See more than just the Strip in Las Vegas … go to Red Rock Canyon Scenic Loop Drive

On February 26, 2017, my teenage daughter and I drove to Red Rock Canyon to go hiking. We should have set out earlier because by the time we headed back to the car, it was freezing as the desert gets very cold as the sun begins to set. As you probably guessed from my other blogs about Red Rock, it is one of my favorite spots to hike and to take photos.

Unlike my other blogs about Red Rock Canyon, I want to share information about Red Rock Canyon rather than just the cool photographs I took while I was there.

First, my daughter and I stopped at the Visitor’s Center. Inside, there are posters which include history about the Spanish/Mormon Trail and James Pierson Beckwourth, which I will cover a bit later in this article.

There is a large window inside the Visitor’s Center where we got a beautiful photo of the “red rocks,” in case you were wondering why it’s called “Red Rock.”

photo taken from inside the Visitor’s Center at Red Rock Canyon

In addition, there is a quaint little gift shop in the Visitor’s Center where you can buy souvenirs, t-shirts, and those much-needed gloves and jackets you may have forgotten or thought you didn’t need (like us). Unfortunately, we didn’t buy the gloves or jackets and froze on the “hike” (run) back to the car as the sun was setting. We were so thankful for the heater! Brrrr!

After we checked out the Visitor’s Center, we set out to drive the Scenic Loop. Here is a photo at the entrance of the Loop where visitors must pay a very nominal fee ($7 daily fee) to get in or, like me, buy a pass for the year for $30 — which is a great value if you live in Las Vegas and visit Red Rock often like I do.

at the entrance to Scenic loop at Red Rock Canyon

Before I go any farther, I want to expand on the history we learned about, thanks to the “National Conservation Lands” on posters that hang in the Visitor’s Center.

First, James Pierson Beckwourth known as Jim Beckwourth…

photo of James Pierson Beckwourth known as Jim Beckwourth

Jim Beckwourth was an American mountain man, fur trader, and explorer who was born in 1798 and died in 1866. He was a mulatto (a term used to refer to persons born of one white parent and one black parent or to persons born of a mulatto parent or parents) who was born into slavery in Virginia and was freed by his father (and master) and apprenticed to a blacksmith. He later moved to the American West.

From 1838-1840, he was an Indian trader on the Arkansas River, working out of Fort Vasquez. The same year that he moved to the Bent & St. Vrain Company (the Bent brothers built Fort Bent on the Arkansas River), he became an independent trader. Along with his partners, he built a trading post in Colorado.

In 1840, when Beckwourth allied with Native Americans led by Ute Chief Wakara and other trappers, over Cajon Pass, they successfully acquired 3,000 horses and mules. In 1844, Beckwourth traded on the Old Spanish Trail between the Arkansas River and California. When the Mexican-American War began in 1846, Beckwourth returned to the United States, bringing 1,800 Mexican horses as spoils of war.

This is a great segway into the second thing I want to share about The Old Spanish Trail (or The Spanish/Mormon Trail).

The Old Spanish Trail had a brief, but furious, heyday from 1830-1848 as a trade route linking Santa Fe New Mexico and Pueblo de Los Angeles, California. The trail ran north past the Grand Canyon and turned southwest splitting into different paths until it ended at the San Gabriel Mission.

During that period, Mexican and American traders took their goods west over the trail by mule train and returned eastward with California mules, horses and slaves for the New Mexico and Missouri markets. Jim Beckwourth, mentioned above, traded on the Old Spanish Trail in 1844.

I enjoyed going to Red Rock that day with my daughter because it was educational, good exercise, and a fun way for us to spend time together. This is why I think it would be a great place to visit for people vacationing in Las Vegas with their families.

Back to the Scenic Loop/Drive … Once you arrive at the gate to enter Scenic Loop/Drive, you pay the amenity fee and the attendant gives you a four-paged, folded newsletter-type document called the “Red Rock Canyon Keystone Visitor Guide” that includes a lot of good information.

One of the pages inside the Visitor Guide shows a map of all of the hiking trails. Also, there is a description of each trail, the level of difficulty, and the approximate distance and time it takes to hike that particular trail so you can plan where you might want to go while inside Scenic Loop/Drive. You can simply drive-through Scenic Loop/Drive slowly and look upon the natural beauty or park at “overlooks” throughout the loop for photo opportunities or to hike on the trails.

If you want more information on Red Rock, check out the Red Rock Canyon Interpretive Association website for more information. I included a photo of the map that is inside the Visitor Guide for your information.

Hiking Map of Scenic Loop at Red Rock Canyon

Once inside Scenic Loop/Drive, you must obey the speed limit and you can park in established parking areas but don’t make your own parking spot if an area is full because you can damage the Mojave Desert’s native vegetation. Law enforcement rangers can cite visitors who don’t comply with the regulations. All of the information you need to know is in the Visitor Guide you receive at the gate.

I recommend parking and reading through everything before setting off on your drive through Scenic Loop/Drive. There is so much to see that you may decide to re-enter Scenic Loop once you’ve exited (which I’ve done myself when I accidentally passed the trail I wanted to hike — the drive is one-way so you can’t turn around). The amenity fee is good for the full day so you don’t have to pay again if you re-enter on the same day of your visit.

In summary, if you haven’t guessed already, Red Rock Canyon is one of my favorite places to visit in Las Vegas and it is great for locals and visitors alike. Check it out! You won’t be disappointed.

Finally, I included some of the photos my daughter and I took while visiting Red Rock that day.

check out how the clouds are lined up above the mountains!

For even more information, I included Contact Information and Additional Information found in the Visitor Guide.