Red Rock Canyon National Park Trip

On December 4, I visited Red Rock Canyon National Park on my last full day in Las Vegas. As it was only 30-minutes from Nellis AFB, it was the closest place I found to get into the mountains and see a canyon.

I’d heard wonderful things about the park so my daughter, Lauren, and I chose to spend a few hours climbing rocks and experiencing one of the many wonders of God’s creation. This turned out to be a wonderful choice.

One thing about being in a valley: you are surrounded by 360-degrees of mountain scape. Being a mountain girl myself (though used to heights with vegetation as in The Blue Ridge) I was thrilled to see mountains every time I turned a corner in Vegas. I learned that the mountains could completely change appearance depending on the amount and angle of sunlight at any given time. Lucky for me and Lauren, it was a sunny day with drifting clouds when we entered Red Rock Canyon.

(place info here after doing a little research on the park)

Signs at the entry to the park encouraged visitors to save time and ask questions at The Visitor Center and we followed that advice. Center docents were knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the park. A volunteer at the information desk told us how to take advantage of the shorter and easier treks that would give us maximum views and experiences in a shorter time (I wanted to get back to spend time with my granddaughter on my last day in Nevada before returning to Virginia).

Lucky us, there was a gentleman at the park’s information center who grew up at the mining camp which was one of the first communities in Red Rock. He told us the story of his two-year-old sister who fell down a canyon wall 70+ years earlier and managed to survive. This added a nice, personal touch to our visit after viewing the gallery of natural flora and fauna we could experience once we were on our way.

At our docent’s suggestion, we stopped at Calico 1, the first stop around the park. Lauren and I took the short trek down the right side of the parking lot —  an easy walk which turned into a moderate climb down into the canyon. I made my way down a few hundred feet to experience the view up the canyon wall and south to the open valley in the distance. I took the risk and climbed down taking care of the scrabble of tiny rocks that could cause a nasty fall. The view from that perspective was worth the strenuous climb back up to the parking lot. The photo ops on this trek were incredible. I loved the stack rock formations visitors placed along the trail. They made for neat perspective shots.

From there we stopped at the 4771-foot elevation of HighPoint Overlook with amazing views of Turtlehead Peak and the entire valley to the south. The vegetation at that elevation was unique and new to me.

Our next stop — after several hairpin and hair-raising turns along steep dropoffs – was The Petroglyph Wall Trail. The trail head was hard to find as we knew it was near the Willow Spring Picnic Area but could not see its three-by-four-inch trail head sign. A friendly park employee pointed us to it  across the parking lot that lead to the cave drawings. He also pointed out that the drawings were located where the signs of water falling from the cliff were located.

I asked Lauren, “Why am I ridiculously excited about seeing these drawings?” After viewing the estimated 800-year-old etchings, Lauren commented that these pictures were probably created by the village idiot and we were all standing around saying, oh, wow!” Too funny and possibly true!

We decided to cut out one of the docent-suggested stops to make our final stop at Pine Creek Canyon. I was excited about this stop as there were multiple trails and an abandoned homestead site in addition to a stand of Ponderosa Pine and Joshua Trees where a prescribed (controlled-burn) fire took place. The wind was strong in that area and though the walk up to where multiple trails branch was easy, we were both cold, tired and hungry by the time we got there. I pushed on a little bit and stepping off the trail to pick up a sandstone rock, I stepped back and was stung. I screamed as the pain caused by whatever got me was sharp and excruciating. I turned around to find I was “stung” by a prickly pear cactus with about one-inch spines. I could not believe how rigid the spines were and am lucky the spine did not stay in my leg just behind the knee.After a few steps, I reached down to find the injured spot was swollen about an inch. I stopped a party of serious-looking hikers and asked if they knew if any of the cacti in the area were poisonous. Lauren laughed at me later, but we were in a desert area with no cell service. I was not prepared to die from a misstep!

We finally wound our way back out of the park, happy we visited and looking forward to another visit in the near future. I plan to take Keith there when I return to Las Vegas in a few months.

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