Scenic drive, accessible overlooks provide a look at Red Rock Canyon

One of the best scenic drives in Southern Nevada starts only about a half-hour west of the Strip at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. This colorful red, orange and yellow landscape, composed primarily of sandstone, is dominated by the towering Wilson Cliffs. The park, which encompasses about 200,000 acres, is managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

When first entering the park, you pass through a fee station. Here you can pick up a park newspaper, which includes a map and destination guide. For those with limited mobility, a good place to start your visit is at the Red Rock Canyon Visitor Center.

This center is completely accessible, including the parking, bathrooms, lecture rooms and the indoor and outdoor displays. Interpretive displays are found throughout the inside, but out the back door is where the park showcases its most interesting and creative information. There are four themed interpretive exhibits: earth, air, fire and water. The highlight here is the earth exhibit, which spotlights the park’s resident desert tortoises.

From spring through fall, if you are fortunate, you might be able to see one of these federally protected reptiles. Tortoises can spend 95 percent of their lives in their burrows, but they often live 60-80 years. There is an accessible paved trail along the perimeter of the tortoise area where the burrows are.

Once you leave the visitor center, head onto the 13-mile scenic drive, which is a one-way loop. This drive lets you see close-up views of the park’s highlights, including the Calico Hills, High Point Overlook, Willow Springs and the Wilson Cliffs. It isn’t just a drive, as there are plenty of accessible viewpoints and overlooks along the roadway to stop. If you have the time, relax on a bench, breathe some fresh air and take in the breathtaking views firsthand.

The highest elevation along the drive is the High Point Overlook, 4,771 feet in elevation, which affords one of the best panoramic views of the park. Here you will find an accessible parking area and plenty of viewing space to see the Wilson Cliffs, which rise more than 3,000 feet above the valley floor.

Another great place to stop is the Willow Springs picnic area, just off the main loop on the right. There is an accessible trail here and mature deciduous trees that not only shade the paths but also provide a sheltered place to sit, listen and look for birds. More than 150 species of birds have been identified in the park. Red Rock Canyon is also home to a lot of wildlife, including desert bighorn sheep, mule deer, mountain lions, coyotes and gray foxes.

Back in your vehicle, continue along the loop. As you travel, look to your right and you will find many deep side canyons that are flanked by sheer cliff walls. These highly vegetated canyons are sought by hikers and climbers from throughout the world. As you finish driving the loop, keep your eyes open for the resident herd of wild burros that are often seen along the roadway.

Once you reach the end of the scenic drive, go left, exiting the loop, and you will be back on state Route 159 toward Las Vegas. Drive less than a half-mile and on your left you will find the Red Rock Overlook. There is an accessible trail here, and the overlook offers another full panoramic view of the stunning Red Rock Canyon area. It’s one last chance to take in the natural beauty of the park before heading back to town.

National Access passes are accepted at this park. The scenic drive is open daily from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. through September, with shortened hours the rest of the year. The visitor center is open daily 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. For more information on Red Rock Canyon NCA, call 702-515-5367 or visit

Deborah Wall is the author of Base Camp Las Vegas: Hiking the Southwestern States” and “Great Hikes, A Cerca Country Guide,” published by Stephens Press. Dennis Boulton is a retired Nevada school teacher and geologist. They can be reached at

Lights FC coach Eric Wynalda lost his home in California wildfire
Eric Wynalda, coach of the Las Vegas Lights FC soccer team, talks about losing his home in the deadly California wildfires during an interview in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Nov. 17, 2018. (Ron Kantowski/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Women face issues from Essure birth control implants
DeVonna "Kat" Normand said she had complications from the Essure birth control implants. Normand uses her Sin City Heat show at 22.3 TakeOver Vegas Radio internet radio station in Las Vegas as a platform to raise awareness about Essure and connect with other women who have used the device. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Truancy and Clark County schools
Tony Stark, one of 23 attendance officers with the Clark County School District, have a tall order tracking down students who aren't in school.
North Las Vegas Water Meters
Randy DeVaul shows off the new water meters that the city is installing.
Project 150 Thanksgiving 2018
About 100 volunteers for Project 150 box Thanksgiving meals for high school students and their families in Las Vegas on Wednesday, Nov. 14.
Three Square’s Maurice Johnson Talks About Food Waste
Three Square’s director of operations Maurice Johnson talks about food waste.
Parade preparation nears completion
Downtown Summerlin prepares for its annual holiday parade.
Clark County Wetlands promotes 2019 Wetland Walker Program
This year the park will be celebrating the Northern Flicker. The program is designed to teach about that bird, and encourage people to visit the Wetlands and walk the same distance the bird migrates each year.
Poet’s Walk Henderson introduces storytelling
Residents enjoy a storytelling activity.
Downtown Summerlin hosts its annual Festival of Arts
People crowd to Downtown Summerlin for the 23rd annual Summerlin Festival of Arts in Las Vegas, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018. (Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Clark County educators debate alternative grading systems
Spring Valley High School principal Tam Larnerd, Spring Valley High School IB coordinator Tony Gebbia and retired high school teacher Joyce O'Day discuss alternative grading systems. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Grandparents on the fire that killed three family members
Charles and Doris Smith talk about the night an apartment fire took the lives of three of their family members. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
New York artist Bobby Jacobs donated a sculpture to the Las Vegas Healing Garden
Bobby Jacobs, an artist from upstate New York, has spent much of the past year creating a sculpture of two separate angel wings. He donated the sculpture to the Las Vegas Healing Garden. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Weather will cool slightly through the end of the week
The weather will cool slightly through the end of the week., but highs are still expected to be slightly above normal for this year. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Mayor announces new public-private partnership
Mayor Carolyn Goodman announced the creation of the Mayor’s Fund for Las Vegas LIFE, a public-private partnership that will allocate money to the city’s neediest.
Fremont9 opens downtown
Fremont9 apartment complex has opened in downtown Las Vegas. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Fall fairytale gets cozy at Bellagio Conservatory
Bellagio Conservatory introduces its fall-themed garden titled "Falling Asleep." (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
What the house that Ted Binion died in looks like today
Casino heir Ted Binion died in this Las Vegas home in 1998. Current home owner Jane Popple spent over $600,000 to restore and modernize the home. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Rescue Mission employees terminated
Don James, a former employee for the Las Vegas Rescue Mission, talks about the day his team was terminated. (Erik Verduzco/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Raiders Cupcakes at Freed's Bakery
Freed's Bakery will have Raiders-themed cupcakes available in store and for order during football season. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
51s fans say goodbye to Cashman Field
Las Vegas 51s fans said goodbye to Cashman Field in Las Vegas, Monday September, 3, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
51s owner Don Logan's last weekend at Cashman Field
Don Logan, owner of the Las Vegas 51s, gives a tour of Cashman Field before the team's final weekend using the field. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
News Headlines
Local Spotlight
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like