Red Rock Canyon Hiking
With no hiking restrictions, and 27,000 acres of navigable land; there is really no shortage of things to see and places to go. Though the ‘designated’ hiking trails are minimal and short, it is important to remember that you can make any trail as long as you want and as short as you want. This makes Red Rock Canyon a perfect place to “build your own adventure”.
The Hiking Trails
Desert View Nature Trail: Roughly a ¼ of a mile hike with a fairly steep incline up to the ridge line above the campground. The trail technically ends at the top of Whistler’s Ridge. However, there are a few options of further exploration. Crossing along the ridge line on the right to White House Cliffs for a spectacular view of the valley; you can also drop down to the other side of the cliffs and walk through the amazing canyon in the valley. This is a prime example of being able to build your own adventure.
The trailhead for this trail is located at the end of Ricardo Campground Road near campsite number 50. There are a few parking areas for the trail head; or you can hike to the trail head from the Visitor Center.
Ricardo Nature Trail: This small hike is roughly a ¼ of a mile and meanders through the wash below Ricardo Campground. This is a very easy hike and perfect for small children. There are numbered stops along the route that go along with a brochure that will tell you all about the natural and cultural history of the area.
The trail head is found diagonally from the visitor center across the parking lot. Be sure to get the brochure from the Visitor Center before heading to the trail.
Hagen Canyon: Named after the man who owned most of the land that is now Red Rock Canyon, this trail is one of our more scenic designated hiking trails and our longest at a 1 mile round trip.
Hagen Canyon contains the majority of the geologic processes and rock formations that are viewable in the rest of the park, but convenient to access by everyone. Located at the East end of Abbott Drive right before reaching Highway 14, you will see a large dirt parking area.
Hagen Canyon is also an area that has been the location for many movies. Be sure to stop into the Visitor Center for more information on the movies that were filmed in Red Rock.
Red Cliffs Natural Preserve: Red Cliffs is a large parking are located 1/3 of a mile south of Abbott Drive on the east side of the park. This area has a very scenic red cliff expanse and a small trail at the end of the parking lot. This area also has bathrooms and two picnic tables.
Nightmare Gulch (Open July – January): Although Nightmare Gulch is technically a road, a summer storm has left it in need of some TLC before it can be safe to motorists, therefore it is closed to all vehicles. In the meantime hikers and horses are able to trek through this scenic slot canyon. Definitely a must see when you come to the park. Please keep in mind that Nightmare Gulch closes to ALL access during February to June to protect raptor breeding areas.
You can access Nightmare Gulch by foot or by vehicle from Red Cliffs. At the entrance of the Red Cliffs parking area at Highway 14 is a dirt road leading south that parallels the highway. This road, called Iron Canyon, will take you to the gated entrance of Nightmare Gulch. There is plenty of space to park, you MUST stay on the road with your vehicle. If you have 4-wheel drive you can continue west through Scenic Cliffs to loop back to the Highway. Unfortunately, Scenic Cliffs has a very steep uphill climb that can get tricky is you do not have 4×4 capability, if this is the case you can turn around and travel back through Iron Canyon.
Nightmare Gulch is a 9 mile (one way) trip through a slot canyon. This is definitely a must see if you are looking for a longer and more difficult hike. Although, if the miles are worrisome you can travel the Gulch for as long as you want and will still get the canyon scenery.
Be cautious of your surroundings and the water you have as you traverse Red Rock Canyon. It is easy to get dehydrated even in colder months, and especially in the warmer months. Please bring extra water for your longer hikes. During the warm months Rattlesnakes enjoy the sunshine. Although, they generally do not want to engage you in anyway, if they feel threatened they will protect themselves. Always keep an ear out for their warning signal, the infamous rattle sound, and go around. This is especially in cases of going off trail.