In our second blog post covering Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, we will take a look at the Scenic Loop Drive and main access to the park. The one-way loop (14.7 miles round trip, including the highway portion) offers an excellent opportunity for non-hikers to get a great view of Red Rock. There are some very steep undulating sections for the first five miles with switchbacks at the top. The 1,000-foot drop back to the Visitor Center at the park gates would be fun to tackle on a bike!
And what a fun bike tour it would be with so much wildlife and interesting vegetation along the way. As animal-lovers, we always appreciate the opportunity to see nature up close and personal. There are lots of wild burros along the drive that don’t mind posing for pictures. Just remember, as the signs state – don’t feed the animals!
Unlike the east side of Red Rock, the trails around Scenic Loop Drive are very well marked and generally well-groomed. There are over 20 major trail systems in Red Rock, all of which have their own unique views and features. We had a hard time deciding which trails to take, but we really weren’t disappointed with any of them.
Calico Tanks Trail
We really enjoyed the hike up to Calico Tanks. Good route finding skills are essential for this one. The distance is only around 2.5 miles, but the hike is moderately strenuous with lots of scrambling required. After seasonal rain, you can expect to see the “tanks” at the top holding water, which makes for a good photo op.
Rock Climbing Red Rock Canyon
One of the cool things about Red Rock is the popularity of rock climbing. There are climbers of all levels – novices tackling small boulders and seasoned cliff hangers taking on sheer and soaring rock faces. We actually came across a group of climbers wearing capes, prompting my daughter to yell, Look Daddy, its Superman! I got caught up in the thrills and descended my own little challenging rock face too. I could almost hear the Mission Impossible theme as I looked for little finger nooks and foot holds. Very exhilarating experience and a quick way to get down the mountain! Thankfully, not too quick!
We ended up doing several hikes in the Scenic Loop area including Willow Springs, La Madre Springs, Ice Box Canyon, Fire Ecology and Fern Canyon trail. All were excellent hikes with varied views and topography. We are very eager to return to explore the area further. We especially want to check out Brownstone Canyon. If you like to hike as much as we do, Red Rock Canyon is an excellent choice for an active getaway. You could easily spend a full week in this area alone. Highly recommended. For now, back to the cage.