Red Rock Canyon National Park

As we cruised into Vegas, we decided to check out Red Rock Canyon, a well renowned park on the east side of the city. The first thing we noticed is how quickly the city disappeared, one minute we were driving through lush palms and suburbs, the next all we could see in every direction was desert. The canyon itself was semi hidden behind some spectacular mountains, just a glimpse of brilliant red over the tops of hills as you get closer and closer. When you finally do make it to the visitor center, a clean and modern haven of tourist info and air conditioning, you will see a completely alien stretch of rock jutting out of the ground through a massive window-wall that wouldn’t be out of place on a star destroyer.

It’s completely foreign to its surroundings, grand mesas and mountains with bands of color running through them occasionally. The red rock looks like a fossil, something half unearthed, as if it’s discoverer had gotten tired part way through, and just left it sitting there. Pictures can’t capture just how striking the color really is, it actually is red, like really really red. The base of the rock is white, and the meeting between the two is disturbingly abrupt, just a straight line dividing the red rock from its lightly colored foundation.

The area is filled with easy to expert level hiking trails, though the heat alone is enough to render even the most basic trail quite daunting. Luckily, the park has built a “scenic route” which is a 13 mile loop through some truly amazing terrain. Much like the Petrified Forest, the whole thing can be seen from various outlooks conveniently placed along the road. We were told of Burros and mountain lions which inhabited the area, and though we saw neither, it wasn’t hard to imagine why they might make this their home. The many cliffs and crags create a multitude of perfect shelters and perches, not to mention the desert plains that stretch across everything that isn’t a mountain.

The park was consistently caressed by a gentle breeze, which occasionally decided to become a gale force hurricane. It made the heat bearable, but we did see a couple dust devils form off in the distance, and my phone was almost blown clear out of my hand at one point. The final panorama (just above) really illustrates how odd the rock really is. It is the only rock in the area of that composition, and the way it just rises out of the ground, it gives it the feeling of some great rock-berg, floating low on the waves of sand. Definitely worth the trip to see, the whole loop can be driven in about 40 minutes, but if you have the time and the water, I would recommend hiking around the red rock itself, and up into the canyons to the north. Some spectacular natural springs are supposedly buried deep in the trails, though I have yet to test that for myself.

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