Hot Spot: Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area


Red Rock Canyon, just a few miles from Las Vegas, off State Route 159.


In 1987 I was on an assignment in Las Vegas. I was writing a series on how Sin City was working to change its reputation. I interviewed the governor, the casino owners, and a lot of community leaders on how Vegas was going to become more than just casinos. It was going to become a center for business and culture, and in many ways since then it has.

While I was there I had a free afternoon and asked the gal at the hotel front desk “I need to go on a hike, any suggestions?”

She said two words: Red Rock.

red-5About half an hour later I was at Red Rock Canyon just outside of town, and for the next four hours I hiked and scrambled and had a blast. It was so much better than playing slots or blackjack, it wasn’t even close.
It is 10,000 acres of adventure, but please bring a lot of water. I was there in August, and in the shade the temperature that afternoon was around 100 degrees.

In 1967, the Bureau of Land Management designated those 10,000 acres as the Red Rock Recreation Lands.
By 1990, special legislation changed the status of the Red Rock Recreation Lands to a National Conservation Area, a status that also provides the funds used to maintain and protect it.

The conservation area showcases a set of large red rock formations, hence the name. There is a collection of walls there called the Keystone Thrust, rising up 3,000 feet, so the area is a growing rock climbing destination. The highest point is La Madre Mountain at 8,154 feet.

Red Rock provides a lot of activities, such as hiking, biking, scrambling, climbing, horseback riding, and yes there is camping there.

The climbs of Red Rock cover a broad range of length and difficulty. The long, easy routes had made the area a common climbing training ground, but the canyon also offers many difficult climbs as well.

This is desert, so you’ll see a lot of interesting geologic features, plants and animals.

And after a day of scrambling or riding the trails, you can head into town and catch a show. It’s Las Vegas, after all.
The Red Rock Canyon Interpretive Association is a wealth of information with great information on the area at

© 2016