Introduction Climbing Information Guide Books Access and Regulations Getting There Weather Camping and Accomodations
The sandstone canyons of the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area offer a great mix of climbing in a warm and sunny climate. From short tightly bolted sport routes to long adventure trad routes with an alpine feeling, Red Rocks has something to please every climber.
Not surprisingly, it is a popular climbing destination when other areas are still wet and cold, or even still covered in snow. When the temperature starts increasing, you can easily escape to the cooler canyons or climb on Mt. Charleston's limestone walls at a higher elevation.
The convenience and proximity of Las Vegas, and its never ending neon nightlife also add to the attraction of Red Rocks. The human zoo of the infamous Strip and the endless sea of "ding-ding-ding" gambling machines are must see attractions, at least once in your life. Despite its close proximity to the climbing area, Las Vegas stays out of sight during the daytime, except from high on some multi-pitch climbs. Only at night, Sin City lights up the sky.
The climbing in Red Rocks is highlighted by positive edges on many steep faces. These incredible holds are formed by an outer layer of hard varnished sandstone that covers the cayon walls. The size of the holds vary from huge jugs to to you-almost-need-a-miscroscope-to-see-them crimpers. Because of the nature of these incut holds, they can be very fragile, especially after a rainstorm. On trade routes, the loose holds have disappeared, but pay attention on newer and less traveled routes that still have to be "cleaned".
Many of the routes also have their share of cracks. Except for the occasional hand or foot jam, the cracks are mostly used for protection, and even crack routes will have their fare share of face climbing. The cracks are unlike the smooth Utah desert sandstone cracks, or the granite cracks of Yosemite National Park. Their very featured nature makes jamming a little less effective. Tapping up is therefore not required for most Red Rocks routes, and can even be a nuisance for some of the face climbing.
In addition to the face climbing and the occasional handjam, you will encounter small chimney sections of varying widths on most of the classic long trad routes. Like the cracks, the chimneys are quite featured, making the climbing not too difficult. However, protection options are often rare, so most of the chimneys are a bit runout.
Many of the classic trade routes have bolted belay stations, which speed up the climbing significantly. In recent years many of the anchors and bolts have been replaced by the American Safe Climbing Association. To keep up the good work, the ASCA needs your donation!
Due to the featured nature of the cracks, nuts are quite useful in Red Rocks. If you want to go with a light rack, you can almost always consider trading in several cams for nuts. The most commonly used cams normally range from small finger size (.5") up to hand size (<3"-3.5"). Larger cams are needed only on a handful of routes. On routes that don't have bolted belays, double medium size cams come in handy. Also bring plenty of slings because the structure of the varnish means that there are often options for chickenheads. Several of the moderate pure face climbing routes, like Prince of Darkness, have pitches with more than 10 bolts, so bring plenty of quickdraws too.
A standard rack that will suffice for most of the routes consists of 1 set of nuts, 1 set of cams up to 3" and 1 set of TCU's starting at .4". Some routes, especially on Angel Food Wall, require bigger gear. Many of the walls have small and big horns that can be used for protection, so always bring some slings. It is also a good idea to bring some rap slings and rap rings, either to replace old and worn out belay slings, or to leave on bushes or blocks in case of retreat. A detailed and route specific gear advice will be found on each individual Gear Loop Topo.
Great Recommended Multi-Pitch Climbs
5.6: Solar Slab, Cat in the Hat, Geronimo
Alternative Climbing Areas
In case the weather in Red Rocks is not suited for climbing, there are several alternatives. If it is too hot to climb you can head for the higher elevations of Mt Charleston for some limestone sportclimbing (1 hour). Another option for a warm spell is to head up north to St George (2 hours) or to Zion National Park (3 hours). If it is too cold in Las Vegas, you can head south for Joshua Tree National Park (4 hours) which generally has warmer weather.
Desert Rock Sports is the place to find new gear and the latest route beta. The shop is located only 15 minutes from Red Rocks Canyon on 8221 West Charleston Boulevard (702-254-1143).
Jackson Hole Mountain Guides is the local guide service operated out of Desert Rock Sports. They offer a full range of guiding services, from easy and enjoyable half-day and one day climbs to the most challenging multi-day big wall ascents, and everything in between. Contact: 702-254-0885 or Redrock@jhmg.com. (Main Jackson Hole Mountain Guides page)
American Alpine Institute offers many different climbing courses and other guiding options at all levels at Red Rocks between October and mid-May. Contact: 360-671-1505.
