Situated just 17 miles west of the bustling Las Vegas Strip, Red Rock Canyon offers a serene and awe-inspiring escape into nature. From breathtaking hikes to off-roading adventures, we're here to guide you through all the wonders Red Rock Canyon offers. Join us as we share our personal experiences, essential tips, and must-see spots in this stunning desert landscape.

We have a gear review segment on the Midland MXT575 and Midland GXT1000VP4 GMRS handheld radios, perfect for staying connected on the road. Let's get ready to explore and discover the hidden gems of Red Rock Canyon together!

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Why Red Rock Canyon Near Las Vegas Should Be on Your Bucket List

This conservation area, managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), has outdoor activities and breathtaking scenery. At the heart of Red Rock Canyon is the 13-mile scenic drive loop, a one-way journey that takes you through some of the most stunning vistas in the Mojave Desert. This loop provides easy access to miles of hiking trails, rock climbing spots, horseback riding paths, mountain biking tracks, and even a 4×4 trail, ensuring there's something for every adventurer.

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One of the highlights of the visitor center is the live desert tortoise habitat, offering a unique opportunity to observe these fascinating creatures up close. Red Rock Canyon features towering red sandstone formations and ancient petroglyphs. Whether you're an avid hiker, a photography enthusiast, or simply looking for a peaceful retreat, Red Rock Canyon is a must-visit destination that showcases the diverse beauty of the desert landscape.

Wildlife in Red Rock Canyon

Red Rock Canyon has a vibrant habitat for diverse wildlife. Common sightings include desert tortoises, often seen slowly walking across the trails or basking in the sun. They have signs in the park telling you to look under your car before moving. Bird watchers will delight in the variety of bird species that call Red Rock Canyon home. 

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Guide to Hiking Trails in Red Rock Canyon

With 26 numbered hikes, each trail provides unique opportunities to explore the stunning landscapes and natural beauty of the Mojave Desert. From easy strolls with minimal elevation gain to challenging climbs that reward you with panoramic views, there’s a hike for everyone. Here are three standout trails:

Calico Tanks Trail: The Calico Tanks Trail is a moderate hike from the Sandstone Quarry parking lot. This 2.5-mile round-trip trail winds through a scenic wash and offers sweeping views of the Las Vegas Valley. Hikers can explore natural water tanks, or “tinajas,” which may contain water during some seasons. The trail’s rocky terrain and vibrant sandstone formations make it a favorite among visitors seeking adventure and stunning landscapes.

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Keystone Thrust: The Keystone Thrust Trail, starting from the Upper White Rock parking lot, is a 2.2-mile round-trip hike that offers an opportunity to see one of Red Rock Canyon’s most significant geological features. This moderate trail showcases the collision of two tectonic plates, resulting in stunning rock formations and a unique geological history. 

Lost Creek—Children’s Discovery Trail: The Lost Creek—Children’s Discovery Trail is an easy and family-friendly hike located in the Lost Creek area of Red Rock Canyon. This 0.75-mile trail has a variety of plant life and cultural sites. Depending on the season and recent rain or snow, there may be a waterfall. The trail is a blend of rocky, uneven terrain and a boardwalk path, making it accessible and engaging for hikers of all ages.

Off-Roading Fun in Red Rock Canyon

For those seeking an off-road adventure in Red Rock Canyon, Rocky Gap Road is a must-explore trail. Known for its rugged terrain and breathtaking scenery, this trail is for more experienced off-roaders. Rated as moderate to difficult, it presents a variety of obstacles, including rocky sections, steep inclines, and narrow passages. This trail is best suited for off-roaders who have experience navigating rugged terrain and are equipped with a high-clearance, four-wheel-drive vehicle. As you navigate Rocky Gap Road, you’ll encounter hidden canyons and panoramic vistas that provide incredible photo opportunities. 

Rocky Gap Road Red Rock Canyon
Red Rock Canyon Scenic Loop Drive (in yellow) + Rocky Gap Road (in red)

Tips for First-Time Visitors

Best Times to Visit: The ideal times to visit Red Rock Canyon are during the fall and spring when the weather is mild and pleasant, perfect for exploring the great outdoors. During these seasons, temperatures are comfortable, allowing for extended hikes and outdoor activities. If you plan to visit in the summer, aim for early mornings or late afternoons to avoid the intense midday heat. 

Preparation and Safety: Proper preparation is key to a safe and enjoyable visit to Red Rock Canyon. Pack plenty of water to stay hydrated, sunscreen to protect against the desert sun, hats, and comfortable hiking shoes. Staying on designated trails is crucial for your safety and protecting the natural environment. Be aware of the local wildlife, and follow Leave No Trace principles to keep the area pristine for future visitors. Additionally, carrying a first aid kit and a map of the area can help you navigate and handle any minor injuries or issues that may arise.

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Permits and Fees: Timed reservations are required for vehicle entry between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. to access the scenic loop from October 1 through May 31. The entry fee is $20 per vehicle for a one-day pass. Alternatively, the America the Beautiful Annual Pass can be used for entry, offering great value for frequent visitors to national parks and federal recreational lands. For more details on fees and to make reservations, visit the Red Rock Canyon website.

Gear Review: GMRS Radios

GMRS radios are essential tools for RV travelers and outdoor enthusiasts. GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service) radios offer powerful communication capabilities, ensuring you stay connected even in remote areas. We reviewed two standout models: the Midland MXT575 and the Midland GXT1000VP4 handhelds.

The Midland MXT575 is one of the most powerful GMRS radios on the market, boasting an impressive 50 watts of broadcasting power. Priced at $399.99, this radio is perfect for those who need reliable long-range communication. It includes NOAA Weather Scan + Alert, which provides real-time weather updates and alerts, which are crucial for staying informed about changing conditions.

For those on a budget, the Midland GXT1000VP4 is a fantastic choice at just $79.99. This handheld two-way GMRS radio, with its 5 watts of broadcasting power, is ideal for shorter-range communication needs. 

Both are compatible with FRS and GMRS walkie-talkies and offer 15 high-power GMRS channels, ensuring clear and uninterrupted communication. 

It's worth noting that, as of May 3, 2024, acquiring a GMRS license from the Federal Communications Commission costs $35 and remains valid for a 10 years. This license covers the applicant and their immediate family members, making it a wise and cost-effective investment for frequent GMRS radio users.