Visiting the Red Rock Canyon Overlook Near Las Vegas
The Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, located just a short drive from Las Vegas, offers visitors the opportunity to experience the beauty and serenity of the desert landscape. One of the most popular viewpoints in the park is the Red Rock Canyon Overlook, which offers stunning views of the surrounding red sandstone cliffs and the park’s unique rock formations.
Red Rock Canyon is located 17 miles west of the Las Vegas Strip on Charleston Boulevard, Blue Diamond Road, or better known as State Route 159. This proximity to a bustling, tourist-centric city leads the Red Rock Canyon to see well over 2 million visitors a year.
Getting to the Red Rock Canyon Overlook
Address of the Red Rock Canyon Overlook: 3205 Nv-159, Las Vegas, NV 89161
GPS coordinates of the overlook are 36.117069, -115.444910
Getting to the Red Rock Canyon Overlook from downtown Las Vegas is easy. Take Highway 159 West and follow the signs for the park. The overlook is located on the section of Highway NV-159 that is also a part of the park’s Scenic Drive. The Scenic Drive is a 13-mile loop road that takes visitors through the heart of the park.
There is a paved parking area at the overlook, but it can fill up quickly during peak seasons, so it’s best to arrive early. It has around two dozen spots for cars and motorcycles, a handful of picnic tables, a covered pavilion, garbage cans and restrooms.
Fees & Timed Entry
The Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area charges a fee to enter the park. It is $20 a vehicle, or $10 a motorcycle. However, while the Red Rock Overlook is technically inside the park’s boundaries, it is also on a major highway. This overlook is free to visit and stop at. You are only charged the entrance fee once you enter the Scenic Loop. The west entrance to the loop is 0.5 miles away, and the eastern entrance is 1.6 miles away.
Similar to some popular National Parks, the Red Rock Canyon has a timed entry system. Timed Reservations are required for vehicle entry to the Scenic Loop between 8am-5pm from October 1 through May 31. Since this particular overlook is not on the part of the loop that is inside the park, there is no timed entry needed to stop here.
What to Expect at the Red Rock Canyon Overlook
The Red Rock Canyon Overlook is about 2 miles west of the park’s visitor center, located on the Scenic Drive. The viewpoint is situated at an elevation of 3,704 feet and offers panoramic wide-angle views of the red sandstone cliffs and rock formations that the park is famous for.
From the Red Rock Overlook, you can see:
- The Keystone Thrust, a geologic feature where the older limestone rock formations were pushed up and over the younger sandstone formations. This is an older gray limestone escarpment that stands out from the rest of the red rock inside the canyon. Tectonic plate movements 65 million years ago caused this rocky area to thrust up above the younger rocks.
- Red Aztec Sandstone is to the right of the overlook, and gets its bright red hue from the presence of iron oxide in the rocks. Exposure to the weather has caused the iron to oxidize and brightly color the beautiful red, orange, and brown rocks.
- The La Madre Mountain Range sits directly in front of the overlook, which contains a rugged, eye-catching complex of canyons, gray carbonate ridges and mountain peaks. In this range, you’ll see the peaks of Bridge Mountain directly in front of you, and Mount Wilson off to the left.
Other Nearby Attractions
There are a couple of overlooks inside Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. However, the Red Rock Overlook is the only one directly situated on Highway NV-159. The others inside the park’s scenic loop include the Red Rock Wash Overlook, High Point Overlook and the Calico Overlook.
The overlook is also the starting point for one unnamed hiking trail. It starts from the far-right section of the overlook’s parking lot and continues for about 0.2 miles directly in front of the overlook.
One of the most popular trails inside the park is the Calico Hills Trail, a 6.4-mile out-and-back hike that takes visitors through a colorful landscape of red, white, and yellow sandstone formations. Another trail, the Keystone Thrust Trail, is a 2.4-mile out-and-back hike that offers closeup views of the Keystone Thrust escarpment.
Nearby is the Pine Creek Canyon Trail, which is one of the most popular hiking trails in the park. It is an easy, 2.5 mile round trip loop trail going through the Pine Creek Canyon drainage area along Spring Mountain.
The park is also home to several species of desert wildlife, including bighorn sheep, desert tortoises, and a variety of bird species, however I didn’t see anything but birds when we visited. Visitors also can take the Rocky Gap Road in the northwest part of the scenic loop to see ancient petroglyphs and rock art at trailhead of the White Rock Loop.
Red Rock Canyon Weather
The park is open year-round, but the best time to visit is between October and May when the weather is cooler and more comfortable. This is why the park has implemented the timed entry system during these winter and spring months.
Summer temperatures can be extreme, with highs often reaching well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The Fall sees cooler temperatures creeping in, but it is also monsoon season, so watch out for soaking thunderstorms. Spring provides the best opportunity to see wildflowers in bloom, and you’ll likely still see snow on the mountain peaks within the park.