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Visiting Red Rock Canyon is one of the best things to do outside Las Vegas, so if you’re going to be in Sin City, you must go! In less than 30 minutes, you could be driving through an expansive display of red sandstone peaks and walking amidst thousands of years of geological history. No doubt why this is one of the most popular attractions in Nevada.
This place is an easy day trip from the Vegas Strip, so you can rent a car in Las Vegas or take one of the Red Rock Canyon tours from Las Vegas. Either way, you’ll be able to experience all the top things to do in Red Rock Canyon, like hiking, rock climbing, and the Scenic Drive.
We’ve visited this beautiful natural area during our trips to Vegas, and it’s always the perfect way to disconnect from the busy city and get some fresh air. Red Rock is also a great family attraction, especially the ancient petroglyphs you can find on the rock walls.
In this guide to Red Rock Canyon, I’ll share the 10 best things to do here, as well as information about tours, transportation, hours, and fees. By the end of this article, you’ll know everything you need to maximize your time and enjoy all that this place has to offer!
1. Red Rock Canyon Scenic Drive, a fun thing to do in Red Rock, Las Vegas
First, one of the most obvious things to do at Red Rock Canyon is to take a trip along the Scenic Drive. This 13-mile stretch is the perfect way to see Red Rock’s most famous attractions, so bring your camera!
Most people travel along this paved road in a car or on a bike. During the trip, you’ll pass trailheads, overlooks, gorgeous landscapes, and petroglyphs. I recommend hitting the road just after sunrise so you can see the red rocks in all their glory.
Currently, the Red Rock Canyon Scenic Drive requires a timed entry ticket, which you can reserve up to 30 days in advance here.
2. Calico Tanks Trail, one of the best hikes in Red Rock Canyon
If you’ve read our guide on the best hikes in Red Rock Canyon, you’ll know that the Calico Tanks Trail is an awesome route to do. The trail is just over 2 miles and offers magnificent views.
While the hike isn’t too long, it’s an intermediate route that requires a bit of scrambling and climbing. Your reward is some incredible overlooks and hidden treasures.
You’ll see the sandstone cliffs that make Red Rock Canyon Park so famous, as well as the Calico Tanks water hole. This hike is also a little history lesson, as you’ll pass an Indian roasting pit and stunning geological formations. Be sure to stop and take in the views!
3. Calico Hills, one of the most popular places in Red Rock Canyon, Nevada
Speaking of the Calico Tanks Trail, if you love hiking and want to further explore the area, check out Calico Hills. The trail runs from the basin at the base of the Calico Rocks to a beautiful sandstone summit.
Getting to this Red Rock Canyon overlook requires some hard work, so I only recommend it for experienced hikers. Of course, you’ll be rewarded with lovely views of the distinct red hills, which are millions of years old and began as dunes.
Climbing the impressive slickrock in this area is an incredible thing to do in Red Rock Canyon, and you’ll be able to get better views than you would on the Scenic Drive.
4. Ice Box Canyon, a stunning place to visit in Red Rock, Nevada
Another sight that you must see at Red Rock Canyon Park is Ice Box Canyon. It’s an especially magnificent attraction given the red sandstone that defines this conservation area.
Ice Box Canyon also offers a shady respite from the fiery sandstone. It’s a narrow canyon with white, yellow, and gray-striped rocks, so getting there requires some fun scrambling. After traversing the boulders, you’ll see one of the few waterfalls in Red Rock Canyon, but only if you go between December and April.
Along with the pleasant change in scenery, the area around Ice Box Canyon is a good bird-watching spot, so keep your eyes peeled for mourning doves, white-throated swifts, and quail.
5. Lost Creek, the Red Rock Canyon waterfall you must see
Another place to see a waterfall at Red Rock Canyon is at Lost Creek. Again, you’ll have to visit between December and April when the temperatures aren’t as hot.
That said, the Lost Creek – Children’s Discovery Trail is worth doing any time of year. It’s a short, easy route, and you’re bound to see a variety of desert flora and fauna along the way. This is also a great thing to do in Red Rock Canyon with kids since the route passes some petroglyphs.
Again, if you want to see the waterfall, I suggest going in the spring. At this time, you may also see blossoming wildflowers and wild burros taking a morning stroll to the watering hole.
