Keystone Thrust Fault / Photo by Lizzie Gerecitano

Keystone Thrust Fault / Photo by Lizzie Gerecitano

Know Before You Go, Red Rock Canyon


Red Rock Canyon is a national conservation area approximately 15 miles west of Las Vegas Boulevard.

This hidden gem is bursting with magnificent red rock hills and mountains, mind-blowing geological formations, and spectacular overlooks and trails.

The Scenic Drive will take you from one stunning viewpoint to the next, and to the starting point of over 20 hikes.

So hop in your car, leave the bright lights and crowded streets of Sin City behind, and set off on an incredible journey the whole family can enjoy.

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Start Planning

Although you could motor through the entire Scenic Drive in under an hour, plan to spend at least half – if not an entire – day in Red Rock Canyon.

This will allow you time to experience the overlooks, hiking trails, ancient petroglyphs, and natural wonders, as well as the amazing outdoor exhibits at the Visitor Center.

You may even want to stop for lunch at one of the picnic areas nestled within the canyon along the tour route. 

  • This tour begins 10 miles west of Downtown Las Vegas along W. Charleston Blvd./Rt.159 and ends in the same place, making it a ‘loop’ tour.
  • Red Rock Canyon requires a reservation to get in between October 1st and May 31st, for entry between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. For a timed entry reservation, click here.
  • If you want to take a second trip around the Scenic Drive on the same day, you don’t have to pay twice but you do need to make a second reservation. So don’t miss any of the stops the first time around, especially the Visitor Center exhibits just past the entrance.
  • There is an entry fee per car to enter the Red Rock Canyon
    • $5 Daily 
    • $8 Bicycle
    • $20 Car
    • $50 Grand Annual Pass
  • If you are entering Red Rock Canyon between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m., you do not need a reservation. Nor do you need a reservation between June 1st and September 30th.
  • There is no running water anywhere within the vicinity of the tour except for one bottle refilling station at the Visitor Center near the outdoor restrooms (only accessible at the entry point of our tour and at no other point.) 
  • There is nowhere to purchase food within Red Rock Canyon. It is highly advisable that you stop at a grocery store along W. Charleston Blvd./Rt. 159 while you’re still within the city limits. Stock up on water, lunch, and snack items, a disposable cooler, and a bag or two of ice, and you’ll have all of the supplies you need for the day, and can enjoy the picnic areas with amazing views!
  • There are no gas stations along the tour route once we reach the area of Red Rock Canyon. So, fuel up at a gas station along W. Charleston Blvd./Rt.159 before leaving the city limits. (The last gas station and grocery store along the Shaka Guide tour before reaching Red Rock Canyon is at 11720 W. Charleston Blvd & Desert Foothills Dr.)
  • Do not count on having a cell signal anywhere within Red Rock Canyon. So be sure to download our app from your hotel while you have wifi before you leave for Red Rock Canyon.
  • Do not leave anything of value visible in your car when you get out at each of the overlooks, trails, and picnic areas. Leave valuables in your hotel room, or lock them in the car trunk where they can’t be seen, and keep your car and trunk locked each time you exit the car to avoid theft.
  • From the months of April through October, plan to hike early in the morning because temperatures can soar well over 100 degrees F. 
  • The Scenic Drive and trails close at sunset. The Visitor Center closes at 4:30 pm.
  • Beware of others on the road! The Scenic Drive is a public, one-way road and open to bike riders, horseback riders, and wildlife!
  • This twisty road is full of sharp turns so don’t speed and make sure you look out for anyone else (or a desert tortoise, wild burro, or mule deer) on the roadway!
  • No parking on the dirt. This law is strictly enforced. If a parking lot is full, drive around it a couple of times until a space opens up. But you can’t park on the side of the road. 
  • Red Rock Canyon is dog-friendly! Plenty of people bring their canine pets on hikes. Please keep your pup on a leash and make sure you have plenty of water for your dog and yourself! And never, ever leave your pet in the car while you hike. The desert heat is a quick killer.

What to Expect

road in the desertWillow Spring Loop / Photo by Lizzie Gerecitano

To Spend 2-12 Hours Exploring

The scenic drive can be done in about one hour if you don’t leave the car; but what fun is that?

Each stop not only features fantastic viewing areas and photo opportunities but also trailheads for your hiking pleasure.

Even if you choose not to hike an entire trail, walking even just a few hundred feet and back along the start of a trail will give you even better views of the rock formations.

But if you choose to not hike at all, we strongly recommend at least getting out of your car at each stop along the Scenic Drive to take in the view and perhaps for some photos.

To Be Active

We recommend a total of 7 hikes on this tour but remember, each stop has a hike - so there are plenty more in the park if you so choose!

Red Rock Canyon is beautiful to see by car, but most of the activities around this conservation area involve hiking and climbing up on the red rocks (which kids LOVE to do!)

Although kids can jump from rock formation to rock formation pretty easily, they could also fall from great heights if they aren’t watched carefully.

You won’t see any fences – this is pure nature! Stay on the trails!

To Learn

Between stops along this tour, you may find yourself pleasantly surprised by all of the enjoyable stories and facts you’re hearing.

We want to keep you entertained and informed, and we hope you finish this tour learning more than you knew before you got here!

