Towering behind the Las Vegas skyline, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area’s iconic red-banded peaks are one of Southern Nevada’s most beloved outdoor destinations. More than 2 million people visit Red Rock Canyon each year to hike, bike, rock climb and more. Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is located 20 miles west of Las Vegas, Nevada. This 197,000-acre area provides a 13-mile scenic drive, more than 30 miles of hiking trails, picnic areas, and a Visitor Center with exhibit rooms and a bookstore. One of the first things to strike a visitor’s eye is the stunning rock formations and their red coloring. The sandstone formations are the result of millions of years of formation. In far-ancient times, shallow seas once covered this land. Tectonic movement of the earth’s crust forced this land to rise, draining the seas. In the arid times that followed, sand dunes began to form. The sandstone at Red Rock is an example of this. Over the course of time, the dunes became hardened through water, winds, and even some particles blowing in from the nearby mountains of limestone, which are visible all around the sandstone formations at Red Rock Canyon. The red color comes from the rock being exposed to the elements causing the iron particles to oxidize, or as we commonly refer to it–rust.
The first humans were attracted to the Red Rock area due to its resources of water, plant, and animal life that could not be easily found in the surrounding desert. Hunters and gatherers such as the historical Southern Paiute and the much older Archaic, or Desert Culture Native Americans, have successively occupied this area. As many as six different Native American cultures may have been present at Red Rock over the millennia. In 1967, the Bureau of Land Management designated 10,000 acres as the Red Rock Recreation Lands. By 1990, special legislation changed the status of the Red Rock Recreation Lands to a National Conservation Area, a status that also provides funds to maintain and protect it.
Fossils can be found in numerous places throughout the park. The majority of easily identified fossils are small, simple sea creatures or plant life whose remains have hardened into today’s limestone. Although remote, dinosaur tracks can be located as well. The most spectacular find was in 2013 when geologists uncovered the oldest identified fossil of a land animal ever found in Nevada, vertebrae between 220 to 230 million years old. The most impressive geologic feature of the park rests in an area known as the Keystone Thrust. Here, the ancient limestone has been pushed up and over the much younger Sandstone rock. This is the result of a process known as “subduction” where certain parts of earth’s plate drop and other plates are thrust over them. This particular fault line stretches thousands of miles northward, but here at Red Rock is the best place to actually observe the results of the folding of rocks under pressure. The best observation points in the park are along the Rocky Gap Road, which can be hiked from Willow Springs or reached via a four-wheel drive.
—- Location —-
Red Rock Canyon is located on the west side of Las Vegas, Nevada. To get to Red Rock Canyon from McCarran International Airport get on I-215 west and follow it 15 miles to exit 26. Take exit 26 and get on NV-159 (West Charleston Boulevard) and follow the signs to the entrance of Red Rock Canyon.
—- Park Camping —-
Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area has one developed campground. Red Rock Canyon Campground is located two miles east of the visitor center on West Charleston Blvd (State Route 159). This campground offers 71 individual sites and 7 group sites. The campground is closed in the summer due to extremely high temperatures. There are no electrical, water and sewer hook-ups. There is no dump station for recreational vehicles. There are no showers. Shade structures are available throughout the group sites and many of the individual sites. Backcountry camping is allowed within Red Rock Canyon NCA above 5,000 feet; backpack camping along the Rocky Gap Road is popular. The backcountry area is remote with no drinking water or firewood for campfires. There is no developed trail system in the backcountry.
—- Free Camping —-
Based on https://freecampsites.net/#!Las Vegas, NV, United States there are 14 free campsites with 24 miles of Las Vegas, Nevada.
—- Area Camping —-
—- Hiking & Biking & Horseback Riding —-
There are 26 hiking trails to choose from at Red Rock Canyon. For great exercise and beautiful views of Red Rock Canyon, pedal along several trails in Cottonwood Valley. This designated area is just south of the scenic drive, right off highway 160. There are more than 50 miles of stacked loops; pick the adventure and distance right for you! Horseback riding is allowed on dirt roads and two-tracks, and on some designated foot trails. Riding is prohibited on paved roads unless crossing is necessary or if the road is closed. Inquire at the visitor center for more information about trails open for horseback riding. Guided horseback rides in the Red Rock Canyon area are also available.
—- Things to do —-
Red Rock Canyon’s 13-Mile Scenic Drive doubles as a backcountry byway. It is a 13-mile, paved, one-way scenic drive that passes through arid desert landscapes, red and buff colored rock formations, beautiful sandstone and limestone cliffs that reach elevations of 7,000 feet. Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is one of the finest rock climbing areas in the world. If you have never climbed at Red Rock Canyon and are unfamiliar with route locations, a climbing guide is available with photos, route descriptions, and directions to provide you a brief idea of where to find established traditional and sports routes.
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