Thanks to our dry desert climate, Nevada is full of fantastic, ancient areas that boast preserved fossils and other unique finds. Las Vegas itself is more than just artificial neon lights: the city named after “the meadows” is surrounded by a cornucopia of beautiful natural sites.
Take, for example, Red Rock Canyon, a National Conservation Area: it’s a gorgeous area replete with Joshua trees, Utah junipers, gullies, peaks, chutes, Bighorn sheep and wonderful trailheads.
The History of Red Rock Canyon
These 62,000 acres were established as a National Conservation Area under the oversight of the Bureau of Land Management by the U.S. Government back in 1967, but the story of this canyon reaches much farther back in time: some 600 million years. The area used to be under seawater, but volcanoes changed all that. Time and erosion have carved out the sandstone arches, bridges and sienna sculptures, and ancient rivers cut deep canyons and cliffs some 2,000 feet above the valley floor.
Getting to Red Rock Canyon
Red Rock Canyon is only 20 miles west of town; there’s a 13-mile, one-way scenic loop that you can drive on your way to the trailheads. To get to the canyon, just drive west on Charleston Boulevard (which becomes NV 159) until you see the impressive rocks and the visitor’s sign that indicate you’ve reached the place.
The canyon is only 30 minutes from the Strip. You can even bike there; many people enjoy taking the loop by bike.
If you’d like to relax during your trip out here, consider taking a pink Jeep tour from the hotel, where the driver will take you along that scenic loop while pointing out spots that have been featured in movies and photographs.
There are more than a dozen trails in the area, ranging in length (some as short as .7 miles), difficulty, and terrain challenges. If you’re going to do a hike out here, it’s essential to come prepared with the proper gear, plenty of snacks and water, clothing layers, good footwear, a compass, a watch, and other hiking essentials.
We like the two-mile round-trip hike that leads to Pine Creek Canyon. You’ll see ponderosa pines, as well as the ruins of a historic home. Wherever you hike, look for bighorn sheep, lizards, desert tortoises, lichen and other amazing rocks, petroglyphs and sandstone formations.
There are a number of sites that cover specific trails in the area. Three of them include:
The link to SunsetCities.com will also give you an overview of the kinds of flora, fauna and possible fossils you might find out here.
If you’d like to hike with other people, there’s a Meetup.com site where you can make arrangements: http://www.meetup.com/Hiking-Las-Vegas/.
There’s currently a $7-per-vehicle fee at the Visitor’s Center.