6. Petroglyph Wall, something you can’t miss in Red Rock Canyon, NV
If you’re visiting Red Rock Canyon, Nevada with kids, I have another must-see for you! The Petroglyph Wall is one of the best displays of ancient rock art in the entire park. It’s just a 20-minute walk from the Willow Spring Picnic Area, so you can easily complete it with children.
Here, you can examine the carved pictographs in the rock walls, which depict ancient symbols and etchings of animals and figures. If you stop at the Visitor Center first, you can check out the exhibits that explain the Paiute Indian civilization that inhabited this area some 800 years ago. That said, you’ll find informational signs along the route.
This is one of the most fascinating places to visit in Red Rock Canyon, but don’t touch the petroglyphs since the oils from your hands can damage them.
7. Watch for wild burros along the First Creek Canyon Trail
Without a doubt, hiking is one of the top things to do at Red Rock Canyon, and the First Creek Canyon route is one of the best. This 4-mile trail is a heavily trafficked, scenic route through cottonwood, pine, and willow trees. It eventually leads to a little waterfall, although depending on when you go, it may be dry.
That’s okay because this area is also frequented by wild burros, so keep an eye out for these furry creatures. You’ll also get stunning views of the striped sandstone formations, which contrast nicely with the green desert shrubs.
8. Go rock climbing, one of the best activities in Red Rock Canyon, Vegas
While enjoying one of the Red Rock Canyon hiking trails, you may see some brave hikers rock climbing on the sandstone cliffs. This area is a prime climbing destination, and you can find beginner and advanced climbing routes throughout the park.
Red Rock Canyon has world-class boulders and rock faces that attract climbers from around the country and the world. Throughout the park, you can find designated routes for traditional and sport climbing, such as the cliffs along the Calico Hills Trail.
So, if you’re not sure what to do at Red Rock Canyon, consider a rock-climbing adventure! You can go to the Visitor Center for climbing guides and routes or visit this website for additional information and to speak with the Red Rock climbing staff.
9. Fly over Red Rock Canyon by helicopter, the best thing to do in Red Rock for couples
The beautiful landscape of Red Rock Canyon, Nevada is already quite special, but imagine seeing it from a birds-eye perspective.
A helicopter ride over the area is one of the best things to do in Red Rock Canyon as a couple or for a special occasion. If you’d like to make your visit unforgettable, I recommend this helicopter tour to Red Rock Canyon from Las Vegas.
The helicopter departs from the Vegas Strip and soars over the Mojave Desert before landing at an amazing lookout point. You’ll have 30 minutes to enjoy a champagne toast and a private vista overlooking the canyon and Las Vegas Valley from 2,900 feet above sea level. The tour is also available in the afternoon, so you can see a stunning Red Rock Canyon sunset.
10. Bike in Red Rock Canyon, the perfect way to see Red Rock Canyon, Nevada
Earlier, I mentioned the Red Rock Canyon Scenic Drive, which you can take by car or bike. Another similar option is to do a bike tour of Red Rock and get a different perspective of the park.
The first tour I recommend is this 3-hour bike tour, which lets you explore 20 miles along the Blue Diamond and Red Rock scenic paths. Travel by electric bike at your own pace, riding through Red Rock and the nearby Summerlin area.
Another recommendation is this e-bike tour along the Scenic Drive. You’ll be able to leisurely ride through the area, stopping to take photos along the way. This is definitely a fun thing to do at Red Rock Canyon as a group, and both tours include an e-bike rental, helmet, water, and guides.
Where is Red Rock Canyon and how to get there
When you’re planning your trip to Red Rock, there are a few things to keep in mind. First of all, there are several Red Rock parks in the country, including one in California and one in Colorado. This guide is for Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area in Nevada, and below, I’ll tell you how to get there.
Red Rock Canyon from Las Vegas
Given Red Rock Canyon’s proximity to Vegas, it’s one of the best day trips from Las Vegas. Many travelers rent a car in Vegas and drive to the conservation area. The trip takes less than 30 minutes, and the directions to Red Rock Canyon from the Strip are easy:
- Take Las Vegas Blvd N to I-515 N/US-95 N.
- Follow US-95 N to NV-613/Summerlin Pkwy W.
- Take the right exit onto Co Rd 215 S/Bruce Woodbury Beltway S.
