Photo by Lizzie Gerecitano

Photo by Lizzie Gerecitano

Shaka Guide's Red Rock Canyon Itinerary


Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is only about 15 miles west of Downtown Las Vegas, yet it feels like a world away.

Instead of gambling, shows, and crowded streets, you’re surrounded by mountains, deserts, canyons, and wildlife.

Getting out into nature, you and your family will have the opportunity to explore stupendous beauty and take several hikes, making for a great day trip away from The Strip.

With a magnificent Scenic Drive, you can motor from one overlook and trailhead to the next while listening to Shaka Guide stories about the history, geology, plant,s and wildlife all around you.

red rock canyon tour stops map by shaka guide

So pack a picnic, fill up your gas tank, and take a road trip out to Red Rock Canyon.

The Scenic Drive is a mere 13 miles long so you could get around it by vehicle within an hour.

But there are so many spectacular stops along the way where you’ll want to get out to take pictures and hike the trails.

And the Visitor Center’s outdoor exhibits should be on your list of things to do, as well.

Budget a minimum of two hours for this tour, but if you factor in hikes, a picnic lunch, and spending a little time in each location along the tour, you could make a day out of it!

With 16 stops along the route and 32 points of narration, Shaka Guide will be along for the ride, making sure you know all of the best things to do and see, while keeping you entertained the entire time.

Important Information

Red Rock Canyon requires a reservation to enter between October 1st and May 31st,  between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Click here to make your timed entry reservation. Each entry time is good for one hour, so, for example, if you get a 9 a.m. entry time, you can enter between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. 

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.

And if capacity has been reached, you won’t be allowed back in.

So don’t miss any of the stops the first time around, especially the Visitor Center exhibits and gift shop right near the entrance.

Because once you pass that, you can’t get back to it.

Getting Early

If you’re entering Red Rock Canyon between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m., you don’t need a reservation.

Nor do you need a reservation between June 1st and September 30th.

But hours and reservations are subject to change, so check before you go!

Planning Ahead

There is no gas station, food, or water** along the tour route once we reach the area of Red Rock Canyon.

So get all of your supplies while we’re still within the city along Rt. 159/W. Charleston Blvd.

(The grocery store and gas station closest to Red Rock Canyon are in Las Vegas, at the intersection of Desert Foothills Drive on 11720 W. Charleston Blvd.)

There is also very little chance you’ll have any cell phone reception/wifi inside Red Rock Canyon. You’re in some serious nature out there!

So, just be sure to download the tour in wifi before you leave. 

 **There is one water bottle refilling station at the Visitor Center. However, you can only access it at the first stop along the Scenic Drive and not at any other time along the tour route.


1.  Red Rock Canyon Visitor’s Center

visitor center in the desert of red rock canyon

Approximate Time: 40 minutes

The Visitor’s Center is open daily from 9 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

The moment you walk inside you’ll be treated to a jaw-dropping view of the Calico Hills and a fabulous gift shop/bookstore.

The outdoor exhibits, which you access by walking through the inside of the Visitor Center, are not to be missed.

They include one of only panoramic views of the mountains along the Scenic Drive, with plaques identifying the names of each mountain range.

This is also your best chance to see a live desert tortoise in its natural habitat.

Back inside, stop by the Information Booth to ask for advice on the hiking conditions while you pick up a free map of the trails.

2. The Scenic Drive

Approximate Time: 45 minutes

This world-renowned Scenic Drive road is a 13-mile loop that allows you to experience all of the spectacular high and low elevations of Red Rock Canyon from your vehicle, along with many spectacular stops and trailheads along the way.

Allow at least a couple of hours to see everything – more than that if you want to take some of the amazing hikes that lead you into the mountains and canyons, around rock formations, and, sometimes, face-to-face with wildlife!

3. Calico I

brown rock formationsCalico I / Photo by Lizzie Gerecitano

Approximate Time: 30 minutes 

It would be hard to pass this first stop in the Calico Hills without at least stepping foot on some of the vivid red rock.

Although you could just park, get out of the car, and take a few moments to enjoy the mind-blowing view and take some photos, you probably won’t be able to resist hiking at least a little of this moderate trail.

It runs 2 - 6 miles from different start/end points, but just a taste of it will allow you to experience the beauty and shapes of these gorgeous rock formations up close.

4. Calico II

Approximate Time: 5 minutes

Pull up and feast your eyes on this view! You’ll want to take even more photos of the Calico Hills from this angle, and you’ll find yourself seeing all kinds of different things in these intricate rock formations.

If you’re lucky enough to get a parking spot in this small lot, you could also hike part of the same Calico Hills trail from here that you can access from Calico I, but with different vantage points of the glorious red rocks.

5. Sandstone Quarry

sandstone quarryShutterstock Image

Approximate Time: 30 minutes

The most popular hiking trail in all of Red Rock Canyon begins from this location, which is the site of an old quarry operation.

You can see the cuts in the mountain sandstone and a few of the slabs remain on-site.

Look for rock climbers way up high (they are so far up that they almost blend in!)

But the real reason this stop is so popular is because it’s the starting point of the Calico Tanks Trail.

You may have to drive around the parking lot a few times until a space opens up, but it’s worth it to take at least part of this moderate trail for the magnificent views.

6. High Point Overlook

desert view

Approximate Time: 5 minutes

This is one of only a few truly sweeping overlooks of Red Rock Canyon, and this one’s at the highest elevation point in all of Red Rock Canyon at 4,771 feet above sea level.

Pull in, get out of the car, and immerse yourself in the view as you slowly turn full circle to see all of the mountain majesty surrounding you.

