Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

10 Best Red Rock Canyon hikes: Your complete guide (2023)

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Nestled at the foothills of the Spring Mountains, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area also known as Red Rock Canyon is home some of the most scenic hikes near Las Vegas. 

Some of the best hikes in Red Rock Canyon meander through dramatic canyons, orange cliffs, and give you some of the best views of the Las Vegas Valley thanks to its location to the west of Sin City.

Red Rock Canyon is also one of the best spots for taking photos near Las Vegas, so bring your camera!

The bright orange color that you see throughout Red Rock Canyon comes from iron oxide that has accumulated here over centuries. On a bright sunny day, this landscape makes for a spectacular photo background.

In this article, I will tell you about some of the best Red Rock hikes, so you could plan your adventure to the best outdoor spot near Las Vegas.

Red Rock Canyon is home to some of the best hikes near Las Vegas that are perfect for all levels.

Best Red Rock Canyon hikes: a complete overview

The 13-mile one-way scenic drive cutting through Red Rock Canyon allows visitors to see all of the area’s natural wonders. Many Red Rock Canyon hikes start along the loop, and it’s almost impossible to miss them, because they are well marked.

However, with 26 hikes in Red Rock Canyon available to visitors, it might be tough to pick just a few.

See my round-up of the best Red Rock Canyon hikes:

The Red Rock Canyon Scenic Loop

Most hikes in Red Rock Canyon can be accessed from the 13 mile scenic loop, a one-way road that goes through the area and begins at the front entrance.

Some hiking trails like Bridge Mountain and Calico Basin can be accessed outside the loop. To locate them, ask a park ranger for a paper map when paying for the entrance.

Calico Hills is one of the best hikes in Red Rock Canyon that's doesn't require advanced skills.

1. Calico Hills (Calico I and Calico II)

Difficulty: Easy

Length: 2-6 miles roundtrip hike

Elevation gain: 400 feet

The first stop after the entrance is one of the best Red Rock Canyon hikes – Calico Hills.

The bright orange outcrops in Calico Hills can be seen far from the distance and for many visitors, they are the primary attraction of Red Rock. The 6-mile hiking trail goes along the side of the red ridge and straight onto the rocks providing a closer look at the incredible orange formations.

Start your hike at Calico I or at Calico II. You can do about half of a hike or less and turn back if you get tired, as it requires some scrambling on the rocks further along the trail.  

2. Calico Tanks

Difficulty: Moderate 

Length: 2.5 miles

Elevation gain: 450 feet

One of the most popular Red Rock Canyon hikes, Calico Tanks will take you through sandstone formations and culminate with a small pool of water and a gorgeous view of the Las Vegas Valley. While the trail has sandstone stairs, parts of it require scrambling. 

To find a trail, park at the Sandstone Quarry parking lot not far from Calico 1. If you are short on time, it’s one of the must-do hikes at Red Rock because it boasts a lot of unique geology and history that provide a great introduction to the area.  

3. Turtle Head Peak

Difficulty: Strenuous 

Length: About 5 miles roundtrip

Elevation gain: 2,000 ft

If you are in for some challenge, head to Turtlehead Peak Trail. 

The trail begins at the Sandstone Quarry Trail and gains about 2,000 feet in elevation. To get to the peak, you will have to do some walking along the steep ledges with sheer drop-offs, so put on hiking shoes with a good grip, and some layers, as it’s cooler at a higher elevation.

Before you decide to ascend the peak, get a paper map of the trail, because certain portions of it can be hard to navigate and the area has no cell phone coverage. Most of the trail is exposed, which means you need to bring plenty of snacks and water.

When you make it to the top, you will be treated to an incredible view of the Red Rock Canyon below and the entire Las Vegas Valley with the Strip in the distance 🤩

PRO TIP: This is a not a hike for a rookie. If you are a new hiker, consider doing this trail with someone who is more experienced.

Ice Box Canyon is one of the best moderate hikes in Red Rock Canyon that's perfect if you want to escape the heat on a hot summer day.

4. Ice Box Canyon Trail

Difficulty: Moderate

Distance: 2.5 miles

Elevation: 577 ft.

Ice Box Canyon is one of the most popular hikes in Red Rock Canyon offering a refreshing trip during hot Las Vegas summers as it takes you through a shadowy high-wall canyon that hardly sees any sunlight. 

If you are lucky, you could also see a waterfall from winter until mid-spring. To see the falls, you have to hike in the open desert and do some scrambling over boulders in the wash. If you go all the way to the end, you will eventually hit a dead end.

