Red Rock/ Shutterstock Image

Red Rock/ Shutterstock Image

Las Vegas to Red Rock Canyon: Day Trip Guide


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The Vegas Escape: Journey to Red Rock Canyon

Believe it or not, there’s more to Las Vegas than just neon and noise. So, next time you’re in Las Vegas, be sure and take the very short road trip to Red Rock Canyon.

Nestled just a stone’s throw from the dazzling lights and entertainment of ‘The Strip,’ Red Rock Canyon is a natural wonder!

This desert gem is surrounded by mountains rising from the Mojave desert — striking, rusty-red, vibrant-colored sandstone formations amidst breathtaking landscapes.

It’s a stark contrast to Las Vegas Boulevard, yet only about a half hour from ‘Sin City.’ All you have to do is rent a car and head west along Charleston Boulevard to get there! 

Day Trip to Red Rock Canyon

Need a game plan? My best advice is to start by purchasing and downloading the Shaka Guide driving app tour of Red Rock Canyon before you go.

This will give you every detail you need to know, from the park’s reservation system to each hiking trail, tips on what to bring, and every stop you’ll want to make in and around the canyon.

Timing Your Arrival

Next, you’ll want to plan what time you’re going to arrive. If you can get to the fee booth of Red Rock Canyon before 8 a.m., you won’t need a reservation.

Otherwise, if you’re visiting in any month other than July and August, you’ll most likely need an advance, timed reservation. (The best month to visit, in my opinion, is in March.

That said, any time other than summer is good. Because summer in the desert can mean temperatures up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit!)


You should give yourself an entire day to spend at Red Rock Canyon…but you could really fill two days with everything there is to see and do.

Based on your entry reservation time, plan to allow enough time beforehand to pick up supplies.

Along Charleston Boulevard, you’ll be able to fill up your gas tank and, from an Albertson’s grocery store, grab a cooler, ice, snacks, picnic lunch items, and water, water, water. 

Although there are bathrooms throughout Red Rock Canyon, the only place you can get water is at the Visitor Center, which is near the park entrance.

However, you can’t access the Visitor Center at any other time after first entering the park. And the last thing you want is to find yourself dehydrated in the desert. So pack more water than you think you’ll need.

Best Stops in Red Rock Canyon

Okay! So you’ve made your reservation(s), stocked up on snacks and water, and topped off your tank. You’ve arrived at the entrance to Red Rock Canyon and are ready to pass through the fee booth. First stop?

1. The Visitor Center Experience

facade red rock visitor centerImage from Flickr by 

The Visitor Center! That’s because you won’t get another chance to see it if you skip it at the beginning. You’ll be on a one-way scenic drive that doesn’t grant you access again once you pass it.

The Visitor Center is an exceptional place, especially once you walk out the back door to see the desert tortoise habitat and nature exhibitions.

Plus, you may want to purchase souvenirs in the wonderful gift shop and bookstore.

2. Scenic Drive Adventure

red rock canyon signShutterstock Image

Once you’ve enjoyed the Visitor Center, hop back in your car and begin the 13-mile one-way Scenic Drive around Red Rock Canyon.

The Drive will offer countless opportunities to stop at overlooks, experience hiking trails, and explore some of the wildlife that Red Rock Canyon is known for, including:

  • desert tortoises
  • bighorn sheep
  • mule deer
  • and perhaps even one extra special donkey (you’ll hear about him on the Shaka Guide tour)! 

Look out for birds native to the area, walk among Joshua trees, and search out ancient petroglyphs and pictographs etched and painted on some of the rocks — true treasures from the ancient past.

And if you like to take photos, this is the place for you! The unique lighting and colors of Red Rock Canyon make it a dream to capture, from the play of shadows on the rocks, to the rich, vibrant hues of the sky.

The enormous mountains rising up to surround you in a spectacular and majestic panorama make this place absolutely magical. 

3. Hiking Trails Galore

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There are over 30 miles of hiking trails in and around the canyon, for all skill levels, from easy walks to challenging scrambles.

So bring your hiking boots, a hat, sunscreen, and those water bottles!

One of the most popular hikes is the Calico Tanks Trail, a relatively easy 2.2-mile round-trip hike that leads to a natural water ‘tank’ and stunning vistas.

But there are many, many more that you’ll want to try at least a portion of!

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4. Scenic Stops and Overlooks

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Do yourself a favor: Stop at every parking lot along the Scenic Drive and get out of your car to enjoy the views.

Each one is a gift in itself! When you reach the end of the Scenic Drive, turn left back onto Charleston Boulevard.

Then, make an almost immediate left for the Red Rock Canyon Overlook, and walk the short path through the Joshua Trees to the lookout point. Another must-see stop!  

5. Horseback Riding

Another thing you might want to plan to do is to book a morning or sunset horseback ride at the stables across from the main park entrance at Cowboy Trail Rides!

You’ll get to immerse yourself in the rugged beauty of Red Rock Canyon...cowboy-style!

6. Calico Basin

overview of calico basin

Once you’ve finished the Scenic Drive and stopped at the Red Rock Overlook and Cowboy Trail Rides on your way back toward the main park entrance, be sure, and turn left onto Calico Basin Road, and drive down to the picnic area to see the red rocks from ‘behind’ the scenic drive.

Walk the Red Springs boardwalk nature trail and hike one of the other awesome trails atop the red rocks, while watching the amazing rock climbers scale those cliffs!

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7. Spring Mountain Ranch State Park

pond with sky reflecting in the waterImage from Flickr by 

If you have more than one day to explore the area, you might also want to check out Spring Mountain Ranch State Park, which is just past Red Rock Canyon.

It features a historic and beautifully preserved ranch house, lush gardens, and a glimpse into the early history of the area. 

8. Blue Diamond and Cottonwood Station

Also just down the road from Red Rock Canyon is the sweet, tiny desert town of Blue Diamond, which features an amazing restaurant called Cottonwood Station.

This is a fantastic spot for a meal. Not only does it have a great atmosphere (their outside deck is at the foot of one of those awesome mountains!) but this place has amazing food and craft drinks.

9. Red E Electric Bike Tour


And if you want a thrill and can handle what amounts to a roller coaster ride on a bicycle, consider booking a Red E electric bike tour of Red Rock Canyon!

It’s an unforgettable experience that you’ll boast about for the rest of your life! (My teenage boys loved this!)


Well, I hope I’ve convinced you to visit Red Rock Canyon the next time you’re in Las Vegas. Get out in nature and breathe in the serenity of the Mojave Desert.

Escape the city and take a step in the direction of nature at its finest. It’s truly a magnificent desert paradise.

Ready to take the tour? Check out Shaka Guide's Red Rock Canyon Tour!

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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