When you think of Las Vegas Nevada, what words typically come to mind? Gambling? Entertainment? Partying? Debauchery? 24 hour marriages? How about hiking paradise? Red Rock Canyon certainly fits the bill.
Often taking a back seat to its flashier reputation for over-the-top indulgence and extreme extravagance, Las Vegas also offers some of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring hiking trails in North America. And the best part – they are all in close proximity to the city. When you visit, you can easily combine the excitement of the Vegas strip with the peace and tranquility of soaring mountain ranges and glorious natural architecture. The best of both worlds!
And no trip to Las Vegas would be complete without a visit to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. Having been blown away by spectacular hiking trips to Grand Canyon and Sedona, I’m happy to say Red Rock holds its own – and then some.
What makes Red Rock Canyon so amazing, is the fact that there are so many spectacular hikes literally right next to each other. For this reason, I am going to break this post into two parts. Today’s post will feature some hiking locations you can access from the various free parking lots to the east of the main park entrance and Scenic Loop Drive. Tomorrow I will cover the Scenic Loop experience.
As the name suggests, Red Rock Canyon provides the opportunity to get some of that famous red dirt on your hiking boots similar to hiking in Sedona. But what makes the area even cooler, is the wide variety of rock and natural architecture featured in the area. From bright red rock, to striking stripped stone, to rough and jagged volcanic-like crags, Red Rock Canyon offers a little bit of everything. You could hike for a week straight in the area and see something different and unique each and every day.
Trails to suit all skill and fitness levels of hikers are available. From challenging steep ascents and difficult scrambles, to long and leisurely nature strolls through valleys, there is something to appeal to everyone. And the best part is that each hike offers spectacular views that will not disappoint. Here are some of our personal favorites.
Guardian Angel Pass in Calico Basin. This was our first hike in Red Rock Canyon and an excellent introduction to the area. Not an extremely long hike, but it features some challenging climbing and fun scrambling. At the top, you have a really nice view of the surrounding mountains and it gives you a decent lay of the land to plan your future hikes.
Slab Rift Route over Calico Hills. Took some thinking to plan a safe and reasonable ascent and descent. Best part was reaching the top and walking across the Calico Hills. We probably spent a couple hours grabbing lunch, enjoying the spectacular views and exploring the area. Excellent overall views in every direction. Boggled my mind that so many people only choose to drive the Scenic Route and see things from the bottom. Really missing out on something spiritually uplifting. Nothing clears your head and energizes your soul like a 4000 ft elevation.
Gateway Canyon around Kraft Mountain. Perhaps our favorite hike of them all. We took this journey on our last day – maybe the fact that we said our goodbyes to this incredible destination made it extra special for us. The start of this hike is deceivingly grueling – just a sandy path that winds its way around the side of Kraft Mountain. You don’t really see the gradual elevation, but you certainly feel it. But the pay-off is well worth it. Once you reach the far side and descend into the canyon, its like entering another world. Beautifully smooth rock with striking pink tiger stripes are everywhere. You can literally swoop down on some areas like a playground slide – which was tons of fun for our daughter. Can’t recommend this hike enough. Simply spectacular.
Again, this is just a small fraction of the hiking trails available on the east side of Red Rock Canyon. You could spend several weeks there and not get bored. Tomorrow I will touch on the Scenic Drive Loop and some of the fantastic sites and trails available. And stay tuned for our visit to the Valley of Fire – I now know what it must feel like to walk on the surface of Mars. For now, back to the cage.