Las Vegas: Red Rock Canyon

When you hear the word Vegas, it typically invokes images of all night parties, strippers, bachelor parties, massive buffets, pool parties, and all that "fun" stuff, but when I go to Vegas, I'm usually seeing my family. Yes, I have 8 family members who reside in Sin City and they seem to lead pretty normal lives however close they are to all the action of The Strip. I even have adorable, twin baby brothers who I get to see! Don't be jealous. :)

I still enjoy a crazy 5am night, a good hangover and a sun burn once in a while, but there really are other things to do in this town of hedonism (trust me). For example, there is a huge National Park that you may have heard of called Red Rock. Sounding familiar? With 19 hiking trails, bighorn sheep, gila monsters, agave roasting pits, natural springs and geological wonders encompassing 197,000 acres of the Mojave Desert, Red Rock is definitely worth the 15-minute (or less) drive from The Strip.

As I said, there are 19 hikes to choose from, ranging in difficulty; I picked the White Rock / La Madra Springs trail, which is the longest (6 miles).  According to the trail map, this hike should take approximately 3.5 hours with moderate difficulty. We started out at around 4pm, so I was hoping we would finish a little sooner, as to not be hiking in the dark (the sun starts to set around 7pm).

The hike starts out relatively steep and gradually rises to an elevation of 5,440 feet. We didn't really know what to expect, but I wanted to go fast, even though it was about 90 degrees and the sun was beating down. It was a steady incline until the 2-mile point, when the major decline started and was intermixed with some flats. When there was a downhill or small uphill, we ran, but maintained a steady pace overall; it was beautiful out and the rock formations were amazing (I still remember geology from way back when)!

There was one crossroad where we though the hike was complete, but after reading a map and looking around at where our car might be parked, realized that we still had 2 miles to go! Being 2 of about 6 other hikers and watching the sun begin to set, we started wishing that we brought a trail map because the signs were slightly confusing. This was about the time we envisioned mountain lions and looters attacking us and my dad was pretty sure he could take the mountain lion. I was pretty sure there was no place to hide and I was going to be dinner.

For most of the hike, the view is of rugged sandstone and tiny lizards all over the place, but near the end, the rocky ground became red, moist sand and we began going uphill again and around our last mountain before the home stretch (we hoped). Once we rounded the curve, we began to see cars and civilization (a couple of people) and I felt extreme hunger. All I wanted to do was get in the car and go eat, (yes, the hike was awesome and I did feel a sense of accomplishment)! This is the longest hike in Red Rock, but Turtlehead Peak, which is 5 miles, is termed strenuous and I want to try that next!

I guess I'm a fool for not visiting Red Rock sooner, because it's truly a wondrous place. It only took me about 50 visits to make it here and now I'm determined to conquer every hike (hopefully with the help and support of my family!). I suggest doing a hike during the fall, or if you must go in the summer, do it early in the morning or toward the evening, because otherwise, you will be toasted like the agave fruit.

Happy trails!