Leaving Las Vegas for Red Rock Canyon

In the Mojave Desert, there exists a slice of heaven: the Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area. This conservation area is just a scant 30 minutes outside of Vegas, so it’s perfect for those who need a break from the ringing and whirring of the casinos, buffets, and crowded sidewalks of the Strip. Most of my mom’s family lives in Vegas, so I’ve grown up trekking out there every few years or so; however, it was not until this past December that I experienced the beauty of Red Rock Canyon.

Welcome to Red Rock Canyon Photo credit: Shay Beezley
Welcome to Red Rock Canyon
Photo credit: Shay Beezley

There is a lot to do at this conservation area — driving, hiking, biking, rock climbing, camping, horseback riding, you name it. I was there for a short visit with my grandmother, so we opted for the drive. The conservation area has a 13 mile loop with designated spots for cars to pull over and admire the desert scenery. Prior to driving the loop though, we had stopped by the visitor center, which contained an excellent exhibit on the Mojave Desert and the role of the 4 elements in an arid climate.

Photo Credit: Shay Beezley
Photo Credit: Shay Beezley

Just beyond this exhibit, there was a boardwalk that took visitors out into the middle of a desert area. My grandmother and I were the only ones out there on the quiet Monday morning, but needless to say, it was simply beautiful. the air smelled clean and fresh. The silence was overwhelming. I don’t think I have ever been in a place so quiet. Again, it can be hard to imagine that such a tranquil place exists outside of one of the noisiest cities, but let me tell you, it does. And it’s amazing.

After our tour through the visitor’s center, we drove the loop around the area and stopped at a few places to take pictures. Check them out:

It was truly a breathtaking area, even though we experienced just a small slice of it. I would love to return to hike the trails and experience more of its beauty. Granted, it would be wise to return in a cooler season, as like most other places in Nevada, the temperature skyrockets in the summertime.

I am grateful that the Bureau of Land Management has protected this area from outside impact. Preserving nature’s beauties is as important as ever as we face continued consequences of pollution and humans’ general lack of care for their surroundings. And equally importantly, I love that a lot of thought and care went into the educational component that the visitor’s center has to offer. Many tourists, including myself, pass through this area not knowing much about the harsh terrain, and it was wonderful that this need to educate was recognized. On that note, here’s some facts from Red Rock Canyon’s website:

  • The red color of some of the outcrops of the Aztec Sandstone is due to presence of iron oxide or hematite.
  • Exposure to the elements caused iron minerals to oxidize or “rust,” resulting in red, orange, and brown-colored rocks
  • More than 500 million years ago Red Rock Canyon NCA was at the bottom of an ocean basin.
  • The tracks of small bipedal (two-footed) therapod (meat-eating) dinosaurs have been found in the Aztec Sandstone at Red Rock Canyon in three different places!

Next time you’re in the area, be sure to take the time to visit and explore.