When you think of Las Vegas, Nevada, what do you picture in your mind? Like most people, I had always pictured casinos, bright lights and lots of people and traffic.
Not so much, anymore. I am learning that there is so much more to the Vegas area! This is my second time in Las Vegas – in my whole life. While it is not considered Las Vegas proper where we are, downtown Vegas is only a short drive from here. The bright city lights, visible at night.
On my first visit here, we actually got an Uber and ventured into downtown Vegas one night. Unlike most people, I wasn’t overly impressed. The lights are pretty to look at, but the crowds and gambling just aren’t my thing I guess. I felt like being this close, I owed it to myself to at least go and see what all the excitement was about. I hear they have some good shows, and if I ever do venture back to the strip, it would probably be just to see a show.
So, when we came back a second time, I originally considered looking into some of the Vegas shows.
And then Covid19 hit!
Las Vegas took a hit! Stay Home orders, Social Distancing and Quarantines shut down Las Vegas. For the first time in over six decades Las Vegas went DARK. Even during 9/11 and the mass shooting, Las Vegas stayed open for business.
With the city going dark, many tourists left. Those who didn’t leave, may have found there is more to Las Vegas than the strip. While downtown offers entertainment (and obviously a large money flow), the Las Vegas area offers so much more.
Before Covid19 even struck this area, I was already making plans to get out and see what kind of hiking this area offered. Nevada is a beautiful state. On my first visit to Nevada, I discovered the many hot springs that this state has to offer (to read about our adventures at 12 Mile Hot Springs, click here ). I wanted to get out and see what this part of Nevada had to offer as far as hiking!
To my surprise, it has a LOT!
I scrolled through a ton of hikes on my Alltrails app, and we settled on Red Rock Canyon. We had passed signs for the Canyon a few times, and had thought about driving out that way to see what it looked like. There are so many different trails in the canyon, that the first day we drove out, we decided we would just drive and pick one when we got there.
The first visit did not go well…
It was the first weekend after downtown Las Vegas shut down, and I think every single person that would have been downtown that day, decided to try out their hiking legs. There wasn’t even room on the sides of the road to park. There were tons of people everywhere! I wish I had taken a picture – I would have captioned it “Social Distance FAIL”. We turned around and left. I was so disappointed.
Red Rock Canyon
Not one to give up, we waited a couple of weeks and went back. This time, there were still a few cars parked along the way, but there was so much empty area, there would be no problem finding a trail.
The Park itself is closed, as far as the visitor centers, bathrooms, campgrounds and any other buildings or structures. The trails are all open however, and even though the roads are blocked off, they have left “walk through” openings to get in to access the canyon trails.
We pulled off into a little pullout area on the side of the road, and did a quick check of everything – noting where we were parked, plenty of water, snacks and sunscreen, and the time. It was right about noon, so we knew we could hike about 2 hours out with no problem, and still have plenty of time to take a lunch break, and hike back.
Starting out in Red Rock Wash
We started on a small little trail that quickly wound its way up to a lookout area.
It looked more like an animal trail than it did a foot path, but it brought us up to the lookout area easy enough.
At the top of the area, there were a few benches – probably great to sit on and watch a sunset one night!
We followed the trail, which was an actual path over to the next overlook. This part of the hike, was not very far from the main road, and we decided we would get to the overlook and decide at that time, which direction we would head.
From Red Rock Overlook, you can easily see all of the magnificent mountains, with all of their different colors. Spring Mountain, the Calico Hills, the Calico Basin, Red Rock Wash, Rainbow Mountain and Turtlehead Peak are just a few of what you will see from the overlook. I would have labeled my mountain peaks, but to be honest, I am not sure which peak is which. They offer guided hikes through the canyon, and perhaps that would be a fun (and informative) hike one day!
We picked a spot on the overlook that seemed like it would be easy enough to scale the rocks and then drop down into the wash.
A nice thing about hiking the canyon area, is that there is no shortage of actual trails, but you are also allowed to wander off the trails and hike where you want to. We opted to hike the Red Rock Wash instead of staying on the initial trail.
The Red Rock Wash is about a two and a half mile hike, from end to end. It is also the largest drainage in the Red Rock Canyon. It is so big, that in some places, it forms its own little forest, down at the bottom. In addition to the Oak, Willow and Joshua trees that can be found at the bottom of the wash, there are also a LOT of very interesting rocks! Many of the rocks exhibit red, orange or rust colors, due to the iron minerals oxidizing from exposure to the weather.
It is hard to imagine, walking through this wash, that over 500 million years ago, the entire Red Rock Canyon was part of an ocean basin!
Coming out of the wash, we ended up on a paved road known as the Scenic Drive Loop. This road will loop you around the canyon for about thirteen miles. Normally, you drive this loop, but with the Park closed down, it is only open to foot traffic right now. A one way loop (when driving), it takes you down along Calico Hills and Turtlehead Peak. It passes through Ice Box Canyon, which will give you really good views of the Spring Mountains. The Scenic Loop normally has an entrance fee when it is open to vehicle traffic, and is a great way to see the most of Red Rock Canyon if you are on a time schedule.
Oak Creek Trail
We followed the loop for about a mile (give or take) before branching off on a spur toward Oak Creek Trail. Oak Creek Trail, leads us into Oak Creek Canyon.
Oak Creek Trail is about a two mile trail (one way). The trail itself is pretty rough, but there is a lot to see as you go along!
Not only are you going to see some of the prettiest mountains up close, but if you look down, there are wildflowers, cactus and wildlife – everywhere!
Along this trail, we saw countless lizards, rock squirrels, hawks, even a jackrabbit! I kept looking for wild burros and tortoises, but I never did see any. They say there are also a lot of big horn sheep sheep on the cliffs. Those escaped me as well.
As we closed in on Oak Creek Canyon, we left the trail in search of Oak Creek.
Wandering down through a lot of vegetation on what looked like maybe an animal path, we came up on a ledge.
From the ledge, we could hear running water, so we knew we were close. We dropped down, and at the bottom, found Oak Creek.
The creek was beautiful! Just up from where we were standing, there was a little waterfall.
The mountains were right there, we had made it to the base of them! We walked along the river for a bit, before finding a good spot to cross over.
After a nice little snack break, we decided to head back a different way than we had come.
We followed the river along, passing the occasional hiker and dog splashing around in the river. I also managed to find a few frogs along the way 🙂
Eventually, we made our way back to where we had begun. I think we hiked almost 8 miles that day, and my legs were feeling it a little bit by the time we made it back to the truck.
As much fun as it was, and even though it took us the entire second half of the day, we only saw a very small portion of what Red Rock Canyon has to offer.
It is a beautiful area to hike in, and I would love to do the Scenic Drive when and if it opens back up before we leave here.
If hiking is your thing (and not just for tp and paper towels these days), add Red Rock Canyon to your hiking destination list.
Don’t forget to check us out on Instagram for more pics of the places we go. Click here for more pictures of Red Rock Canyon.