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Six great things to do when visiting Nevada's Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. A short drive to escape the bustle of Las Vegas

About Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

Las Vegas is a high-octane, but fun place to visit but after a few days there you simply feel the need for something more sedate and relaxing to recharge your internal batteries. Located just 17-miles west of Vegas is Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.

Red Rock Canyon was designated as Nevada’s first National Conservation Area, which lies in the Mojave Desert. It’s known for geological features such as towering red sandstone peaks and the Keystone Thrust Fault, as well as Native American petroglyphs.


The 13-mile Scenic Drive through Red Rock Canyon allows visitors to explore the highs and lows of the canyon from their vehicle or bicycle, with many scenic stops and trailheads along the way.


The Calico Hills are among the most colourful and interesting geological features in Red Rock Canyon. These distinct crimson hills began as red sand dunes over 180M years ago, the remains of a dune field thought one of the largest to ever form on earth.

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

Calico Hills in Red Rock Canyon


Scenic Loop Road Highpoint is located about 4.7 miles around the 13-mile Scenic Loop Road, and at 4,780 feet, and is the highest point on the road.

The views to the south are amazing. Turn to the left and you will see Turtlehead Peak towering above the landscape. Below Turtlehead are the red-and-white sandstone Calico Hills. To the right are the Wilson Cliffs: the grand Red Rock escarpment.

The natural view is to look out and downhill, but don’t forget to turn around and look north at the limestone La Madre Mountain Range.


The view from High Point Overlook along the scenic drive.


A short distance along the scenic drive from the High Point Overlook is a turn off for the trailhead to Keystone Thrust.

Hike along this trail to see the intersection of great and colourful 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.

Distance 2.4 miles; Average time: 1.5hrs; Difficulty: MODERATE


This self-guided interpretive trail introduces visitors of all ages to the many different features of the Mojave Desert at Red Rock Canyon, including pictographs, lessons of desert life, towering views, and a hidden seasonal waterfall (December-April) in the canyon.


There are a few canyon trails in the Red Rock Canyon area. The most popular are Ice Box Canyon Trail which is 2.3-miles long and Pine Creek Canyon Trail which is a 3.4-mile trail. Both are in and out trails and are very popular, so you’ll likely meet fellow hikers along the way. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on a leash.

Ice Box Canyon
Pine Creek Canyon

Getting there

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is only 30 minutes from the Las Vegas Strip.   If you are using a GPS unit, please type in Red Rock Canyon Visitor Center, or 3205 State Highway 159, Las Vegas, NV 89161.  

Public transportation does not extend to Red Rock Canyon.  Tour buses and commercial tours may be available from your hotel. 

Driving Directions from the Las Vegas Strip south of Russell Road:

  • Get on to the I-15 south
  • Take exit 36 for Russell Road/215 west    
  • Keep left at the fork, follow signs for Interstate 15 south    
  • Keep right at the fork, follow signs for 215 west and merge onto 215 west for 13.5 miles
  • Take exit 26 for Charleston Boulevard and turn left
  • Continue onto State Route 159/ West Charleston Boulevard for 5.5 miles
  • Turn right into the entrance of Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area 

Driving Directions from the Las Vegas Strip north of Russell Road:

  • Get on to the I-15 north
  • Take exit 42A to merge onto US-95 north toward Reno for 6.8 miles
  • Take exit 81A toward Summerlin Parkway and drive west for 6.5 miles
  • The freeway will end, exit right to get on to 215 south for 3.5 miles
  • Take exit 26 for Charleston Boulevard/State Route 159 for 5.5 miles
  • Turn right into the entrance of Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

Driving Directions from State Route 160 

  • Get on to the I-15
  • Take exit 33 toward State Route160 west /Blue Diamond Road    
  • Keep right at the fork and merge onto State Route 160 west /Blue Diamond Road for 10.5 miles
  • Turn right onto State Route 159 east/Charleston Boulevard (opposite the gas station) drive for 10.5 miles
  • Turn left into the entrance of Red Rock Canyon 

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