Saturday, August 31, 2013

Red Rock Canyon - a must see when visiting Las Vegas

Just 17 miles west of the Las Vegas strip is the national conservation area of Red Rock Canyon.  Close enough to spend a few hours - or a few days if you love to hike and rock climb!  This must see location boasts a 13 mile scenic drive loop, 19 trails (from lengths of less than 1 mile - 6 miles), scenic vistas and over 2,000 climbing routes.   The Red Rock Canyon area is one of the top 5 climbing destinations in the United States!

A great place for rock climbing

The park is open year round and does charge daily fees.  There is a $7 daily entrance, annual passes are $30 - or if you have a National Park Service annual pass you can use it here.  Camping is available for additional fees and you need to obtain climbing permits for that activity. 

Stop by the visitor center to meet the locals!

Stop by the visitor center to get information about ranger led programs, learn about the flora & fauna of the area, get tips about what trails or hikes to try and maybe do a little shopping in their gift shop.  Please make sure you are well prepared if you plan to hike in the desert area - bring plenty of water, watch for creatures that may bite, wear plenty of sunscreen and comfortable foot protection.  The trails are rocky and cactus spines are sharp!

Even if you only have a few hours to spend - tour the visitor center and take the scenic drive.  It is quite a change from the neon and pavement of the Las Vegas strip!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Vally of Fire State Park - an easy drive from Las Vegas

The entrance to the park coming from Las Vegas

When you are tired of the smoke and gambling of Las Vegas....or if you would just rather enjoy the beauty of the area - head to Valley of Fire State Park.  It is just a short 55 mile drive northeast of Las Vegas and only 6 miles from Lake Mead.  The park is the oldest and largest in Nevada, dedicated in 1935.

Movies and TV series have filmed here - this was an area used in Star Trek

Valley of Fire is named for the Red Sandstone formations in the area and includes many interesting geological features, ancient trees, petrified wood and 3,000 year old Indian Petroglyphs!   Start your tour with a stop at the visitor center where you can view interpretive displays, see a movie, pick up supplies at the gift shop and talk with the rangers about what are some good areas to see that day.

Many petroglyphs are high up on the canyon walls - take time to look around on your hikes

Spring and fall are the ideal times to visit as temperatures can be HOT in the summer (100-120!) and down to freezing in the winter.  We visited in early December and were surprised by how warm it was while hiking on the trails.  Have lots of water with you and extra in your vehicle so you don't get dehydrated. 

Wildlife in the park includes foxes, coyotes, bighorn sheep, lizards, snakes and many varieties of birds.  Take your time and look around while hiking - we missed a large area of petroglyphs while hiking down a trail and watching our footing (we saw them on the way back), so make sure you stop and enjoy the views!

There is a small entrance fee per vehicle and camping is available.  There are picnic areas with restrooms for daytime use also.  Visit for more information and a downloadable park brochure.