The 13-mile Red Rock Park Scenic Drive provides a rare opportunity to view the major points of interest and sweeping vistas of the entire canyon without leaving the comfort of your car. This is due to the fact that Red Rock Canyon, framed by hills, mountains and cliffs on three sides is viewable in its entirety from nearly every point along the scenic drive. There are not many 10,000 acre National Parks you can see all at once. In addition, there are nine scenic viewpoints along the drive in addition to the visitor center where you can park and walk a just 20-50 feet to view well-designed interpretive displays and additional vistas. The scenic drive affords many photo opportunities with stunning backdrops for memorable portraits.
Just 5 miles from metropolitan Las Vegas the scenic drive provides an easily accessible experience of nature even during a busy week. In addition, it’s a place to bring family and friends who may not be into rugged hikes or mountain adventures in order to treat them to a shared experience of nature. To get to Red Rock Park and the Red Rock Park Scenic Drive just take Charleston Blvd North from the Red Rock Casino, cross Hwy 215 where the road turns to Blue Diamond Road and continue another 5 miles to the Red Rock Park main entrance where you will take a right into Red Rock Park. There is an entrance fee so be prepared.
There are 10 points of interest along the Red Rock Park Scenic Drive. I’ll mention the trailheads from these points as jumping off points for wilderness adventures, but realize that the scenic drive is in itself a totally rewarding experience even if you don’t get out of your car!
The interpretative displays and short films at the visitor center are top rate and give a great introduction to the park, its history, geology and wildlife. There’s an awesome view window that frames the Calico Hills area so beautifully it almost surpasses the experience of viewing the hills from outside the center. And behind the center, out the back door, there is a walkway with additional interpretive displays. It’s a great place to introduce children to the wonders of nature. The park rangers also offer guided tours of the center and its surroundings so call ahead for the schedule of ranger talks and interpretive events. View the visitor center silent video tour on this page.
The next stop along the scenic drive is the Calico Hills turnoff. From a distance the Calico Hills appear dwarfed by the larger cliffs and mountains bordering Red Rock Canyon. However, the closer you get to the hills the more massive and imposing they appear. The Calico Hills are a great playground for light to moderate hiking and climbing adventures. However, it’s easy to get lost in the maze of hills once you begin to wander around! Don’t exceed your comfort level in climbing. People have become lost and “cliffed out”, a term that refers to finding yourself in a spot where you can neither ascend nor descend and need to be rescued!
This turnoff is used especially by rock climbers and with a good pair of binoculars you can view them suspended on the side of the cliffs. In addition, from both Calico Hills turnoffs you can access the Grand Loop, a 5-mile trail which will take you completely around the Calico Hills, into the neighboring Calico Basin and back to your starting point.
The Sandstone Quarry Turnoff is named for a brief period of time historically in which the sandstone from this area was cut into huge blocks to be used for building material. There are some great interpretive displays and you can see some of the huge unused perfectly cut blocks along with the location where they were quarried. In addition, this is the trailhead for the popular Turtlehead Peak adventure and a starting point for further adventures including the La Madre Mountains Wilderness, La Madre Mountain Southern cliff route, the La Madre Mountain Eastern approach route, Damsel Peak and Calico Basin.
Here is the best view of the entire Red Rock Canyon all the way down to Blue Diamond Mountain across Blue Diamond Highway at the bottom of the canyon. It feels as though you are on top of the world as you stand on this spot, and again, it’s an awesome place for portraits with such a stunning backdrop. Turn around and you can view the cliffs of the Keystone Thrust at the back of Red Rock Park. Interestingly enough, from the top of those cliffs this high scenic drive viewpoint looks microscopic. See that perspective in my La Madre Mountain Western Approach videos where I traverse the top of the Keystone Thrust. However, I still see this viewpoint as one of the best viewpoints anywhere accessible by a street vehicle. It’s a sanctuary of peace and a great place to have a family picnic.
This turnoff from the Red Rock Park Scenic Loop is one of the main accesses for the 5-mile route around White Mountain, a great trail for walking or trail running with access to the beautiful La Madre Springs area at the rear of White Rock Mountain.
The Willow Springs turnoff is actually a short (paved) road to 2 great picnic areas and a short walkway to view petroglyphs and ancient cooking pits. You’ll notice this side of the canyon has dramatically more lush vegetation than the other side of the canyon. It’s like you’re in a different climate zone due to the streams and springs running off the surrounding canyons. The Willow Springs Turnoff is the starting point for the Western approach to La Madre Mountain, La Madre Springs, the 5-mile White Rock Mountain circuit trail, North Peak and Bridge Mountain.
This turnoff from the Red Rock Park Scenic Drive features the popular Ice Box Canyon trailhead. The trail involves a lot of climbing over large sandstone boulders as you make your way up Ice Box Canyon. I understand it may be possible to ascend all the way to the top of the Piedmont Ridge from this point. However, that is an adventure I have not yet experienced. You can take a brief walk along the base of the mountains here and experience the lush desert garden vegetation without climbing over any sandstone boulders or ascending the canyon.
The Pine Creek Canyon area has a great forested area for picnics, equipped with picnic areas. Here you are at the base of Bridge Mountain, Juniper Peak, Rainbow Mountain and near the base of Mt. Wilson. Pine Creek Canyon itself is incredibly beautiful the further in you ascend. It is split into two separate canyons by the pyramid shaped Mescalito Peak. However, for all these mentioned points of interest, along with Ice Box Canyon there is heavy tangly brush in which it is easy to lose your way! I’ve been stopped by the wall of brush more than once and am still working on discovering the key to passing through to the higher points.
This is not really a turnoff, but an unpaved road and one of the access points for Mt. Wilson and Juniper Peak. However, there is a nice trail here that traverses the base of the mountains along a beautiful desert garden area. If you’re just taking the Red Rock Park Scenic Drive you may want to bypass this area. You will have had an awesome experience of the canyon by this point.
I did not count this as one of the 10 scenic turnoffs because is is actually outside Red Rock Park. However, just as the high point scenic drive turnoff affords sweeping vistas of the entire canyon, this lowest scenic viewpoint at the bottom of the canyon offers sweeping views all the way up to the top of the canyon. In addition, there is a great picnic area here and you don’t need to enter the park to enjoy this viewpoint. It is accessible directly off of Blue Diamond Road as the Red Rock Park Scenic Drive exits the park. I’m thinking that this turnoff might be a good jumping off point for a Blue Diamond Mountain adventure, but that is in the future.