Mountain Skills is one of the smaller guiding companies in Red Rocks. The guiding service is managed by Mike Ward, former owner of Desert Rock Sports, who is a long time Red Rocks local. Contact: 505-776-2222
Red Rock Climbing Center is located just left of Desert Rock Sports on the corner of Charleston and Cimmarron. It's a perfect place to work your climbing muscles if the weather doesn't allow you to play outside. They also have a separate boulder cave.
Nevada Climbing Centers is your other option for climbing on plastic. This gym is located on the east side of town near Sunset and Eastern, so it is a bit of a longer drive then the Red Rock Climbing Center. The Center is much larger and more spacious, and is a good options for beginners to intermediate climbers.
Fly'n Brian's Resoles: "He may not be a priest, but he can save your sole!" Brian does a great job in resoling your climbing shoes. Call ahead to make an appointment and discuss when you need your shoes back.
There are several guide books available for Red Rocks, each with their strengths and weaknesses.
Red Rocks, A Climber's Guide, by Jerry Handren, 2007. This is the newest guide book to the area. It covers it all, including a number of routes not found in the previous guide books. It expands on older routes and attempts to correct lingering errors present in older books.
Red Rock Canyon: A Climbing Guide by Roxanna Brock and Jared McMillan, 2005. Another big book with a lot of routes, with everything from long multi-pitch to short sport climbing routes. Nice photos.
Rock Climbing Red Rocks by Todd Swain, 3rd edition. The new "Swain" (Falcon) guide has been the most comprehensive guide book available for years. It has many routes with adequate topos and route descriptions. However, the 3rd edition has left out routes contained in the previous editions.
Red Rocks Supertopo by Greg Barnes, 2004. As expected from Supertopo, their Red Rocks guide has quality and accurate topos. It covers the major and most popular routes of the area. There is some sport climbing information, but don't expect much, as it is only enough for a day or two of bolt clipping.
The Red Rocks of Southern Nevada by Joanne Urioste, 1984. The Urioste guide is the old original guide to Red Rocks. It used to be called the "red book", but now has a white cover. It contains valuable information about obscure, yet classic multi-pitch routes. A must have if you're a serious Red Rocks climber.
The Red Rocks of Southern Nevada Supplement by Joanne Urioste, 2003. Joanne recently decided to come out with a little addition to her old original guide. It contains updated route information and some nice new adventure routes. This is a good book to get if you already have one of the other "Big" guide books, and a must have if you own the Urioste original book..
A Red Rock Odyssey by Larry D'Angelo and Bill Thiry. This is not your average guide book ! This book only features a handful of routes, but includes an in-depth history, topo, nice photos, and recent trip reports. If you're interested in the rich history of Red Rocks, get this one.
Red Rocks Bouldering by Robert Jenson. This is the only guide book to Red Rocks bouldering. It's only available at Desert Rock Sports.
How to Get There
Due to the popularity of Las Vegas, McCarran International Airport is one of the cheapest destinations to fly to. Car rental is quite affordable for the same reason. Note that most car rental places outside the airport are closed on Saturday afternoon and Sunday. If you plan to rent a car, and climb in Black Velvet Caynon a lot, it is wise to get a car with a bit higher clearance. It is possible to go there with a low clearance 2WD, but it can be tricky at times. A 4WD is not really required, but a 2WD with a bit of clearance helps.
The Red Rocks Canyon National Conservation Area is situated 5 miles West of Las Vegas. An Interstate Highway can take you to Las Vegas from almost any direction. If you arrive on Interstate 15 from the North, it is best to take Highway 95 and then Summerlin Parkway to Highway 215 . Don't take Charleston Blvd. because there are a million traffic lights. Take the Charleston Blvd exit on the 215, and follow Route 159 to Red Rocks. (Get your directions from Google Maps.)
If you arrive on Interstate 15 from the South, it is best to take Highway 215 West. Take the Charleston Blvd exit on the 215, and follow Route 159 to Red Rocks. Alternatively, you can take Route 160 and then Route 159, which takes longer but is more scenic. (Get your directions from Google Maps.)