You’ll find out all kinds of things – from how to properly rescue a desert tortoise, to why the Keystone Thrust Fault is one of the biggest acts of nature found at Red Rock Canyon.

You’ll have the chance to spot a wild burro, bighorn sheep, and Mulies, and see some ancient artwork on the mountain rocks.


tourists riding an e-bikeRed E Electric Bike Tours / Photo by Lizzie Gerecitano

Aside from your grocery supplies, gas, entrance fee, and whatever you spend at the Visitor Center’s gift shop, you won’t have to spend any more money at Red Rock Canyon.

Unless that is, you want to make a reservation for a horseback ride at Cowboy Trail Rides or an electric bike ride around the Scenic Drive (which takes place early in the morning from the Visitor Center. (See our Highlights for recommendations and links to those adventures.) 

Here’s a breakdown of what you can expect to spend. 

  • $20 per car - one-day entry to Red Rock Canyon
  • $50 per car - full tank of gas 
  • $10-15 per person - picnic lunch, snacks, water and souvenirs 

If you continue past Red Rock Canyon heading east, there is a restaurant in the town of Blue Diamond called “Cottonwood Station” that is fabulous for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

But keep in mind you won’t be able to get back onto the Scenic Drive if you leave to go eat somewhere else, which is why we recommend bringing your own picnic lunch. 

download shaka guide red rock

Safety Information

  • If you are hiking alone, make sure that someone knows the name of the trail you are heading down and what time you left to do so. You can also sign your name in a ledger at the Information Booth at the Visitor Center so that there is a record that you are at Red Rock Canyon. 
  • Always take more water on a hike than you think you need - at least double what you would normally drink. The desert will dehydrate you even if you don’t feel it, and the last thing you want is to be in the middle of a trail with no water. 
  • Keep track of young children (and pets) and make sure they don’t veer off a trail or climb too high on any of the rock formations.
  • There are no barriers and falls from very high places could occur if you’re not careful.
  • Do not count on a cell signal in any of the locations at Red Rock Canyon. You may not be able to call anyone or get a text to go through in a hiking emergency.
  • If you are planning to hike long distances on difficult trails alone, consider investing in a personal locator beacon and keep it in your backpack while you hike.
  • Beware of others on the Scenic Drive. This is a public, one-way road and is open to bike riders, horseback riders, electric scooters and pedestrians. The turns are sharp so you may not see someone on the road ahead until it’s too late to stop, so please do not speed and be hyper-aware of your surroundings. Wildlife could also jump out in front of your car at any time. The beautiful mountains and scenery could easily distract any driver, so better to get out at each stop to look around and take photos, but keep your eyes on the road if you are the driver!

Start Packing!

oak creek canyon signboardOak Creek Canyon / Photo by Lizzie Gerecitano

Here’s our recommended list. Best to be prepared in case you decide to do more than you expected once you get to Red Rock Canyon!

  • Portable cell phone charger: You’ll need this to keep your phone charged throughout the tour.
  • Hiking Boots: If they’re new, break them in before you get to Red Rock Canyon. They are an invaluable investment for several reasons. High-top hiking boots are particularly recommended for several reasons, including having stability for your ankles on rocky, uneven terrain, and good tread on gravel trails and climbing up and over rocks. Dirt and gravel trails can actually be quite slippery even when dry, and rocks can become slick after rain. The other reason for high tops is that there are prickly cactuses low to the ground, so you want to protect your ankles from being stabbed with cactus spines! That said, some people do hike the easier trails in sneakers.
  • Sun Protection: Sunglasses, a large hat for shade and to protect your face from burning, lip balm and sunscreen (make sure to apply to your ears and the back of your neck along with the usual places!) 
  • Layers, Long Pants, Long-sleeve Shirt: Even if it’s hot, it is recommended when hiking in the desert that you keep as much of your skin covered as possible to help protect it from the sun, low-lying cactuses, dirt, dust, and quickly dropping temperatures. 
  • Personal Locator Beacon if hiking alone.
  • Bug spray
  • Small first-aid kit
  • Insulated water bottles: Have at least two on hand, especially if you want to keep your water cool. 
  • Snacks: Keep a protein bar or some nuts and crackers in your backpack in case you get hungry in the middle of a hike. You may use more energy than you are used to and find yourself suddenly famished and in need of sustenance.
  • Wet wipes/sanitizer: For any dirty or sticky situations, or in case you want to use them when dealing with vault toilets and no running water…
  • A good, positive attitude: We find this is always a good thing to ‘pack’ and bring with you on an adventure. Being able to adapt to unexpected situations is a real plus. But being prepared with all of the information you now have at your fingertips will go a long way in helping to have a successful day trip.

Leave No Trace

desert overlookHigh Point Overlook / Photo by Lizzie Gerecitano

During your visit, we ask that you follow the Leave No Trace motto. You can do this by staying on the trail, throwing out your garbage, and leaving plants and animals in the Conservation Area.  

download shaka guide red rock

We hope that we’ve given you all the information you need to make the most of your day. Your vacation is extremely important to us so if you have any questions feel free to reach out at aloha@shakaguide.com.

For more detailed information to help you plan, check out our Red Rock Canyon Itinerary and Know Before You Go article.


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