Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is 17 miles west of Las Vegas.
I made a PB&J sandwich for lunch from the room then packed our food for the day as I planned on spending all day at Red Rock Canyon. I picked up a soy latte from Starbucks at the hotel on my way out. I could have eaten my breakfast in the room I guess but I was too eager to start the day.
When we entered the Conservation Area, I let Xena out of the car for a quick photo. At first, she was happy but that changed quickly when we heard shotguns. There must have been a shooting range very close by. Xena could not get back in the car fast enough.
Red Rock Canyon is managed by the Bureau of Land Management as part of its National Landscape Conservation System and it accepts the America the Beautiful annual pass. Although all the trails were open, the ranger warned me about the soft condition of the trails due to the recent rainstorm. The park had to close midday the day before due to the heavy rain and strong wind.
I planned only one day for the Red Rock so I picked a couple of trails to get a taste of the park. It was overcast and the temperature was in the upper 50s. As long as the wind doesn’t pick up more, it was a great condition for hikes.
Hike #1: Moenkopi Loop
- Total Distance: 2.1 miles
- Elevation Gain: 149 ft. (starting elevation: 3,698 ft.)
Park at the visitor center. This easy 2-mile round trip hike is kid-friendly, educational and a great way to see the entire park. If you like natural history and geology like me, you will enjoy this little hike. The trailhead is at the west of the visitor center at the end of the 911 Memorial.
When the trail splits, we went straight and did the loop clockwise. But you can go to either direction since it’s a loop. There will be signs to guide you and the trail is wide open. What a view, right?
Hike #2: White Rock
- Total Distance: 6.7 miles
- Elevation Gain: 963 ft. (starting elevation: 4,529 ft.)
I planned on checking out the Calico Tank Trail on our way to White Rock trail but the parking area was packed and overflowing to the Scenic Loop Drive. So I kept on driving and reached the White Rock lower parking lot off the Scenic Drive.
You know how sometimes unexpected detours happen and make the hike better than if your plan wasn’t interrupted? That didn’t happen on that day. I parked further than I needed to and missed a critical turn so we ended up walking on the Scenic Loop Drive 2nd half of the hike. I saw parked cars at the lower parking lot and assumed that the upper parking lot near the trailhead was full so I parked at the lower parking. Wrong. This parking area was for people who just wanted to stop and take photos and move on to the next viewpoint spot. It does have a great view.
We began our hike on White Rock Mountain Rd. I planned on doing the White Rock out and back but I saw the sign for White Rock Loop 6 miles at the trailhead. Instantly, I decided to do the loop. Who doesn’t like a loop, right? I followed the sign for Keystone Thrust and White Rock Loop. If you want to do this clockwise, look for a trailhead to the west of the information board.
The trail was busy at the beginning with tourists but after we passed the split to the Keystone Thrust, we were alone and it felt remote. The trail began on an incline. There was no steep incline or decline to mention though. I loved the rugged sandstone of Red Rock Canyon.
We would go for like 30 minutes and see no one. I don’t need to see people for hours or even days but as soon as I don’t have the cell phone reception, I feel uneasy. Yes, I am one of those people who get anxious when my cell phone battery level drops below 65%. When I started to wonder if we were still on the trail, someone would come from the other direction.
The terrain became rockier and there were many big cacti along the trail.
After this hike, I had to remove 4 half-inch long cactus thorns from the top of her paws with a tweezer. 🤕 First I tried it with my fingers and it kept cutting off. The tweezer pulled those stinkers out with no problem.
At the La Madre Spring trail junction, we turn left. In hindsight, I should’ve turned us around and returned to the trailhead (out and back) at this point because the best part of this hike was over for us. La Madre Spring trail had more traffic and Xena did not like the gravel road. It was hard for her to walk. I felt bad for her.
We left the La Madre Spring Wilderness and got on Rocky Gap Road. Walking on the pavement and looking out for oncoming traffic isn’t hiking! Long story short, I missed a trail that we were supposed to pick up after the Willow Spring Picnic area. I looked around but didn’t see it. I should have created a route and loaded it to my phone. I thought there would be signs. So we ended up walking back to the car via roads, Rocky Gap Road then Scenic Loop Drive. At least Scenic Loop Drive is a one-way road and I only had to watch out for the oncoming traffic. I saw some people walking on Rocky Gap Road but no one was as lost as we were to walk on Scenic Loop Drive. LOL. Sigh.
I was going to stay in the park until the sunset but that didn’t happen. When we got back to the car around 3:30 pm, we were cold, thirsty and tired. After sharing coconut water and some snacks, Xena wanted to go in the car. While I was loading the car, she was already dozing off.
I thought to plan better for the next day. I was really excited about visiting the Valley of Fire State Park and didn’t want to cut that trip short.
Red Rock Canyon is beautiful! Next time, I will definitely plan a longer trip. I already can’t wait to go back! For videos from this day, go to our Facebook page.
Good to Know:
- Hike Date: 2.19.17
- If you do the White Rock Loop right and don’t get lost like I did, it is 6 miles in RT
- Daily Fee: $7/vehicle