One of the nice features of this canyon is its greenery and flowers that begin at the trailhead and start looking like a forest, the further you go into the canyon. 

It’s one of the most scenic Red Rock Canyon hikes, so don’t forget your camera!

Willow Springs Loop is one of the best hiking trails in Red Rock Canyon.

5. Willow Springs Loop

Difficulty: Easy-to-moderate 

Distance: 4.5 miles

Willow Spring Trail begins at the White Rock parking lot. The loop spans about 4.5 miles and offers a nice mix of scenery including pine trees, cacti, and some ancient pictographs.

If you want to add some challenge, hike the adjacent La Madre Spring, one of the less crowded Red Rock Canyon hikes, which starts at the split of the two trails and has a higher elevation gain.

6. Keystone Thrust

Difficulty: Moderate 

Distance: 2.4 miles

Elevation: 567 ft

Named after the Keystone Thrust earthquake fault, this trail boasts sprawling views of the area. This hike is relatively easy as it doesn’t require scrambling and gains less than 500 feet in elevation.

From the area where you can see the Thrust Fault, you can continue along the canyon for another 2-3 miles via a loop before returning to the main loop via Keystone Loop Trail.

PRO TIP:  Always stay on trails when you hike. When you get off trails, you could trample plants or animals that help to maintain that delicate balance in the desert ecosystem. In some cases, it takes years for the desert vegetation to grow again, so you should be careful about where you step.

7. Bridge Mountain

Difficulty: Strenuous 

Distance: 15.4 miles

Bridge Mountain is one of the most rewarding and strenuous Red Rock Canyon hikes. 

Named after the sandstone formation near the summit of the hike, this trail takes about 8 hours to complete. Most of it runs through backcountry and has no cell phone service, except for a couple of spots.

Many parts of the hike are unmarked and scrambling is required in certain areas, which means you need to be an experienced hiker. Before you get to the ridge overlooking the red rock formations, you will have to navigate your way through a pinyon juniper forest, so superb orientation skills are a must.

Further along the trail, you will have to hike through several areas of sandstone and slickrock, but when you get to the end you will see the magnificent views of Red Rock Canyon. 

How to get to Bridge Mountain: Drive along the scenic loop until you get to the Willow Springs turnout. Follow the paved road until it turns into the dirt road (you will need a high-clearance vehicle) and continue for about 5 miles. You will find a parking area on the right side and a sign marking the beginning of the trail.

Located in Red Rock Canyon, Rainbow Mountain Loop Trail is one of the best easy hikes near Las Vegas.

8. Rainbow Mountain Loop Trail

Difficulty: Easy  

Distance: 3.2 miles

One of the most popular easy hikes in Red Rock Canyon, Rainbow Mountain Loop Trail is perfect for late fall and winter as it’s exposed and snakes through the desert below the colorful Rainbow Mountain. Since this is a loop, you can hike it in both directions.

To get to the trailhead, drive to the Oak Creek Canyon Road parking lot. The hike begins at the end of the Scenic Loop Drive, and you need to make a right turn on Oak Creek Canyon Road and head toward the end of the road where you will find a small parking area.

9. Lost Creek Canyon

Difficulty: Easy

Distance: 0.6 miles

Elevation: 165 feet

The main attraction of the Lost Creek Canyon Trail is a seasonal waterfall. The trail is used for hiking and bird watching. 

To begin your hike, find Lost Creek Canyon and follow the trail.

10. Calico Basin

A free alternative to hikes in Red Rock Canyon is the nearby Calico Basin, a scenic area adjacent to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. 

Calico Basin is home to Calico Basin Trail, a 5.2-mile loop trail that is rated as moderate and offers plenty of scenic views. Other hikes in the area are Turtlehead Loop Trail, Kraft Mountain Peak Trail, Red Springs Broadwalk and Guardian Angel Pass

To get to Calico Basin, make a right turn on Calico Basin Road about 1.5 miles before the entrance to the Red Rock Canyon, and keep driving north, and then west before you reach a turnout. 

Red Rock Canyon is one of the best places to visit near Las Vegas if you don't want to drive too far and want to enjoy spectacular landscapes.

How to get to Red Rock Canyon from Las Vegas?

There are a few ways to get to Red Rock Canyon from Las Vegas. 

