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Know before you go: Red Rock Canyon hikes

Red Rock Canyon entrance sign

Planning to do some Red Rock Canyon hikes on your next trip to Vegas? Here are five things you should know before hitting the Red Rock Canyon trails!

1. THE LOOP IS ONE-WAY!

I’ve made this mistake on two separate trips, and I want to prevent you from doing the same! So take heed: The scenic drive that goes around the entire recreational area is one-way. That means if you miss the parking lot you’re looking for to get to your trailhead, your only choice is to continue around the 13-mile loop and circle back, which can take upward of 30 minutes. The visitor’s center is located just after the entrance, so if you need to buy water or anything else before your hike, don’t miss it!

Red Rock Canyon out a car window

2. IT’S NOT FREE TO ENTER

Red Rock Canyon charges $15 per vehicle for the day, so don’t forget to bring money with you. They DO honor the America the Beautiful annual pass (also known as the National Parks pass) if you have it, though, and if you don’t have it, you can pick one up there for $80. Read more about admission here

Carly in front of Calico Hills
Calico Hills in Red Rock Canyon
White stone mountain

3. THE OPTIONS ARE DIVERSE

Contrary to what the name may lead you to believe, not all the rocks in Red Rock Canyon are red! You’ll find the brightest hues right near the beginning of the scenic loop at Calico Hills, but later on, you’ll see plenty of grays and whites, as well as an array of landscapes, plant life and geological features. The park even contains petroglyphs etched in the rock that experts estimate are at least 800 years old (don’t miss these, as they’re very quick to get to—see below!). 

Red rock formation
Berries on a bush
Joshua trees in Red Rock Canyon
Desert plants in Red Rock Canyon

4. SOME RED ROCK CANYON TRAILS ARE A LITTLE MORE LIKE…FOOTPATHS

Let’s put it this way: When the Red Rock Canyon website says “easy,” it really means easy. We did two “hikes” in that category (Willow Spring Loop and Petroglyph Wall) on my latest visit, and they were more like very short walks. If you’re looking for a workout, I’d definitely recommend choosing one labeled “moderate” or “strenuous.”

Petroglyphs in Red Rock Canyon
Red Rock Canyon petroglyphs

5. RED ROCK CANYON TRAILS AREN’T ALL WELL MARKED

I can’t speak for all Red Rock Canyon trails, but the ones I tried to do were EXTREMELY difficult to follow. Signs are infrequent and confusing, and I have no idea whether we ever actually did the Willow Spring Loop or not ?Definitely bring a paper map with you or see if you can screen shot some maps on your phone beforehand, as cell service is sparse around the park. 

Also, you can totally disregard the hike times on the website. For instance, it puts Petroglyph Wall—a distance of 0.2 miles—at 30 minutes, when it’s more like…3? Similarly, it put the Willow Spring Loop average at 1.25 hours for 1 mile. I’m not even sure what you’d have to do to make a mile-long walk take more than an hour, and I have a tough time believing that it takes ANYONE that long—unless you totally lose the trail and spend tons of time wandering around trying to find it like we did!

Jake walking a path in Red Rock Canyon
Boulder on the path

CHECK OUT THESE POSTS FOR MORE ON LAS VEGAS:

One day in Las Vegas
The off-Strip guide to Las Vegas
Exploring the Las Vegas Neon Museum
Las Vegas tips: Know before you go
Staying at the MGM Grand Signature hotel in Las Vegas

Are you planning any Red Rock Canyon hikes? What other questions do you have? Let me know in the comments! >>

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5 tips to know for hiking in Red Rock Canyon
5 Things you should know about hiking in Red Rock Canyon
The best Red Rock Canyon hiking Tips

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Carly

February 13, 2019

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