If you are coming from the Yosemite/Bishop area, it is recommended to take Highway 168 from Big Pine into Nevada, and then go South on Highway 95. When you arrive in Las Vegas, you take the 215 South. Take the Charleston Blvd exit on the 215, and follow Route 159 to Red Rocks. (Get your directions from Google Maps.)
Many of the routes in Red Rocks have "restricted access hours" because they are accessed from a 13-mile long, gated loop road in the Conservation Area. This road is also known as the "Scenic Drive". The opening hours of the loop road are: Nov.1-Feb.28: 6am-5pm, Mar.1-31: 6am-7pm, Apr.1-Sept.30: 6am-8pm, Oct.1-31: 6am-7pm. If you are still parked within the loop road after the opening hours, you will be subject to a hefty $125 fine. Late exit permits are available for most long climbs, if you call in advance (see Fees and Permits). If you want to be the first in line on extremely popular routes, like Crimson Chrysalis, it is advised to be at the gate when it opens at 6am.
Unfortunately, this scenic drive is only a one way road. This is a bit of an inconvenience for climbers, but with the "tourists" paying more attention to the scenery than the road, it is a necessity. When passing slower cars, pay attention to joggers and cyclists going against traffic on both sides of the road.
Access and Regulations
There is a fee to get into the Red Rock Conservation Area and access the loop road. Many climbs are accessed from the loop road, so you'll need to pay the entrance fee. Climbs in the canyons to the south of the loop road, First Creek Canyon and Black Velvet Canyon, do not require any fees.
The Red Rock National Conservation Area day fees are $5 per vehicle, and $2 for motorcycles, but there is no charge if you walk in or bicyle into the scenic drive. You can buy a Red Rocks Annual Pass for $20 which is valid for 12 months from the date of purchase.
If you have an annual National Park Pass (America the Beautiful), the access to the park is free. This National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Annual Pass is $80 for a year. The Senior pass is $10.
There are no permits required to climb in Red Rocks within the normal opening hours of the loop road. If you plan to still be climbing after the loop road closing time, you can get a Late Exit (LE) permit, which gives you an additional three hours of climbing time after the normal closing time. The LE permits are available for the following areas: Angel Food Wall, Icebox Canyon, Juniper Canyon, Pine Creek Canyon, and Oak Creek canyon. Permits are not issued for sport climbing areas including Calico I, Calico II, Sandstone Quarry and Willow Springs. The fine for getting out late is $125.00!!
For grade V routes Overnight Permits (ON) are only available for routes on the following walls: Mt Wilson (1-2 nights), Levitation (Eagle) Wall (1 night), Rainbow Wall (1-2 nights), Buffalo Wall (1-3 nights), Hidden Wall (1-3 nights), and Bridge Mountain (1 night). The permit does not allow you to camp in the canyons or at the base of the route, but it does allow to you stay overnight ON the wall.
To obtain a permit call 702-515-5050. Simply talk to a ranger or leave a detailed message. You may call up to seven days in advance or as late as the day of your climb. Note that no permits will be issued after 4:30 pm. If you call the day of your climb, use a land line to make sure to have a good connection. If your message is not clear, you will not receive a permit and you may receive a citation. To receive a permit, the following information must be included in your message: 1) Name, address, phone number , 2) Type of Permit, Late Exit (LE) or Overnight (ON), 3) climbing date(s), 4) Vehicle Plate Number and State, 5) Vehicle description, 6) Climbing destination, route and where you will park, and 7) Emergency contact name and phone number.
Red Rocks is one of the only true year-round climbing areas. Although Red Rocks is generaly several degrees colder than Las Vegas, it can be too warm to climb in the heat of the summer, even in the shade. Those used to desert summer climbing will opt for a super early approach, and will stay in the most shaded canyons, but it is not advised. On the other hand, it can also be too cold to climb in the middle of winter, except for sunny routes on sunny winter days. Spring and Fall are definitely the main Red Rocks climbing seasons with similar temperatures. Both seasons can have cold and hot spells, so check in advance. In general, spring is a little bit less stable, but has longer days. Your best bet is March-April in spring, or October-November in fall.