- Take Exit 26 for Charleston Blvd/NV-159.
- Turn right onto NV-159 W/W Charleston Blvd.
- Follow the signs for Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Center/Red Rock Canyon Visitor Center.
Red Rock Canyon tours
If you don’t want to rent a car in Vegas, you can find several guided tours to the conservation area. We have an article on Red Rock Canyon tours from Las Vegas, but I’ll tell you that this tour is the most popular.
The 5-hour day trip includes entry to Red Rock Canyon and a visit to Seven Magic Mountains, an art installation in the Mojave Desert. During the tour, you’ll be able to explore the hiking trails and the Scenic Drive. If you prefer just seeing Red Rock Canyon, you can book one of the other tours in our guide.
Red Rock Canyon weather and best time to visit
Another thing to consider when planning your trip is the weather in Red Rock Canyon. The best time to visit this place is in the spring or fall when the temperatures are comfortable and hover around 70°F-80°F.
April is a beautiful month to visit because the wildflowers will be blooming, and the waterfalls are likely to be flowing. If you prefer the fall, I recommend September or October, when you can enjoy the foliage without brutal heat.
Summers at Red Rock bring extreme desert heat, while the winters can be too cold or stormy for hiking.
Red Rock Canyon hours & entrance fee
Red Rock Canyon’s hours vary by season:
- November-February: 6 am to 5 pm
- March: 6 am to 7 pm
- April-September: 6 am to 8 pm
- October: 6 am to 7 pm
The Red Rock Canyon Visitor Center is open daily from 9 am to 4:30 pm.
As for park cost, red Rock canyon entrance fee is $15/day per vehicle and $5/day per bike. You can find more information about hours and fees on the official website.
Red Rock Canyon reservations
Remember that currently, Red Rock Canyon reservations are required to access the Scenic Drive. You can purchase a timed entry ticket online up to 30 days before your visit.
Where to stay in Red Rock Canyon
It’s a very short drive to Red Rock Canyon from Las Vegas, but if you want to stay at the park overnight, you have some options. Below, I’ll share information about camping at Red Rock Canyon and nearby accommodations.
Red Rock Canyon campground
If you’d like to stay overnight here, you can book a site at Red Rock Canyon Campground. Located two miles from the Visitor Center, it’s the park’s only campsite.
The campground is suited for tent and RV camping, although there aren’t any electric or water hookups. This campsite has vault toilets and water spigots but no showers or dump stations. Most of the sites have picnic tables, barbecue grills, and fire pits.
There are 53 individual sites, six RV sites, and seven large-group campsites. The nightly rates start at $10 for individual sites and $20 for RV sites. Large-group campsites accommodate up to 20 people and cost $60/night. You can reserve your Red Rock Canyon camping site here.
Be aware that the campground usually closes for the summer.
Hotels near Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
If camping in Red Rock Canyon isn’t your thing, you can find accommodations in the nearby town of Summerlin, Nevada.
Summerlin is partly within the city limits of Las Vegas, so it’s perfect if you plan to visit both Red Rock Canyon and the Vegas Strip. Summerlin is also where you’ll find Red Rock Casino Resort & Spa, one of the best Las Vegas hotels off the Strip.
Other tips for visiting Red Rock Canyon, Nevada
That’s about all the info I have for you about Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. Before I wrap up, I’d like to share some tips for your visit:
- Make sure you bring lots of water since you won’t find any on the trails.
- Dress for the weather! It’s typically warm, sunny, and dry, so pack sunglasses, a hat, and light, loose layers. Hiking is one of the top things to do at Red Rock Canyon, so hiking shoes/boots or sturdy sneakers are a must-have.
- Stop by the Visitor Center or download the trail maps in our guide to Red Rock Canyon hikes before embarking on your trek.
- Plan extra time to complete your hike, taking into account the weather forecast, sunset, and any obstacles along the route.
- If you’re going to take the Red Rock Canyon Scenic Drive, reserve your entrance ticket in advance.
Red Rock Canyon map
Last but not least, here is a Red Rock Canyon map to help you plan your itinerary. You’ll find all the things to do in Red Rock Canyon that I mentioned, as well as the campground and hotel I recommend.
That’s it from me! If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below, and I’ll do my best to help. Have a safe trip!