Day trip to Red Rock Canyon National Park

Easily recognised by its a-thousand-metre-high walls of red, pink and cream Aztec sandstone, Red Rock Canyon is located just a few kilometres west of Las Vegas. The rock formations are about 190 million years old, encompassing 196,000 acres of the Mojave Desert, and as a result are an area of particular geologic interest.

Day passes can be purchased at the park’s entrance and visitors are invited to hike, bike or drive across the multitude of trails and routes. Although hidden away from Las Vegas, you’ll find plenty of exciting excursions from Sin City to this prehistoric playground. For the ultimate experience, indulge in a hot air balloon ride over the canyon or complete your visit with an adrenaline-filled skydive.

Hikes and trails

Ranging from a kilometre to 10 kilometres in length, visitors can choose between 19 different hikes across the deep canyons of Red Rock.

Pass through desert valleys and the shade of canyon walls, passing seasonal waterfalls and diverse plant communities as you soak up the breathtaking views of the immense national park.

Lost Creek is perfect for those hiking with children. This easy, self-guided trail can be completed in around an hour and kids will marvel at ancient rock carvings on the walls, towering views across the Mojave Desert and a surprise waterfall in the canyon. For those looking for a more challenging trail, Turtlehead Peak offers eight kilometres of strenuous hiking, rewarding visitors with one of the best panoramic views of Red Rock Canyon at the top.

Climbing

Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a complete beginner, the Red Rocks of Southern Nevada provide routes for climbers of all abilities. Climbing courses are readily available, giving those new to the sport a solid foundation in all aspects of rock climbing, while the more accustomed can take advantage of a climbing guide to find the best routes and directions.

Recognised as one of the finest rock climbing areas in the world, you’ll find a wide variety of climbs across the Aztec sandstone from one-pitch sport climbs to long multi-pitch and crack climbing. Because sandstone is crumblier than other rocks like granite, your instructor will advise you to wait up to 48 hours after major rains to allow the rock to dry out sufficiently before climbing. But fortunately, it doesn’t rain all that much in Nevada.

Horseback riding

Experience the Wild West the authentic way, riding along the dusty trails of Red Rock Canyon National Park that were historically used by some of the most famous outlaws. Led by expert wranglers from local ranches, treks last between an hour to half day excursions and are suitable for all levels of rider. As you traverse through steep cliff walls keep your eyes open for road runners, deer and wild burro.

Biking

Cyclists are invited to make use of the 21-kilometre scenic drive route throughout the national park, it’s a small fee for a day pass. The paved, one-way loop is suitable for beginners but offers an excellent workout for even the experienced rider. Pass through Red Rock Canyon surrounded by cliffs up to 7,000 metres tall, spotting wild horses, desert foxes and bighorn sheep as you go.

Road and mountain bike rentals are available from nearby shops with cycle tour operators offering shuttle services between the national park and The Strip in downtown Las Vegas. You won’t find any facilities along the route so be sure to pack lots of water, tyre repair kits and sunscreen.

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