Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is a 195,819-acre parcel of the Mojave Desert. For those who like to hike, mountain bike, rock climb, or just enjoy spectacular scenery, it’s a “must-see” destination when visiting southern Nevada. A great way to introduce yourself to the area is through Red Rock Canyon Tours.
Why Red Rock Canyon?
Visually stunning, Red Rock Canyon is a landscape of red and tan sandstone and dark gray limestone shaped by seismic forces and carved by millennia of wind and water erosion into towering crags, smooth mounds, and fanciful shapes. It is home to more than 600 species of plants and a wide variety of animals, including mountain lions, big-horned sheep, mule deer, wild horses, wild burros, coyotes, desert foxes, snakes, lizards, and the endangered desert tortoise.
Within the Conservation Area, you’ll find hiking trails, picnic areas, mountain biking and equestrian trails, designated rock climbing routes for all skill levels, and a campground, as well as opportunities for backcountry camping and adventures.
Best of all, it’s only 17 miles outside of Las Vegas!
Why Take A Tour?
Since the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is so close to the city, one way to visit is by renting a car and making the drive yourself. It’s an easy half-hour from any of the major hotels. Depending on the season and day of the week, that rental will run you about $65 at the time of this writing, plus a minor investment in gas. There is no way to get there by public transportation.
The advantage of a tour is that, in addition to providing your transportation, you will receive a little extra in the way of information. Ideally, a tour guide will provide you with some background on the geology, history, flora, and fauna of the unique ecosystem that is Red Rock Canyon.
Why Red Rock Canyon Tours?
Several tour operators are licensed to conduct guided hikes within the Conservation Area. Most charge about $129. Red Rock Canyon Tours offers 3-hour tours (an hour’s drive round-trip plus 2 hours on the trail) for $59. That’s one reason. But it’s not the most important one. The reason I would recommend Red Rock Canyon tours is that the owner, Tom Dziadek, is the perfect tour guide. A wealth of information, Tom is also intuitive (sensing his guests’ preferences and abilities), experienced, and has a great sense of humor. His operation is low-key and low-overhead but very professional. He brings the little extras you might need, including bottled water, day packs, and walking sticks.
Red Rock Canyon Tours keeps their groups small. Ours included a family of three (all adults), a couple, and myself — just six customers. The interaction of the group members resulted in a nice synergy. I found the questions asked by others and the answers Tom provided enhanced my experience.
Tom knows the Conservation Area well. He can provide an experience that meets your needs whether you’ve never been there or you’ve been there a dozen times. He shows his customers interesting, out-of-the way sights and peppers his commentary with history and relevant personal observations. A 6-foot-high pile of sticks I would not have noticed, for example, is a visual indication of the height of the last flash flood that swept through the area in which we were hiking. During these events, the floodwaters can reach 120 miles per hour in velocity. The last one was in 2008. I would not have known that without Tom pointing out the debris tucked under the side of a stand of scrub oak.
Tom leaves his guests plenty of time for solo exploration as well. He took us to a place with several options ranging from staying put and admiring a wide range of vistas to taking a short walk to a spring, a longer scramble down a dry wash, or an exhilarating climb up a “petrified sand dune,” a.k.a. a sweep of sandstone.
There are advantages, I am sure, to the other tours as well. One specializes in more “extreme” adventures, focusing on rock scrambling and custom-designed private tours. The Red Rock Canyon Interpretive Association (http://www.redrockcanyonlv.org) offers programs as well, but their limited availability may or may not coincide with your visit to Las Vegas.
So when you’re tired of the glitz, glamor, sin, and second-hand smoke of The Las Vegas Strip, do yourself a favor and take respite in the unique ecosystems of Red Rock Canyon. And if you don’t feel like driving, or if you want the company and wisdom of a terrific host, consider contacting Tom at Red Rock Canyon Tours, (702) 703-4426, or http://www.redrockcanyon-tours.com. I highly recommend him and his company.
Sally O’Neal is a travel and outdoor writer who visited Red Rock Canyon in 2014. This article is one in a series she wrote on Red Rock Canyon. Watch for the others here at Sportsman’s Guide.