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Hiking up to Calico Tanks

Best Hikes in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

Red Rock Canyon is Las Vegas's pinnacle hiking jewel.

Hiking Moderate, Difficult, Severe, Extreme

Hiking up to Calico Tanks
Hiking up to Calico Tanks Photo: Greg Heil


Red Rock Canyon was the first National Conservation Area established in the state of Nevada. Located just 17 miles west of the Las Vegas Strip, the towering red rock cliffs replace the skyscrapers, and the whisper of the wind over the desert ridges, the skittering lizards running along the ground, and the endless miles of singletrack will whisper to your soul, beckoning you away from the casinos and out into the vast expanse of the Nevada desert.

This idyllic reserve protects a staggering formation of towering red rock cliffs, rolling sandstone bluffs, and an untrammeled mountain range that forms the western skyline for the local residents. Red Rock Canyon is home to world-class rock climbing, made famous by the international phenom of Alex Honnold, who now calls Las Vegas home in the winter months. But Red Rock Canyon also offers plenty of attractions for adventurers with less vertical persuasion.

The incredible natural beauty and the fame of the area make Red Rock Canyon correspondingly popular. "Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is enjoyed by the local population as well as visitors from the United States and many foreign countries," according to the Bureau of Land Management. "Two million visitors each year enjoy the spectacular desert landscape, climbing and hiking opportunities, and interpretive programs sponsored by the BLM." 

Getting a parking spot on the weekend is incredibly challenging, and you'll often have to get up with the sun to score a parking spot at the best trailheads. To help alleviate this overcrowding, the BLM has recently instituted an hour-by-hour reservation system for getting into the park. To get your reservation, go to the Recreation.gov app and search for "Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area Scenic Drive Timed Entry." Without a national parks pass, the entry fee is $15 at the time of this writing. With an America the Beautiful pass, it's only $2.

Once you're in the park, you have an incredible array of trails to choose from! The most challenging parking lot to get a spot in serves the Calico Tanks and Turtlehead Peak trails—easily two of the best hikes in the park. Located before Calico Tanks along the one-way scenic drive, the Calico Hills trail runs along the base of this stunning sandstone formation.

For a longer loop hike, the White Rock Loop circumnavigates the mountain by the same name, providing a 6.2-mile loop hike. Finally, to head deep into one of the scenic canyons on a rugged, little-maintained trail, try the Icebox Canyon hike on for size.

While Las Vegas has so many more hikes to offer than just those found in Red Rock Canyon, the stunning natural beauty found here is definitely the crown jewel of the Las Vegas region. You have to experience it for yourself—start planning your trip now!

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