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Red Rock Canyon Tour – a Prehistoric Paradise

Red Rock Canyon Tour – a Prehistoric Paradise

Less than 20 miles from the Las Vegas strip lies a geologically fascinating landscape where wild donkeys run free. In this corner of the Mojave Desert, crimson hills rise up from the flat sandy desert in massive red mounds swirled with cream colored sandstone. It’s only a few minutes from the bustling city and yet it’s a world away. A Red Rock Canyon tour takes you to this prehistoric paradise and lets you explore some of its 195,819 acres.

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An image of Turtle Head Mountain and the Calico Hills in Red Rock Canyon near Las Vegas, Nevada.
Red Rock Canyon is a place where you can see the land turned upside down. An active fault line has thrust the limestone Turtle Head Peak high above the much older Calico Hills. Photo by Greg Olsen.

Howard Hughes Owned Red Rock Canyon

Perhaps it was the solitude of this spot that originally attracted Howard Hughes, famous for his reclusive tendencies, to purchase the land that now makes up the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. Hughes eventually traded his land holdings with the state, so that he could build the community of Summerlin and so they could establish a conservation area and have a significant buffer between it and development.

An image of scooters lined up in Red Rock Canyon Conservation area out side Las Vegas, Nevada.
One of the more interesting looking Red Rock Canyon tours is done on scooters. Photo by Greg Olsen.

Related: Looking for more great day trips from Vegas? Check out our post Visiting Death Valley in Day.

An image of two people standing outside the visitor center at Red Rock Canyon near Las Vegas.
Almost every Red Rock Canyon tour makes a stop at the Visitor Center. Interpretive panels help to explain the unique geology of this nature site.

Red Rock Canyon Tour Options

Today the Red Rock National Conservation Area is an outdoor playground for those with an adventurous spirit and there are many different ways to explore it. If you have a rental car, you can enjoy a scenic drive just outside the city and explore some of the conservation area’s 93 km of trails and check out the visitor center. If you don’t have a vehicle, you can take a guided tour of Red Rock Canyon. There are scooter tours, horseback riding tours, rock climbing expeditions, cycling excursions and bus tours that will pick you up on the strip and take you into the heart of the conservation area for a few hours of outdoor fun.

An image of a group of hikers climbing in Red Rock, just outside Las Vegas, Nevada.
Climbing is a popular activity in Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area near Las Vegas, Nevada. Photo by Greg Olsen.

The Pink Jeep Tour

On a recent trip, we took a pink jeep tour of Red Rock Canyon for a morning of exploration. Our first stop was the visitor center near the entrance of the conservation area where our driver and guide Robert explained the geology behind the colorful rock formations. “Hundreds of millions of years ago, active fault lines pushed land masses together and created wet sand dunes that fossilized,” said Robert. “Minerals from the water lodged in the fossilized rocks causing the striking red color. Iron oxide gives the rocks their rusty red color and manganese imparts the black color you see in some of the rocks.”

An image of the pink jeep used to transport guests on a
The famous pink jeeps are famously comfortable! Photo by Greg Olsen.

What to Bring on a Red Rock Canyon Tour

Most tour companies have a shuttle service that will pick you up right at your Las Vegas hotel. Be sure to wear comfortable walking shoes or hiking sandals. It’s hot in the Mojave Desert, so you’ll want to wear sunscreen, a sun hat, sunglasses and bring a reusable water bottle. (A reusable water bottle is better for the environment because it reduces the waste in landfills caused by disposable water bottles.)

An image of a mountain with a red streak running through it at the Red Rock Conservation Area outside Las Vegas, Nevada.
Iron oxide gives the rocks their red color at Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area. Photo by Greg Olsen.

Benefits of a Knowledgeable Guide

Our local guide Robert was very knowledgeable and had been guiding in Red Rock for many years. He told us about the flora and fauna of the conservation area. He also talked about the history of the conservation area and took us to all of its key spots.

An image of a lone woman standing on the red rocks of Red Rock Canyon outside Las Vegas, Nevada.
Hiking through this amazing wonderland of red rocks is one of the best parts of any Red Rock Canyon tour. Photo by Greg Olsen.
An image of a group of hikers at Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area outside Las Vegas Nevada.
A group of people heads out on a hike on a Red Rock Canyon Tour. Photo by Greg Olsen.
An image of a man standing on the red rocks at Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area outside Las Vegas, Nevada.
A tour of Red Rock Canyon is just plain fun. It’s as simple as that. Photo by Debbie Olsen.

Why You Should Experience Red Rock Canyon

A Red Rock Canyon tour is a chance to step back in time. It’s an opportunity to see what the mighty Mojave Desert looked like before it was developed. Las Vegas is the ultimate urban playground for adults. Red Rock Canyon is its antithesis – an outdoor playground for everyone. Sometimes it’s good to get away from civilization for a little while – even in a party city like Vegas.

Related: Zion National Park is just over two hours drive from Las Vegas. Our article about the Best Hikes in Zion National Park can help you figure out where to go first.

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