Las Vegas is a city of bright lights and distractions, and it can be hard to fit all the fun things to do into your schedule. Whether you’re visiting the area for work or vacation or live nearby, we recommend making time to explore Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area.
Located only a short drive away from the Las Vegas Strip, this scenic landscape offers an abundance of world-class hiking trails. Maximize your adventure by finding a trail that best suits your needs. Here are four great Red Rock Canyon hiking trails to try when your time is limited.
Although the Mojave Desert is known for being hot, you can still find many hidden oases to explore. Take a hike into Ice Box Canyon and experience some natural air conditioning. The first mile or so of this trail is exposed to the desert sun, but when you enter the canyon, you can feel the temperatures noticeably drop as the sandstone walls rise upward. Walk around or splash through refreshing pools of water, scramble over boulders, and enjoy the lush greenery. This hike offers a full-body workout as you navigate up the canyon using your hands and feet. Many hikers feel as though they’ve covered more distance than 2.4 miles by the time they complete this hike. In the spring season, you may have the pleasure of seeing seasonal waterfalls caused by winter snowmelt.
No need to jump in your time machine today; this trail passes by plenty of historic points including an old homestead, a stand of ponderosa pine trees that took root some 10,000 – 11,000 years ago and has survived the millennia, and a small grove of apple trees dating back to the early 20th century. This trail is often measured as an out-and-back to the homestead (one mile each way) and can also include a short loop through the canyon that adds approximately one mile. If you want to see more, take a small detour onto the Fire Ecology Loop to learn first hand how nature’s recovery process works in the desert. Lastly, look around you and notice the mountains in the distance—Mount Wilson, Rainbow Mountain, Mescalito—these peaks rise up to over 7,000 ft in elevation and provide a stunning contrast against the surrounding desert.
With so much to see in a short distance, this trail is a great outdoor activity for your entire family. As your kids’ little legs take big steps up the trail, stop at each of the nine trail posts along the way to expand everyone’s knowledge about the area. Keep an eye out for bighorn sheep, prickly pear cactus and even banana yucca. Swing by the Red Rock Canyon Visitor Center to pick up a trail map before you go.
Take a step away from the hustle and bustle of the Las Vegas Strip for a few moments of quiet in the great outdoors. The Grand Circle Loop avoids the most heavily used trails in Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area and provides an antidote to the noise of the big city. You will need the better part of a day to complete the entire hike, or you can enjoy part of the loop as an out-and-back. Throughout this route, you may come across a diversity of flora and fauna including chuckwalla lizards, prickly pear cactus, Joshua trees and even wild burros. You can begin your hike from several different trailheads along Scenic Drive. Although you can’t go wrong with any starting point, we recommend jumping on the trail near the Visitor Center.
The weather in southern Nevada’s Mojave Desert can be a gamble. Familiarize yourself with seasonal weather patterns as you’re planning your trip and check the forecast before you head out on your hike. Red Rock Canyon weather can range from hot summers where daytime temperatures exceed 115 degrees Fahrenheit, to cold winters with potential for snow flurries, and seasonal monsoons storms that generate dangerous flash floods and lightning storms.
Before you arrive at the conservation area, leave a detailed itinerary with someone who is not with you. It’s also a good habit to pack the Ten Essentials. Cell service is not reliable while hiking in the desert.
A good rule of thumb is to pack one liter of water per hour that you will be hiking through the desert. Learn more about how to stay hydrated.