Some of the Las Vegas tourists are so mesmerized by the neon lights that they never think about straying too far from the casino resort corridor. After a few cocktails and maybe a lucky hit on a slot machine, it is all too easy to become part of the big party and forget about everything else. The Las Vegas casino resort experience certainly is all consuming and this is part of the magic of this great escape. In recent years, a new tourism trend has developed in Las Vegas that breaks this stereotypical mindset. Visitors now tend to spend more time shopping and dining than anything else. In fact, more folks are seeking destinations off the Las Vegas Strip than ever before.
One of the best entertainment values in Las Vegas actually is not found in the city itself. The Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is located a few miles west of town at the end of Charleston Boulevard. By heading uphill into to the Spring Mountains on the west side of the valley, a visitor can experience the natural side of Las Vegas. Red Rock Canyon offers an opportunity to experience majestic desert mountain landscapes while doing some healthy outdoor activities.
Red Rock Canyon definitely allows visitors to get plenty of bang for their buck! There are many hiking trails through this maze of multi color sandstone canyons and some of the longer trails actually run all the way up to Mt Charleston. Mountain biking is fast becoming the number one outdoor activity and there are endless trails to shred. Rock climbing is an option and the steep walls of Red Rock Canyon certainly are challenging. Off road vehicle fans are in luck too, because there are dirt roads that run deep into these desert mountains. For those who seek a little bit of peace and quiet instead of partying all night long, Red Rock Canyon even has an overnight campground. Waking up to the sound of birds chirping in the great outdoors sure does create a stark contrast to the morning routine downhill in Las Vegas.
Not everybody wishes to do strenuous outdoor activities while on vacation and relaxation is all that they seek. If taking a leisurely drive through some majestic landscapes sounds like a good idea while in Las Vegas, then Red Rock Canyon is the place to go. A long scenic drive loop runs through the Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area and this touring experience is as relaxing as it gets. Photographers will find endless subject matter in this wilderness area, so it pays to bring a good camera along for the ride. The air is clean and the skies are cobalt blue in the high elevations, so the experience is invigorating.
There is plenty of wildlife to see in Red Rock Canyon and there is one attention getting animal in particular that really likes having tourists around. After the Nevada gold rush days came to and end, the miners simply cut their burros loose and let them return to the wild. Wild burros are nearly everywhere in Red Rock Canyon and these animals definitely are the star of the show. Each spring, the newborn foals come out of hiding with the mares and they head for greener pastures in the lower elevations. The baby burros are irresistibly cute and seeing such a sight is like a breath of fresh air after being caught up in the hustle and bustle of the big city.
Springtime is also when the desert tortoises come out of their winter retreats. Desert Tortoises are a highly protected endangered species, so visitors doing the scenic drive loop are expected to yield to these big turtles when they cross the road. Fortunately, the desert tortoises move fairly quickly as far as turtles are concerned, so waiting it out is not as painful as it might seem to be!
Coyotes, lizards, wild horses, mountain goats and all sorts of wild birds can be seen in Red Rock Canyon, so nature lovers will certainly have plenty look for when visiting this place. A few mountain lions have been known to frequent the area, so pets should be on a leash and small children should be kept in sight. Documented mountain lion attacks may be very rare in these parts, but it is always better to be safe than sorry.
The main attraction at Red Rock Canyon has always been the bizarre looking natural red sandstone sculptured outcrops. Erosive forces have shaped the red sandstone over eons of time, to the point of looking looking as if the the bedrock was hand sculpted by an artist. In fact, many of the red rock pillars look animated. Everything from faces to statues can be seen in the red rock strata and some of the shapes have well known names. An onlooker can literally spend hours gazing at the sculpted red rock, but looking for too long may result in the bizarre looking rocks staring right back!
There are plenty of other sites to see in Red Rock Canyon after visiting the National Conservation Area. The hidden lush green Spring Mountain Ranch State Park is just about a mile further on down the road. The historic town of Blue Diamond is located at the other end of the canyon and this tiny village is worth checking out. For those who yearn for mementos of the desert, Cactus Joes is located near Blue Diamond too. Cactus Joes truly is a unique experience of its own and this is a great place to shop for desert art or a cactus to bring back home.
If the Las Vegas experience starts to become a bit claustrophobic, there is relief to be found a few miles uphill. Red Rock Canyon appeals to those who seek the peace and quiet of the great outdoors. Better still, by spending time in this National Conservation Area, you will not have to worry about the life savings disappearing down in the valley!
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