Red Rock Nevada

Red rocks is a common name in more than a few areas of Southwest USA - New Mexico, Arizona and California each have a Red Rock State Park and there are several similarly named towns in these and other states. Nevada has at least three Red Rock Canyons; two are in sections of the Toiyabe National Forest near the center of the state while by far the most well-known is location is along the east side of the Spring Mountains - one of the ranges of hills that surround most sides of Las Vegas.

Just 10 miles from the city, the mountains rise to a great colorful escarpment, formed along a fault zone with peaks over 8,000 feet, and including huge cliffs and ravines composed of bands of grey, white and red rock, all heavily eroded. The wide empty plains beneath the hills are studded with Joshua trees and other desert plants, contributing to a most impressive spectacle.

The most significant geologic feature of Red Rock Canyon is the Keystone Thrust Fault. A thrust fault is a fracture in the earth's crust where one rock plate is thrust horizontally over another. About 65 million years ago, it is believed that two of the earth's crustal plates collided with such force that part of one plate was shoved up and over younger sandstones. This thrust contact is clearly defined by the sharp contrast between the grey limestones and the red sandstones. The Keystone Thrust Fault extends from the Cottonwoood Fault (along the Pahrump Highway) 13 miles northward to the vicinity of La Madre Mountain, where it is obscured by more complex faulting.

The canyon is easily reached, as one of the busiest east-west routes through the centre of the city leads directly to the park entrance - this is Charleston Boulevard, which crosses Las Vegas Boulevard ('The Strip') a few blocks beyond the Stratosphere Tower, northernmost of the large casinos. The look-alike suburbia extends for a long way - the road passes miles of seemingly identical shops and houses, and finally a number of large, luxurious walled estates. More of these are under construction and the most recent development is now just a few miles from the mountains - properties here enjoy sweeping views in both directions, since the whole city of Las Vegas is spread out to the east, and the cliffs and canyons are visible to the west.

After being quite straight for 13 miles, Charleston Boulevard bends to the left, becomes Blue Diamond Road (Highway 159) and climbs into the foothills. It follows alongside the cliffs for a few miles heading south then curves back towards the city. One elevated viewpoint (Red Rock Vista) affords the best overall view of the cliffs, while for closer access there is a 13 mile one-way scenic drive, within the NCA boundaries. The area is administered by the BLM, although as with all other NCA sites, the National Park Service Golden Eagle, Golden Access and yearly passes are valid. The standard entry fee is $5 per vehicle. Apart from usual Southwestern creatures, wildlife in the area includes herds of wild burros, descendants of animals used by miners early this century.

Las Vegas Map

BLM Information and Regulations

Heat, Cold and Dehydration
Carry water with you. Most people need a gallon a day while hiking. Extra clothing, layers of clothing and hats protect you in the summer sun and winter cold.

Flash Floods
Be wary of nearby storms; violent downpours can cause flash flooding in areas untouched by rain. Do not cross low places when water is running.

Protected Features
All natural and historic features such as animals, plants, rocks and Indian artifacts are protected. Do not disturb, damage or remove.

Vehicle Use
The 13-mile Loop Drive is one-way only. Driving off designated roads is prohibited.

Climbing on sandstone requires equipment and experience; it is a soft, crumbly rock. Sandstone cannot be climbed within 24 hours of major rain storm.

Fires are allowed at designated sites, either in the cooking grills provided or in your own container. Ground fires are prohibited.

Treat wildlife with respect. Wild burros may bite or kick causing serious injuries. Please DO NOT feed burros or other wildlife.

Does anyone know where you are ?
Please tell a responsible party where you are going, your route, when you will return, how many are in your party, your vehicle description and license number.

Weather Information:

Red Rock Canyon NCA averages 294 days of sunshine per year (211 clear days, 83 partly cloudy days). With an average annual rainfall of 4.13 inches and an average humidity around 29%. The average temperature is 66.3 degrees (19 degrees centigrade).

Seasonal High & Low Temperatures

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Highs 56 62 68 78 88 98 104 102 94 81 66 57
Lows 32 37 42 50 59 68 75 73 65 53 40 33

Hikers should stay on established trails. Cutting across switchbacks damages soils and plants, and severely damages the trail. Thin black crusts of moss and lichen cover open areas and protect desert soils from wind and rain erosion; any foot traffic quickly destroys the crusts which heal very slowly. Off-trail hikers should spread out in small groups, and hike on rock areas as much as possible.

Climbing is prohibited on or within fifty (50) feet of prehistoric rock carvings or paintings to protect them from damage. Placing bolts is prohibited in all wilderness and wilderness study areas. White chalk marks and brightly colored slings or anchors detract from the visual experience. Limit their use when possible.

Bicycles are allowed on all paved or unpaved roads and two-tracks, but not on designated hiking trails. All bikes are obligated to follow motor vehicle road regulations on the Scenic Drive and highway; particularly those laws relating to one-way travel on the Scenic Drive, riding abreast, and slow traffic keep right.

Horseback Riding is allowed on dirt roads and two-tracks,and on some designated foot trails. Riding is prohibited on paved roads unless crossing is necessary or if the road is closed.

Backcountry Camping is allowed in RRCNCA along the Red Rock Summit Road (Rocky Gap). Backpackers should camp above Switchback Spring, well away from water sources. Ground fires are prohibited throughout the RRCNCA because of high fire danger, and slow recovery of vegetation in the dry climate. Camping stoves are the preferred alternative. Charcoal fires are allowed in developed areas only. Hunting is only permissible during hunting season and with a license. For more information about hunting call the Nevada Division of Wildlife at 486-5127. Casual shooting or target shooting is prohibited throughout the RRCNCA.

Glass containers may not be carried on trails or outside of developed picnic areas.

All pets must be on a leash in developed picnic areas and on designated trails. Leaving a pet unattended and tied to an object is prohibited.

Please carry out all trash, litter is an eyesore and a hazard to wildlife. Trash cans are located at all parking areas. Human and dog waste are becoming serious health and sanitation problems in high use areas. Plastic bags are provided at trail heads to allow users to carry waste out and deposit it in toilet vaults.

As visitation to the RRCNCA continues to increase it will be vital to the health of the resources for each user to minimize the impacts of their visit.


The following activities require permits in the RRCNCA:

* backcountry use
* collecting
* commercial use
* filming
* rock climbing
* special events
* weddings

Las Vegas Field Office managed by the

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
HCR 33, Box 5500
Las Vegas, NV 89124
(702) 515-5350
(702) 363-6779 (fax)

"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects."    — Robert A. Heinlein

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