If you are staying at one of the hotels on the Las Vegas Strip, it takes about 20-40 minutes to get to Red Rock. But if you are staying in Henderson or in Downtown Las Vegas, your trip will take you slightly longer. 

Las Vegas Strip to Red Rock Canyon directions:

  1. Get on 215 N Beltway (Bruce Woodbury Beltway)
  2. Exit at West Charleston Boulevard in Summerlin
  3. Arrive at the entrance of the Red Rock Canyon

Renting a car for your trip to Red Rock Canyon

There’s no public transportation to Red Rock Canyon. To get there, you will need to rent a car. For best experience, rent a car in Las Vegas ahead of your visit (and do it ahead of time), especially if you travel from May through September, which is the busiest time in Las Vegas.

I recommend using Discover Cars to find an in inexpensive rental car for your trip.

Check my complete guide to renting a car in Las Vegas to avoid mistakes and save money.

Best time to do Red Rock Canyon hikes

Best time to visit red Rock Canyon is from mid-fall through early spring. 

Winter is good for hiking in Red Rock, but days are short and it tends to get cold as the sun goes down. Summers bring triple-digit temps to Red Rock Canyon which is not ideal for hiking. To explore the best hikes at Red Rock Canyon from May through early September, start at sunrise and finish by 11 a.m.

PRO TIP: Red Rock is one of the best day trips from Las Vegas. If you want to visit other scenic places near Sin City, check my guide. 

Fees for Red Rock Canyon hikes

The entrance to Red Rock Canyon costs $15 per vehicle, $10 per motorcycle and $5 per pedestrian. They have to be at the booth at the entrance of the Red Rock National Conservation Area.

The park ranger at the entrance booth will give you the map of the area and will answer any questions that you might have. 

Arrive early morning of you want to do at least a few hikes at Red Rock Canyon. It is one of the most popular day trips from Las Vegas and it can get crowded, especially on weekends. 

If you need some additional information, stop by at the Red Rock Canyon Visitor Center, a hub of educational exhibits about the area. Here you can also pick up a cool souvenir. 

Do I need a reservation for Red Rock Canyon?

The Bureau of Land Management requires reservations for vehicle entry to the Red Rock Scenic Drive from Oct. 1, 2022 though May 31, 2023 from 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. You can make your reservation online, and visitors with have annual passes can type in their pass number at checkout. 

Reservations are also required on “fee free days” to enter Red Rock between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. when the area experiences increased visitation.

Make your reservation for Red Rock Canyon here.

Even if you are visiting during the time when reservations are not required, always check the most up-to-date information before heading out.

Red Rock Annual Pass

If you plan on visiting Red Rock frequently, buy the Red Rock Annual Pass for $30 which is valid for one year.

America the Beautiful Pass

If you are an avid hiker or plan to visit other recreational areas that require a fee (for example the world-famous Death Valley National Park about 2,5 hours away from Las Vegas), purchase America the Beautiful pass. 

It costs $80, while a typical fee for a national park in the United States is $35. Consider this option if want to visit the best national parks near Las Vegas. It also covers many recreational areas managed by the U.S. National Parks System including Red Rock Canyon.

America the Beautiful Pass is an excellent investment if you want to avoid paying for Red Rock and many other recreational areas in the region every time you want to visit them.

Check my complete guide to the best national parks near Las Vegas to plan your trip.

Should I take a tour of Red Rock Canyon?

If you are visiting Las Vegas for a quick trip and don’t have a lot of time, one of guided Red Rock tours is a perfect option, as you don’t have to rent a car and can skip all the logistics. There are several companies in Las Vegas that provide tours of Red Rock, and you can book one of them online.

Another option is to book a helicopter tour of Red Rock Canyon, which will give you a whole different perspective on this place, as you will see amazing panoramic views of the spectacular formations.

This helicopter tour of Red Rock Canyon is one of the most popular options!

Red Rock Canyon hikes: FAQ

How much time do you need at Red Rock Canyon?

If you want to do a couple of hikes and enjoy some of the scenery, plan no less than 2 hours at Red Rock Canyon. You can spend as much as whole day at Red Rock, if you want to do some of the most difficult hikes, or as little as 30 minutes if you just want to drive around the scenic loop.

What is the best hike in red Rock Canyon?

Bridge Mountain is the best Red Rock Canyon hike if you are looking for some exercise and are up for challenge. When you arrive at the end, you will be rewarded with spectacular views of the Las Vegas Valle below you. If you want an easier hike, choose Calico Tanks that require some scrambling and are close to the entrance.

