The Red Rock Canyon is an expansive area on the eastern tip of the Mojave Desert, situated about 12 miles west of Las Vegas, Nevada. The canyon is part of the Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area, which protects it from development. As a result, the area is filled with outstanding natural beauty unspoiled by human hands.
Geological Features at Red Rock Canyon
The Red Rock Canyon and the surrounding conservation area is full of natural and geological features. Arguably, the most fascinating of these is the Keystone Thrust Fault. The thrust faults are created when two of the earth's plates collide over a fracture in the crust and one plate slides over. The Keystone Thrust Fault was thought to have been created around 65 million years ago as the result of a cataclysmic collision of plates and soft sandstone rock.
The Canyon area also contains a number of mountainous peaks. The tallest of these is Bridge Mountain, which stands approximately 1240 miles tall. This site is also popular with hikers because it offers the thrills of mountain climbing along with the breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside.
Getting Away from it All
Being situated so close to Las Vegas, Red Rock Canyon is the perfect place for those looking for a break from the neon glow and bustle of the casino life. Although it is not as large as its neighbor, the Grand Canyon, it offers much of the same landscape and activities. Red Rock also offers a more serene atmosphere because it is generally filled with fewer tourists than its more popular counterpart.
Access to the Red Rock Canyon is largely restricted to one road. This looping road runs for 13 miles around the site, with the entire path offering spectacular glimpses of the canyon. A Visitor's Center, which contains all of the information tourists will need to enjoy their visit, is situated at the beginning of the loop. For visitors to the Red Rock Canyon who enjoy hiking, bicycling or climbing, the Visitor's Center should be visited first. Here, tourists can check on route conditions or purchase maps. Parking places for cars are spread throughout the loop. Therefore, those who wish to explore the area beyond the loop can pull over and leave their car parked safely.
The base of Red Rock Canyon is a popular spot for a variety of sports and activities. Hiking is perhaps the most obvious activity to enjoy, with the wild landscape and the numerous paths carved out in the sandstone. Visitors can hike from the canyon rim down to the base from a variety of starting points. From here, it is possible to explore the floor of the canyon and the natural wonders that it holds.
The Calico Hills within the Red Rock Canyon holds a number of natural water pools known as tinajahs or, more simply, potholes. An area called Lost Creek is home to a natural spring that runs throughout the year. This spring creates a waterfall effect at certain times of the year.
For people with a more adventurous spirit, the Red Rock Canyon is also home to some of the best climbing spots in the region. The sandstone walls make it the ideal location for climbers wishing to pit their wits against nature. Only the most experienced climbers with proper equipment should attempt these climbs.
Visiting Red Rock Canyon
Cars entering Red Rock Canyon must pay a $5 toll, while motorcyclists can expect to pay $2. Cyclists and hikers, however, do not require a permit and do not have to pay to get in. Camping is permitted on site, but only within designated areas. Campers wishing to stay somewhere other than these areas must obtain a backcountry permit.
It is important to remember that the Canyon is in a desert environment. Therefore, temperatures are variable and can rise to above 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer. Visitors need to be sure to keep water with them at all times and to protect themselves from the sun in order to stay safe.