Travel to Las Vegas and you'll likely hear plenty about nearby attractions like the Grand Canyon, the Hoover Dam, and Lake Mead. There are even places right on the Strip where you can take part in guided tours of these places. These highly publicized attractions are well worth it and have many interesting sights and are great ways to escape the lights of Vegas. But in addition to these high traffic tourist spots, there are a couple of not so highly publicized areas that are well worth your time, and cost no more than a rental car and a camera.
Red Rock Canyon is located about 15 miles west of the Strip. It is just outside of the city - you can take Charleston Boulevard all the way there. Charleston crosses the strip just north of the Stratosphere. Hop on Charleston and go west. Once you pass Red Rock Casino and Highway 215, you're almost there.
When you first get to Red Rock, there is a visitor's center where you can get out and check out some of the history of the canyon. You can learn about the Native American's who first lived in the area as well as the animals and plants that populate the canyon.
The canyon itself is made up of red sandstone which is very striking in color when the sun bounces off the canyon walls. There are numerous hiking trails that you can stop and hike. They range from easy to difficult. The canyon is also popular to rock climbers, who can often be seen scaling the cliffs and rocks of the area.
From the visitors center you can take the scenic loop, which is a 13 mile loop that winds its way through the canyon with numerous places to stop to either hike or take pictures. One of the stops along the loop is the Ice Box Canyon trail which is a two mile moderately difficult hike that includes some rock scrambling. This trail works it's way back into a canyon which is known for the cooler winds that blow through the rocks. While hiking be sure to look up the canyon walls as you can often see the climbers scrambling up their lines.
Along with the desert vegetation you're likely to see different animals in the conservation area. Bighorn sheep and deer accompany the wild burros that roam the land. The burros are rather tame and will often come up to car windows looking for food - though it is recommended not to feed them as this increases their independence on the tourists of the area. A picture of a burro sticking his head in your car window is often a great picture to share with friends back home.
The great thing about Red Rock is that you can see the sights without ever leaving the air conditioning of your car - or if you're feeling a little adventurous you can venture out on one of the trails and make your way a little off the beaten path. Even though you are just outside the sprawling city of Las Vegas, a trip to Red Rock is a great escape from the hustle and bustle of the city - a great way to take a vacation inside your vacation.
By: Patrick Treadway