May 18, 2015

When in Vegas visit Red Rock Canyon

Las Vegas has changed dramatically over the years. Before the glitzy gambling areas of Las Vegas, the area was a stopover on the way west.  While much has changed since John C. Fremont traversed the valley in 1844.  At that time it was still part of Mexico.  The one thing that hasn’t changed much is the stunning scenery just outside the city.  There are tours of Red Rock Canyon but the best way to experience the area is in a private car. The 13-mile scenic driving loop has several places to pull over, park, and get out and explore. Bring a lunch and enjoy it in one of the scenic picnicking areas.

Red Rock Canyon, located 17 miles west of the Las Vegas Strip on Charleston Boulevard/State Route 159, was designated as Nevada's first National Conservation Area.  The area is 195,819 acres and is visited by more than one million people each year and besides the scenic drive there are more than 30 miles of hiking trails, rock climbing, horseback riding, mountain biking, road biking, picnic areas, nature observing and visitor center with exhibit rooms and a book store.

There is a daily entrance fee of $7 but access is free to those who have the America the Beautiful
Annual Pass or their Senior Pass, Access Pass, or Military Annual Pass. There is also a Red Rock Annual Pass. The first stop should be at the Visitor Center. While there are some exhibits inside the Visitor Center which has a great view of the Calico Hills most of the interpretive exhibits are outside. The exhibits are organized by earth, air, fire and water.

For the youngsters there is a “Junior ExplorerDiscovery Book.” Actually the book is informative for all ages. It’s filled with fascinating bits of information.  Learn how the Mojave Yucca survives in the desert by not shedding its dead leaves.  Instead the dead leaves droop done to shade the trunk. Animals have also adapted. The scaled skin of the Gila monster is
resistant to drying and the big ears of the Jackrabbit catch the cool breeze and it has reflective body hair.  There is information on how to be a friend of nature by leaving no trace and other fun facts.  The interactive displays explain the importance and impact of earth, air, fire and water on the unique environment of Red Rock Canyon. Bird watchers may be surprised to learn that there are nearly 200 different species in the canyon that range from a tiny hummingbird to a mighty eagle.

We have been to Red Rock several times over the years.  At one time it was easy to spot the wild burros and horses but now that there are more than a million visitors each year the wild animals have found quieter places so while they are still there it is not as easy to spot any.It is a hiker’s paradise with  a variety of trails that range from the easy to moderate to Lost Creek – Children’s Discovery Trail where there is a waterfalls at various times throughout the year along with petroglyphs and an agave roasting pit. The trail is a little less than a mile and takes about an hour.There are other things to do after visiting Red Rock – if there is time.  Bonnie Springs/Old Nevada and Spring Mountain Ranch are nearby and both are great places to visit.