Just 30 minutes from downtown Las Vegas is Red Rock Canyon, an outdoor playground for hikers, families, and outdoor adventurers. Go mountain biking, rock climbing, explore the hiking trails, and enjoy the view on the scenic drive through the park. If you want to escape the bright, neon lights and all-you-can-eat food buffets for a little outdoor adventure, Red Rock Canyon is calling your name.
Red Rock Canyon
Arriving at Red Rock Canyon
After paying your entry fee ($7 in 2018) at the fee station, you will enter the scenic loop drive. This one-way loop takes you past all of the trailheads and viewpoints in the park. Make sure you know which stop you need because if you drive past it, you will have to drive the entire loop to get back to that place.
How to choose your hiking trail
There are 26 hiking trails to choose from at Red Rock Canyon. So how do you decide which ones to do?
When you pay your entrance fee, you will be given a park map that includes brief descriptions of each trail. It can be very difficult to pick your perfect hike from this limited information. Planning ahead is the best thing to do (which is why you are reading this!).
Using the Red Rock Canyon website and other travel blogs, we picked several hikes to do. The four of us spent about half a day on the trails. We only saw a fraction of the park, so we can’t comment on what the best trails are, but we can recommend the trails we hiked. And recommend them, we do. If you like the idea of rock scrambling, exploring narrow canyons, and having a sweeping view over the city of Las Vegas, put these two hikes on your list.
You don’t have to drive very far to get to the first trailhead. About a one-minute drive from the Visitor Center is the turn-off for Calico 1. The Calico Hills are a large cluster of red and orange rocks that are laced with hiking trails and canyons to explore. This is a very fun spot to wander through, without any real route to follow.
From the car park, we hiked downhill and then followed the trail to the right, weaving our way down into the canyon. There are slot-like canyons to explore and places to go rock scrambling. This is very fun place, especially if you are here with kids.
I recommend following the trail downhill, in the direction of the park entrance, for a little ways. The farther you get from the car park, the more people you leave behind, and the better the experience gets.
Prior to our trip to Las Vegas, I printed these hiking directions which takes you through some scenic spots in Calico Hills. We followed the directions for a little bit but then wandered around on our own, hiking the trails that looked interesting to us.
The trails here connect Calico 1 with the Calico 2 car park. You can follow the trail all of the way up to Sandstone Quarry (the start of the next hike), but your car will still be at Calico 1. I recommend exploring the area between Calico 1 and 2 and then moving on to the next hike.
Just a short drive from Calico 1 is the Sandstone Quarry parking lot. Park here and look for sign marking the trail to Calico Tanks.
The hike to Calico Tanks is 2.5 miles round trip and takes about two hours. This hike takes you up and over sandstone rocks to a viewpoint over the city of Las Vegas. This is a very fun hike with ever-changing views and just enough rock scrambling to keep things interesting.
The trail is relatively well marked the entire way. We did lose the trail, briefly, in one or two spots, but with a little backtracking found our way again.
The Calico Tanks Trail is a blast and the view over Las Vegas is icing on the cake. We highly recommend this hike.
This trail is moderately strenuous with short sections of rock scrambling. We saw people of all ages on this trail, from Moms carrying toddlers in baby carriers, 5 year olds scrambling up and over boulders, and hikers in their 70’s.
By now it was early afternoon. We visited Red Rock Canyon on a late December day between Christmas and New Years Eve, and it was really getting busy. We finished the scenic drive and then drove back to Las Vegas. Sure, you can spend all day at Red Rock Canyon, but we also wanted to show Tyler and Kara some of the Las Vegas strip.
Our Lunch/Dinner Recommendation
Located between Red Rock Canyon and downtown Las Vegas is Juan’s Flaming Fajitas and Cantina. At the time of our visit, this restaurant was ranked #1 in Las Vegas on Trip Advisor so we just had to check it out.
If you like the idea of fajitas, enchiladas, nachos, or margaritas after exploring Red Rock Canyon, go to Juan’s. The food is very good and the portions are huge. Plus, the prices are slightly cheaper than getting lunch or dinner on the strip.
Travel Tip: Get to Red Rock Canyon Early!!
Red Rock Canyon is a popular place to visit. We were here on December 27th. When we exited the park at around 12:30 pm, the line to enter the park was over one mile long!!
When arrived at 8 am, there was no line and no problem finding a parking space. The parking lots at Red Rock Canyon have very limited spaces with no overflow parking available. I couldn’t help but wonder where all of these people were going to park once they finally entered the park.
Getting to Red Rock Canyon
Red Rock Canyon is located due west of Las Vegas. From the city, you can see these mountains on the horizon. To get here, it helps to have your own car. There is no public transportation to Red Rock Canyon, although there are tour companies that can provide a tour and transportation for you. See the Red Rock Canyon website for more information.
Have You Heard of the Valley of Fire?
As a side note, the day before our visit to Red Rock Canyon we visited the Valley of Fire, another park that makes a great day trip from Las Vegas.
Both Tyler and Kara want you to know that Red Rock Canyon is a lot more fun to hike and explore than the Valley of Fire, in their opinion. Tim and I agree with them, Red Rock Canyon is more fun. However, I think the Valley of Fire is the more visually interesting of these two parks. Take a look at this post to see for yourself.
Have you been to Red Rock Canyon? What hikes have you done that you recommend? Comment below!