7. White Rock Trailhead

Approximate Time: 5 minutes

The stop itself is a viewpoint, but you could also walk up the white rock gravel road to the start of the famous Keystone Thrust trailhead if you wanted to hike from here.

The Keystone Thrust Fault is such an important act of nature that you may want the bragging rights of stepping foot on the fault line.

The trail is a moderate 2.2-mile hike round-trip and would take you about an hour and–a-half. 

8. Willow Spring Picnic and Hiking Area

willow springs signWillow Springs Picnic Area / Photo by Lizzie Gerecitano

Approximate Time: 40 minutes

Just a quick turn off the Scenic Drive will bring you to a place you don’t want to miss: Willow Spring.

There are two highly recommended hikes from this beautiful picnic area dwarfed by mountains.

The Petroglyph Wall Trail is a short, easy 15-mile hike to a cliffside full of ancient art dating back over 800 years that only takes about 30 minutes round trip.

The Willow Springs Loop is a short and easy trail (1.5 miles round-trip).

You can start from the picnic tables near the parking lot, and it's cool because sometimes you can see bighorn sheep on the mountain ledges above!

They blend in, though, so keep your eyes peeled!

You’ll also pass by the largest of the ancient agave roasting pits.

And, if you brought a picnic lunch and are hungry, enjoy this incredible view while you take a break.

9. Lost Creek Canyon

Approximate Time: 5 minutes

In the same area as Willow Spring, enjoy the mountains from this vantage point as you try to spot the bighorn sheep.

They love to hang out on the rocky cliffs but are good at blending in with the scenery!

A popular hike from this location is The Children’s Discovery Trail – rated easy, with some rocky terrain and a boardwalk.

Plus, there is a hidden seasonal waterfall that usually flows between December and April.

There’s a variety of desert plant life to see here, too. 

10. Ice Box Canyon

range of mountainsImage from Flickr by 

Approximate Time: 5 minutes

Along with a beautiful mountain and canyon view, Ice Box Canyon is also a popular area for birding and advanced hikers.

The trailhead from here is difficult and strenuous, but it’s worth a stop in the parking lot just to take in the scenery and for some photos.

11. Red Rock Wash Overlook

desert plain viewImage from Flickr by 

Approximate Time: 5 minutes

This is a sweeping and serene overlook. Take it in. Breathe in the fresh air.

Relax for a couple of minutes immersed in nature, as you listen to the wind blowing through the mountains or the unusual birds, including the western tanager, chirping in the Joshua Trees. 

12. Pine Creek Canyon

rocky mountain in the desertPine Creek Canyon / Photo by Lizzie Gerecitano

Approximate Time: 5 minutes

Stop here for views of the open desert and monolithic canyon walls, along with some diverse plant life.

If you get here later in the day, this side of the Scenic Drive is shrouded in silhouette with the sun coming from behind the mountains.

There is a moderate hike from here that leads past an old homestead site and into a meadow. 

13. Oak Creek Canyon

range of mountainsImage from Flickr by 

Approximate Time: 5 minutes

You’ll be driving down a short gravel road to get here, but you don’t need a truck – regular cars can handle the bumpy road as long as you drive slowly.

The mule deer likes to romp around this area and will sometimes run right past your car!

The view is just beautiful where the canyon cuts into the Red Rock Escarpment, and it’s just a short detour off the Scenic Drive.

14. Red Rock Overlook

Approximate Time: 20 minutes

This is arguably the best overlook in all of Red Rock Canyon.

Be sure to walk the paved trail that begins at the helipad at the far end of the parking lot.

You’ll stroll past the Joshua Trees to the benches at the tip of the overlook and see most of the giant mountains along the Scenic loop that you just finished driving around.

You can also have a wonderful picnic with a view from here if you like. Be sure and grab a selfie with this backdrop!

15. Cowboy Trail Rides

cowboys with herd of horsesCowboy Trail Rides / Photo by Lizzie Gerecitano

Approximate Time: 20 minutes

Look for the small, dirt parking lot along Rt.159 by the sign that says “Horseback Riding,” above it.

When you walk a minute or two down the dirt road, you’ll come to the Cowboy Trail Rides coral and fenced pasture.

Here, you’ll see horses, mules, and the beloved Jackson the Red Rock Burro if he’s ‘home’ and not out on a trail ride.

There are great mountain and canyon views from here, as well. Worth a quick stop.

The Fossil Ridge Trail also begins from here.

And you may find yourself tempted to make a reservation for a horseback ride that takes you along Canyon paths!

16. Red Spring Boardwalk/Picnic Area and Calico Basin Trail

boardwalk in red rockShutterstock Image

Approximate Time: 60 minutes

This is a must-see stop at Red Rock Canyon.

The drive itself, down Calico Basin Road, offers a stupendous mountain view as you head toward the Calico Hills.

The boardwalk is an easy 5-mile loop walk that you should most definitely do, that meanders over rare salt grass along the Calico Hills. It only takes about 30 minutes.

The Calico Basin Trail is one of the absolute best trails to take.


It is an easy in-and-out hike that leads you along the base of the Calico Hills.

You can see some of the most incredible red rock formations, while rock climbers hover from above.

This is another spot where you can enjoy a picnic with a stunning view.

After you've visited the last scenic spot, we'll ride with you back to the same place where we began the tour, with stories and music along the way.

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red rock canyon itinerary

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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.

If you’re ready to explore Red Rock Canyon, here’s everything you need to Know Before You Go including all the tips you’ll need to plan your visit!


The Ultimate Red Rock Canyon Travel Guide

Top 7 Must-Try Trails in Red Rock Canyon

Red Rock Canyon: 10 Things To Do + 4 Things To Know

Calico Basin Trail: A Must-Visit Hike at Red Rock Canyon


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