Bad weather in Red Rocks does not necessary bring rain. Especially in spring, the temperature can drop more than 15F from one day to the other, and usually this drop is accompanied with strong winds (beware if rappeling a route on a windy day). This weather makes it very unpleasant to climb in the canyons, except for the real die hards. The weather systems usually come in from the west, which means that most of the time you don't see the bad weather coming. Because of the Red Rocks peaks, and the limestone mountains to its west, Red Rocks usually gets more clouds and precipitation than Las Vegas. When checking the weather prior to your trip, make sure you check the forecast from the weather station for Red Rocks for the most accurate information (Current Weather Conditions at Calico Basin, Red Rocks and Las Vegas). On average the temperature in Red Rocks is about 5-10F lower than in downtown Las Vegas.
Climbing on sandstone after a rainstorm is strongly discouraged, because the stone absorbes some of the moisture and this weakens the structure of the rock. After heavy rain, it can take more than 24 hours for the rock to dry, so be patient. The sandstone in Red Rocks is, in general, harder than the sandstone found in the Utah desert around Moab. However, the type of climbing and the incut face holds of Red Rocks will still make it dangerous to climb after it rains, and crucial holds could easily break off. Simply don't climb on wet sandstone.
Camping and other Accomodations
Unfortunately, the camping options are limited because there is only one campground in the area. Red Rock Canyon Campground was opened in 1998 to replace the Old Oak Creek Campground. The campground is located 2 miles east of the Red Rocks entrance, just off State Route 159 at the south end of Moenkopi road. The campground is in the middle of a barren desert environment. Potable water and pit toilets are found, but there are no trees or shelters, so there is no shade at all.
The campground has about 70 individual campsites (including 14 walk-in sites), and five group campsites. Be aware that the campsite imposes a 14-day limit stay. Individual sites are $10 per night with a limit of 2 cars per site. Each site has a small sandy tent pad with room for approximately 2-3 tents. The group sites are $20 per night and have space for up to 20 people and 8 cars per site. Reservations for the individual sites are not possible. The group sites can be reserved for up to four months in advance. During the main climbing season the campground fills up very quickly on weekends and holidays. There is no overflow camping, so if the campground is full, your next best option might be a hotel room.
There is also unimproved camping to be found in Lovell Canyon. It is a long drive (about 30 miles from the Loop Road), and it's located West and South of Red Rock Canyon. Use route 160 and turn right at the bottom of the hill. No facilities. Also has a 14 day limit stay.
Las Vegas does not have a shortage of hotels. You can either go for a hotel on the west side of town, or go for a hotel in downtown Las Vegas. If you are opting for a downtown hotel, you have to expect a travel time of approximately half an hour to reach the Red Rocks entrance. The hotels on the strip are quite affordable on weekdays, especially Tuesdays and Wednesdays. If you have never visited the human zoo of the strip, it is worth checking out. On weekends, and when there are many conferences in town, hotel room prices sky rocket. The area north of the strip has more affordable hotels, but does not have the glamour of the strip.
Food and Restaurants
The west end of W Charleston Blvd. has a large selection of grocery stores. As you drive down from Red Rocks, Albertsons is the first large grocerie store and Smith is a little bit further down. If you're looking for more quality, natural and organic food, check out Whole Foods. Other options for natural and organic products are Trader Joe's (7575 W Washington Av.) and the Sunflower Market (4020 S Rainbow), but since these are not on Charleston Blvd. they require a slightly longer drive.
If you don't feel like cooking, you're in luck. Las Vegas has some of the best restaurants in the country. The malls on and around Charleston Blvd. offer countless restaurants with something for everyone's taste. These are the closest restaurant options from Red Rocks. For hot days, there are also many smoothie bars to be found. A few of our personel restaurant suggestions: Lotus of Siam (thai food) 953 E Sahara Ave, BJ's Restaurant and Brewery on West Charleston Blvd., Settebello Pizza 1776 Horizon Ridge Parkway in Henderson, PF Chang China Bistro on West Charleston Blvd., Sam Woo Chinese BBQ 4215 Spring Mtn Road #B101.
The casino's of Las Vegas are known for their all-you-can-eat buffets. Although the glory days of the buffets where you could stuff yourselves with quality food for only a few dollars are over, they still are a good option for eating out. In general, you get what you pay for and the most expensive buffets, like the Bellagio's and the Wynn's, offer the best food. Other suggestions: Village Buffet at the Paris and the Buffet at Treasure Island. Many websites offer top 10 restaurant lists worth checking out.
