Seriously, almost every single time I've been to Las Vegas I've driven the Red Rock Canyon Scenic Loop. It's only about 30 minutes from the Strip and a wonderful place to decompress from all the bright lights and craziness that is Las Vegas. It's one of the reasons I always get a rental car when I go there, well, that and to get to Whole Foods. The drive is about 13 miles along and can be as short or as long as you want it to. I usually drive slowly with lots of stops for exploring and picture taking and it takes me a little over an hour to complete it. If you have some additional time there are over a dozen short day hikes to explore just off the loop.
One important thing to know before you drive out to Red Rock Canyon is that there is a day use fee of $7.00 and they only accept cash or checks. So don't make the mistake I did and have to drive all the way out there only to turn around and drive back to civilization for an ATM.
Now let's be honest, many of us are going to see the Calico Hills at the beginning of the drive and then feel like nothing can top that. You might see some rock climbers scaling up these gorgeous red marbled rocks and you can even try scrambling up a couple yourself. But after being there several times now, there's a lot more beauty to the drive than just these hills.
I think perhaps the vast openness of this area is what makes it so wonderful. Especially if you're spending the rest of your time on the Las Vegas Strip. Red Rock Canyon is a nice place to breathe.
It's also kind of interesting to look back at the way you came. From this vantage point at the first stop along the Calico Hills you can see just a bit of city.
Make sure you always remember to look both ways on the drive or you might miss a great view. One nice thing about the loop is it's wide one way road with lots of places to stop.
Past the Calico Hills you'll find a small spur road taking you to a parking lot where you can view and walk out to the Keystone Thrust Fault.
Continuing along the loop you'll see more beautiful rock formations on the eastern side. I can't totally recall what this particular area was called, but it was somewhere in between the Keystone Thrust Fault and Ice Box Canyon.
Continuing along the look you'll come to Ice Box Canyon which offers place to take a short hike, or you can just admire the way the sun highlights certain parts of the rocks.
So, if you're headed to Las Vegas and you think you might need a place to just take a breath get yourself a car and head out to Red Rock Canyon. It's a great way to offset the commercial intensity, cloudy air, and noise of the Strip.
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