On every trip I’ve taken to Las Vegas since the early 2000s, I’ve been meaning to make it out to Red Rock Canyon. But of course, I never rent a car when I’m in Las Vegas, which makes it a tad more difficult to see the Canyon. There are tours that go out there; I just haven’t gotten around to taking one yet.
If you’re a first time Vegas visitor, this might not make it onto your list of priorities. But if you’re a repeat visitor, then it’s definitely time to spread your wings beyond the Strip. I’ve become a huge fan of getting out into the desert for at least part of a day on every trip. It’s a refreshing change of pace from the constant sensory stimulation you’re subjected to on the Strip and Downtown.
On my last trip to Las Vegas, I finally got a chance to visit Red Rock Canyon thanks to a local friend who lives there who offered to take me somewhere off Strip for the day. Delma and I met at a previous Vegas Solo meetup. She’s retired, so was able to do things during the day. (Thank you, Delma!)
We took advantage of the 30-minute drive out to Red Rock, as well as during our tour of the Loop, to catch up on each other’s lives. It was fun taking photos of each other at the various lookout points. As a solo traveler, I usually have to take selfies or ask a stranger to take my picture if I want evidence that I actually visited a place.
At the final parking area where we stopped, there was a man taking photos of his family who looked like he knew what he was doing with a camera, so we asked him to take some pictures of the two of us to commemorate our day.
Speaking of photography, it was so nice to do a tour like this with someone else who loves photography as much as I do. One of the reasons I prefer traveling solo is because I can take all the time I want for photography when I’m alone and not worry about whether or not a traveling companion is getting bored. In this case, Delma was practicing her photography, too, so we were on the same page.
I was a little afraid it was going to rain that day, but it didn’t. And as it turned out, the cloud cover really worked to our advantage for taking photos. The colors changed depending on whether clouds were blocking the sun or not. While the “reds” of Red Rock are vivid and lovely, I have to say, I was even more partial to the distant mountains that weren’t red–especially during the early hours when there were still wisps of clouds lingering near the peaks. They seemed so dramatic, especially when contrasted with the desert landscape in the foreground.
Near the entrance to the park, there is a Visitors Center where we stopped to use the restroom and pick up a map of the park. There’s a large window offering a vista of the park that gives you a “sneak peek” of the treat you’re in for in this park. You can also buy souvenirs here if you’re so inclined, but I didn’t.
We asked the friendly woman at the desk who gave us a map where we could see the petroglyphs. She spoke so fast, I didn’t quite catch it all, but I was sure we could figure it out from the “x” she drew on the map. Unfortunately, as were were driving the loop, we must have missed the turn off, because we never did see petroglyphs. (The loop is one-way, so we couldn’t turn around and go back.) We also did not see any wild burros, which I would have loved to photograph. On the bright side, we also didn’t see any rattlesnakes!
How can you get to Red Rock Canyon?
The easiest way is to have access to a vehicle, of course–your own or a rental. It takes about 30 minutes to get to Red Rock Canyon from the Strip via Charleston Blvd. The park is open daily 6am to varying times throughout the year, from 5pm to 8pm. There is an admission fee of $7/car or $3/motorcycle/bicyclist/pedestrian. They also sell annual passes, but I think that would only be worth it for locals.
Once there, you can drive the 13-mile loop or, if you have a bicycle and are particularly ambitious, you could bike it. There are hiking trails at various points along the way, and places where you can pull over and take photos. It’s really a gorgeous landscape every mile of the way. Just when I thought I’d seen the most beautiful area, we’d come across another even more beautiful.
Your other option is to take a tour. Since I haven’t done this yet, I can’t recommend any particular company. If you Google “Red Rock Canyon Tours” you’ll see you have plenty of choices.
This would be a good option for anyone who doesn’t like to drive in Vegas (and doesn’t have a local friend), and for those who enjoy learning about what they’re seeing from an expert. I think I might want to do this in the future, so I can learn more about the petroglyphs here.
Check out the Bureau of Land Management’s website for more information about visiting Red Rock Canyon.
Here are some more of my favorite photos from that day. Enjoy!