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Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is a nearly 200,000-acre National Conservation Area protected by the Bureau of Land Management as part of the National Landscape Conservation System.  Located just 15 miles west of Las Vegas, the area is extremely popular.  A 13-mile scenic loop drive runs through the valley with numerous stops to enjoy the view or set out on a desert hike.  Rock climbing is also popular on the rugged sandstone cliffs.  There are two wilderness areas partially within the conservation area - La Madre Mountains Wilderness Area and Rainbow Mountain Wilderness Area.

Directions:

To visit the park, head west from Las Vegas on US-95 north for about 5 miles and take exit 81A for Summerlin Parkway.  Go 5.6 miles and take the exit on the right for County Road 215 south and drive 2.2 miles.  Take exit 26 for NV-159 and turn right to head west.  In just over 5 miles, turn right to enter the Conservation Area and pay the admission at the fee station.

Map:

Scenic Loop:

The scenic loop is a 3-mile one-way drive around the conservation area.  There are a number of stops to take a picture or access the hiking trails.

Visitor Center:

The visitor center the is the first stop after the fee station.  There are restrooms, potable water, a gift shop, and friendly staff to answer any questions.  A short paved path leads behind the visitor center to great desert views.

Calico I:

Calico I is the first of two stops along the colorful Calico Hills.  This stop provides access to the Calico Hills Trail.

Sandstone Quarry:

Sandstone Quarry is at the northern end of Calico Hills and provides access to Calico Hill Trail, Turtlehead Peak, and Calico Tanks.

High Point Overlook:

High Point Overlook is the highest point on the scenic drive and has scenic views of the conservation area.

Trails:

La Madre Spring Trail:

Length: 3.3 miles round trip
Difficulty: Moderate
Trailhead: Willow Springs Picnic Area

La Madre Spring Trail is a 1.5-mile trail from Willow Springs Picnic Area to its namesake.  The trail starts from the picnic area and follows the 4WD Rocky Gap Road for about a half-mile.  The trail then turns right off the road and enters La Madre Mountains Wilderness Area.  In a short ways, the trail splits - right is White Rock Loop and left goes to La Madre Spring.  It's just under a mile from the split to the spring.  The lush green around the spring is in stark contrast to the surrounding desert.

Petroglyph Wall Trail:

Length: 0.15 miles miles round trip
Difficulty: Easy
Trailhead: Willow Springs Picnic Area

Petroglyph Wall Trail is a short and easy hike from Willow Spring Picnic Area.  The trail crosses the wash and terminates at a wall with petroglyphs and pictographs.

White Rock Loop:

Length: 6 mile loop
Difficulty: Strenuous
Trailhead: Willow Springs Picnic Area/Lost Creek Trailhead Parking/Upper White Rock Parking

White Rock Loop makes a 6-mile loop around the White Rock Hills.  It's a loop, so the trail can be started from three trailheads.  Starting from Willow Springs Picnic Area, the trail follows the 4WD Rocky Gap Road for about a half-mile, then turns right to enter La Madre Mountains Wilderness Area.  In a short ways, the trail splits - right is White Rock Loop and left goes to La Madre Spring.


Go right and the trail will gradually head down towards a wash and then climb up to head around the north side of the White Rock Hills.  Passing through a gap, there are views of Las Vegas in the distance.


After crossing the gap, the trail descends to Upper White Rock parking area and passes by White Rock Spring.  Heading south along the eastern edge of White Rock Hills, there are nice views of Red Rock Canyon.


Finally, the trail curves around heading west, passing the Lost Creek Trailhead parking before ending back at Willow Spring Picnic Area.

Wildlife:

Cacti:

As a desert, there are lots of cacti in Red Rock Canyon.  Prickly pears are one of the more common types.

Here are some hedgehog cacti growing in La Madre Mountains Wilderness.

Silver cholla (Cylindropuntia echinocarpa) is a tree-like cactus found growing in the desert.

Blog Entries:

03-Nov-2017: Red Rock Canyon

External Links:

Bureau of Land Management website: https://www.blm.gov/programs/national-conservation-lands/nevada/red-rock-canyon

Southern Nevada Conservancy website: https://www.redrockcanyonlv.org/