few other places in the world is petrified wood. Within this solidified wood many fossils of now extinct species are found. A Joshua tree is a cactus, not a tree, but you can find many of these interesting cacti all about Red Rock. They are a twisting gnarl of spiked branches and are definitely something to see, just don’t try to climb one.
Unfortunately these miniature ponies are not for sale and you can’t even win them in a casino (plus they poop a lot). But really, when you first see a Burro you are going to want to take one home. These silly creatures are about 3 feet tall, and look just like a chubby little horse. They can be found all over Red Rock canyon and are a protected species. They run completely free playing little burro games and just being frankly, really freakin’ cute.
Red Rock canyon is just full of all kinds of unique wildlife from different sorts of birds to odd desert mammals and lizards. If you love wildlife and are in Vegas, you will definitely want to take the 20 minute trip to Red Rock Canyon. The Desert Tortoise is another rare and protected animal. This unlike the burro you can actually own, just don’t try to take it from the park, that is illegal. Also found within Red Canyon are:
Red Rock canyon has miles and miles of hiking trails, and many of the beautiful roads and trails throughout Red Rock Canyon are bike friendly. Some of the dozen or so trails you may want to check out range from just under a mile to 4 or 5 mile treks, all taking you through some of the most beautiful landscape the Southwest desert has to offer. In addition there are areas for rock climbing. And if you want to see more of Red Rock Canyon without all that annoying walking, check out the scenic drive, which does a full loop of the entire canyon.
So if you are in Vegas and want to get away from all the craziness of the strip for only a couple hours, Red Rock Canyon is the perfect opportunity.