Red Rock Canyon, The Southwest

5 Reasons to Visit Red Rock Canyon

5 reasons to visit red rock canyon

If you need a break from the brightly-lit and bustling Las Vegas Strip, look no further than the scenic respite of Red Rock Canyon. This beautiful, arid stretch of land was Nevada’s first National Conservation Area and it’s now one of the most popular in the country, with over one million annual visitors.

Red Rock Canyon boasts a long list of reasons to visit. Here are the ones we think you’ll find most compelling:

1. It's close to the Strip.

Red Rock Canyon is so close that it’s actually visible from the Las Vegas Strip.

The short 20 – 30 minute (or 15 – 20 mile) drive makes Red Rock Canyon an easy day or half-day escape from Sin City. The conservation area is open from 6am until sunset and the visitor’s center is open between 8am and 4:30pm, so if you’re looking for something to do between shows or activities – or if you just need to step into nature for a while – Red Rock Canyon is a convenient and quick spot to visit.

2. It's got unusual flora and fauna.

As part of the Mojave Desert and a protected National Conservation Area, Red Rock Canyon offers a unique opportunity for visitors to experience a surprising number of desert plants and animals. Within the conservation area, you might be able to spot:

  • 600+ types of plants, including Joshua trees and 15 special plants that can only be found within Red Rock Canyon.
  • Over 100 bird species.
  • More than 45 different kinds of mammals.
  • Mojave Max – a desert tortoise and Red Rock Canyon NCA’s “spokestortoise” who resides at the Visitor Center.

For both your safety and the safety of the wildlife, take care to avoid feeding or otherwise interacting with animals you encounter while visiting Red Rock Canyon.

3. It's beautiful.

calico hills at red rock canyon
By Frank Schulenburg - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

Over the last 600 million years, Red Rock Canyon has changed from an ocean basin to a dry desert environment. These changes, in combination with harsh environment of the Mojave Desert, helped shape the dramatic and beautiful landscape of the Canyon.

Its distinctive and dramatic red rock formations, tinted red by iron oxide, provide a stunning backdrop worth venturing out to see.

Red Rock Canyon Fact: You may recognize the Canyon’s scenery from film and television! It was popular filming location for early Westerns and TV shows like Bonanza and Lost in Space.

With a bit of a hike, a visit to Red Rock Canyon also provides a fantastic view of Las Vegas. Discover 8 more sights to see at Red Rock Canyon.

4. It's steeped in history.

The red rocks for which it was named aren’t just beautiful – they also tell a story. Shaped over millions of years, the geological and cultural history of Red Rock Canyon provides a look back at the changes that occurred here and how the area has been used by people throughout history.

The dry environment offers ideal conditions for preserving historical artifacts. Here are some things you might see during your visit:

  • Dinosaur tracks created 180 – 190 million years ago (the first ever documented in the state of Nevada!)
  • Roasting pits – check around the Willow Springs picnic area.
  • Cultural artifacts, such as broken pieces of pottery or stone tools
  • Petroglyphs (images chiseled or chipped into the rock) and pictographs (paint on rock)

petroglyphs at red rock canyon nevada
Image Source: Julian Fong via Flickr.

All visitors must remember to tread carefully to avoid damaging fossils, and that anything you discover should be left where it is for other visitors to enjoy and experience.

If you do encounter what you believe to be tracks or other fossils, the Bureau of Land Management asks you to call 702-515-5000 and provide the specific location and photographs of the site.

It is illegal to disturb, dig up or collect fossils and artifacts on public land without a permit.

5. It's got something for everyone.

If you’re interested in doing a little more than simply taking in the sights on the Conservation Area’s well-known scenic 13 mile drive, Red Rock Canyon offers a lot in the way of activities, including:

  • Bird watching
  • Rock climbing
  • Hiking
  • Camping
  • Road and mountain biking
  • Horseback riding
  • Off-roading

Some of these activities require permits and planning in advance.

Get Ready for Red Rock

With its compelling sights and a convenient location, it’s easy to enjoy the beautiful Mojave desert without getting too far out of the city. If you’re interested in experiencing another side of Las Vegas, make sure to include Red Rock Canyon in your trip itinerary.

To learn more about Red Rock Canyon, check out our crash course.


Red Rock Canyon SUV Tour


See the famous Red Rock Canyon up close!

Just a few minutes from the Las Vegas Strip, Red Rock Canyon is home to some of the Southwest’s most recognizable formations. See them all as you traverse the National Conservation Area’s 13-mile scenic loop on this unique tour.

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About Ria Borja

Ria is a Customer Experience Manager at Canyon Tours and an avid lover of the outdoors. When she isn't helping other travelers check destinations and dream vacations off their bucket lists, she's busy exploring the Southwest. Her favorite place to visit is (unsurprisingly!) the Grand Canyon.