Our plane prepares for descent and we see the beautiful canyons from mid-air. The area is vast and very impressive. Even as the plane is taxiing on the runway, the canyons do not disappear. They become the backdrop of the long stretch of casinos that are visible even from the airport.
That had been as much natural scenery of Nevada we took in during our previous trips to Las Vegas. Every time we are in Las Vegas we get lost in the glitz and glamor of The Strip and forget how beautiful the state of Nevada is beyond all the man-made mesmerizing neon lights on The Strip. But on this 8th trip to Sin City (our 8th trip's the charm!), we left The Strip and experienced beautiful and natural red rock formations.
The state of Nevada is primarily desert and with a list of state parks to choose from, there are several good options to help decide based on individual requirements. We were looking for a quick getaway from The Strip for half a day and based on the distance and time to travel, Red Rock Canyon was the perfect choice. The Grand Canyon is about 4 1/2 to 5 hours drive from Las Vegas and the Valley of Fire is about 5 hours away. Granted, we have heard amazing and beautiful things about Valley of Fire and the Grand Canyon so here is hoping that during our next trip out to Las Vegas, we will make it to either one. Fingers crossed.
For those looking for a temporary break from the glitz and glamor of Las Vegas, the Red Rock Canyon is situated 20-miles west of The Strip. The easy 30-minute drive is extremely manageable to one's schedule and itinerary. The Red Rock Canyon region is part of the larger Mojave Desert which encompasses parts of Nevada, California, Arizona, and Utah. Red Rock Canyon provided us a convenient opportunity to experience the essence of Nevada i.e. desert, sandstone cliffs, etc.
There are 16 hiking trails to choose from ranging from a distance of 1.5 miles to 6 miles with different difficulty levels from easy to strenuous. Some of the shorter trails connect with the others.
Another option is the 13-mile scenic drive that brings vehicles and bikes through the mountainous region of Red Rock Canyon. The panoramic view route is on well paved roads and was by no means off road driving so any type of vehicle is allowed. Bikers are also welcomed on the scenic drive. The scenic drive goes in one direction so vehicles do not have to worry about whether they are going in the right (or wrong) direction. The highlight of the scenic drive for us were the first two stops where we saw different parts of Calico Hills. The deep red rocks were amazing in their own right. As part of its natural formation process, some of the rocks were a mixture of red and brown and this contrast in color drew to attention the beauty of the formation.
Making a photography trip out of the visit to Red Rock Canyon was also a good decision we made. Whether it be capturing the vast land area, sandstone cliffs, limestone ridges, or peaks, there are various geological formations that make good photography spots for the keen eye. If photography is your main priority, visiting early morning or late afternoon would be best in order to avoid the harsh sunlight in the photos. We arrived at about 9:30am and with the generous amount of natural light, we lowered our ISO setting on our camera to 100 and it worked out really nicely. If you are there on an overcast day, you might need to crank up your ISO. The wonderful thing about Nevada is that we were there right in the middle of summer in July and despite the 100 deg F heat, we did not sweat a drop because of the dry heat.
Red Rock Canyon feels like it is a world away from The Strip because of it's stark contrast in view but all it takes is about a convenient 30-minute drive. After we returned to our hotel we lazed by the pool before continuing with the hustle and bustle of Las Vegas. Being able to go from peace and tranquility in the midst of nature and back to the dramatic entertainment capital of the world on the same day, we would not have done it another way.