Is Red Rock Canyon worth seeing?

Yes, Red Rock is one of the best places to visit near Las Vegas. It offers superb hiking opportunities and is full of history and amazing wildlife. If you are visiting Sin City, make sure to spend at least a couple of hours at this place to see some of the best scenery in Southern Nevada.

Which is better Valley of Fire or Red Rock?

Many tourists who visit Red Rock also visit Valley of Fire, the largest state park in Nevada that has gorgeous scenery with bright orange outcrops resembling flames. The Valley of Fire mostly has easy hikes and is popular for photography thanks to slot canyons, petroglyphs and unusual rock formations, whereas Red Rock Canyon has a better variety of hiking trails for different levels.

Tips for hiking Red Rock Canyon

Red Rock Canyon is a true gem of Southern Nevada. 

Here you can find some of the most incredible scenery, diverse wildlife such and hiking trails. However, there are a few things you should know about hikes in Red Rock Canyon, especially if you have never hiked in the desert.

  • Bring water and snacks – Red Rock Canyon has no gas stations, stores or restaurants. Carrying water on your hikes is important because you can get dehydrated very quickly. If you bring regular plastic bottle, your water will quickly get hot when you leave it in your car.
  • Don’t rely on your cell phone – Cell phone coverage is spotty in many parts of Red Rock. If you are going on a hike that requires navigation skills, don’t rely on your phone for directions. Use a paper map or download an offline map ahead of your trip.
  • Start early – Red Rock Canyon can get crowded, especially on weekends and major holidays. To beat the crowds, start around 8-9 a.m.
  • Get proper gear – When it’s hot, wear a hat to avoid a heatstroke and don’t forget about comfortable hiking shoes that prevent you from slipping. Comfortable footwear with good grip is very important if you plan to climb peaks or walk on elevated areas.
  • Put on sunscreen – The sun in the desert can be harsh. Even if it doesn’t look that sunny, you can still get a sunburn. To avoid it, make sure to put on enough sunscreen before you hit the trail.
  • Don’t feed wildlife – Despite its hot climate and rugged terrain, Red Rock Canyon is home to a lot of wildlife. Here, you can find the endangered desert tortoise, rabbits, wild horses and burros, that look similar to donkeys. It’s illegal to feed wildlife inside Red Rock Canyon, so keep your snacks to yourself.

Where to stay near Red Rock Canyon

1. Red Rock Casino Resort & Spa 

It’s a high-end hotel that has a casino, restaurants and spa and a big shopping mall nearby. Although it comes at a higher price, it’s the closest hotel to Red Rock Canyon in Las Vegas. 

However, if you travel on a budget, there are also other hotels in the area.

2. Hampton Inn & Suites Las Vegas Red Rock Summerlin 

A good 3-star hotel if you want to relax and enjoy scenic views nearby without having to pay a high price. Breakfast included. 

3. La Quinta by Wyndham Las Vegas RedRock/Summerlin  

A 3-star hotel with a pool and hot tub that is close to Red Rock Canyon and is only 16 miles away from the Las Vegas Strip.

Other cool places to visit near Las Vegas

There are many cool places to visit near Las Vegas, and Red Rock Canyon is just one of them: 

If you have a couple of extra days, check some of these places:

Valley of Fire State Park is one of the best day trips from Las Vegas that's known for its spectacular hikes.

Valley of Fire State Park

Located about one hour away from Las Vegas, Valley of Fire State Park is one of the most popular places to visit near Las Vegas. This place boasts incredible landscapes and scenic hiking trails, so you should have at least half a day for your trip.

Bryce Canyon is one of the best national parks in Utah located within driving distance from Las Vegas.

Bryce Canyon National Park

Located in Utah, Bryce Canyon National Park is one of Utah’s mighty five national parks. It takes about 3 hours to get from Las Vegas to Bryce Canyon by car, so the trip will take the most of your day. 

PRO TIP: If you are looking for other places to visit near Las Vegas by car, check out my guide to some of the most scenic destinations within a few hours of Sin City

Best hikes in Red Rock Canyon: final word

Exploring Red Rock Canyon hikes is one of the best things to do in Las Vegas besides gambling. You get away from the busy Las Vegas Strip, enjoy the gorgeous scenery and get some physical exercise. Whether you are visiting Las Vegas for a short getaway to plan to spend some time here, make sure to include hikes at Red Rock Canyon in your itinerary.