My first trip to the desert involved a football game, but it still included time outdoors. My friends and I rented a car and drove to Sedona, where we did some hiking and exploring. I thought it was beautiful, but it wasn’t anything that left an impression large enough to make me want to plan another trip. A few years later, I went out to Death Valley for a century bike ride. I managed 60 miles before I puked and crossed the finish line with 72 miles under my belt. I coughed and hacked and wheezed the entire time, and I ended the trip with a bloody nose. My mountain sinuses weren’t ready for that dry desert air.
On my third trip out West, something happened. I spent time hiking and bouldering. I rode my bike in Red Rock Canyon, and then I headed farther West to take on Death Valley a second time. On that trip, I saw a new beauty I hadn’t experienced before and my heart changed. Somewhere between Nevada and California, I fell head over heels in love with the desert.
Death Valley will forever hold a special and emotional place in my heart. I’ll share more about that gem later. There have been a few other places that have wormed their way into my heart, and the biggest one of those is Red Rock Canyon. If you have ever been to Vegas and not explored the outdoor opportunities, you are missing out! Red Rock Canyon falls under the National Parks Service, but is actually a National Conservation Area. It’s protected, though not an official park. It features almost 200,000 acres of the Mojave Desert and a 13-mile, one-way scenic route with 26 miles of hiking trails. It’s simply spectacular… I call it the desert version of Cades Cove.
I’m slowly working my way through all of the park’s trails, but my favorite is Calico Tanks. Calico Tanks is likely the most popular hike because you can get a panoramic view of the valley where Vegas sits and the splendor of the red rocks and the calico rocks. Once you reach the top, if you keep going a bit more, the view is simply breathtaking.
I’ve both hiked and biked through Red Rock and have the scars to prove it. With any luck, my next adventure here will include climbing. Ask any climber around, and they’ll know Red Rock Canyon. It’s a climber’s paradise, and I’ve never been without seeing multiple folks dragging rope and harnesses around wearing huge smiles.
This place is one of pure majesty. Every corner brings a new delight with bold and vibrant colors all around. I think my favorite thing about this place is that it sits about 13 miles from the strip. In less than half an hour, all that neon and glitter can turn to a sky full of stars and an earth full of red canyons. It’s perfection and a place I adore.