Finally, Las Vegas is a great city to experience a true gastronomic experience. There are many fine restaurants to choose from, each with their respective celebrity chef. If you're in for a once in a lifetime dinner extravaganza, check out the Michael Mina restaurant at the Bellagio, or l'Atelier de Joel Robuchon at the MGM. Be aware that a dinner with wine can easily cost more than $100 per person.
Water and Shower Info
There is no potable water along the 13 mile loop road of the Red Rock National Convervation Area, so make sure you take plenty of water with you. The visitor center at the entrance of the loop is your last chance for potable water. The water quality in the campground is good, so if you are camping you don't have to worry about your water supply.
The Veterans Memorial Leisure Services Center is the closest option to Red Rocks for showers (101 N Pavilion Center Drive, 702 229-1100). The center has day tickets for $4, allowing you to use their fitness room and the showers. A week pass is only $6, so it is a great deal if you are staying for a longer period and like to shower more than once a week. Opening hours: M-F 6am-9pm, Sat 7am-6pm, Sun 8am-4pm. The Pavilion Center Pool is an olympic size swimming pool, but it is only open during the summer months. For opening hours call (702) 229-1488.
The Red Rock Climbing Center has showers for $4 per person. There is only one shower for men and one for women, so if you are with a group bring a good book. It's a bit further from Red Rocks, but you can easily combine it with visiting Desert Rock Sports for more GearLoopTopos and the lastest route beta. 8201 W Charleston Blvd, (702) 254 5604. Opening hours: M-F 10am-10pm, S-S 9am-9pm.
Desert Rock Sports will let you use their wireless internet connection for free if you bring your own laptop. They even have a comfy couch for you to relax on. (8221 W Charleston Blvd, 702-254-1143). Opening hours: 9am-7pm Monday-Saturday. 10am-6pm Sunday. (Winter hours, October 1-March 1)
The Coffee Bean coffee shop at the very west end of Charleston has great coffee and a free wireless connection for their customers if you bring you own laptop. 10834 W Charleston Blvd (Suite 200), 702-838-5661. Opening hours: M-F 5am-9pm, S-S 5.30am-9pm. Take Charleston Blvd east, left on Pavilion Center, and first left on Park Run.
Sahara West Library (9600 W. Sahara Ave. 702-507-3630) and West Charleston Library (6301 W. Charleston Blvd. 702-507-3940) have computers you can use for free, so these are good options if you don't own a laptop. Opening hours: M-Th 9am-9pm, F-Sun 10am-6pm. As a visitor you get a week pass, good for up to 2 hours per day. You can just show up and hope to get a free terminal, or reserve a terminal at the library or by phone. The Sahara Library is closer to Red Rocks, is the bigger of the two, and there are more terminals. The Charleston Library is smaller and due to the limit number of terminals allows only 1 hour per day.
For real emergencies there is of course 911. For BLM Emergency dispatch call 702-293-8932.
For less severe injuries you can visit an UMC Quick Care walk-in clinic. The closest clinic to Red Rocks is at 9320 W Sahara Ave. (702) 383-3850. There are several other UMC Quick care locations in Las Vegas.
The closest pharmacies are convienently located at the west end of Charleston, both in the same mall area (10400 W Charleston Blvd): CVS Pharmacy and Sav-On Drugs in the Albertsons groceries store.
Dogs are allowed everywhere inside and around the Red Rock National Conservation Area. Dogs must be on leash and remain under physical control at all times. As always, make sure to clean up after your pet (pick up ALL dog waste, even if it's not yours), and prevent them from barking unnecessarily. Let's make sure that we can conserve this priviledge in this pristine dog heaven !
Also make sure to bring plenty of water and a water bowl to keep your best friend hydrated, and never leave dogs in a closed vehicule in this environment, because temperatures inside a car parked in the sun can creep well over 120 F in just a few minutes.
Animals and Plants
The largest animals you can come across in Red Rocks are the Wild Burros. They are not dangerous, but they can be a nuisance because they sometimes stop in the middle of the road, which can cause small traffic jams with tourists taking pictures. Desert Bighorn are also quite plentiful in Red Rocks, and usually roam around in small groups. They're usually shy of people, and if you come across them, please do not try to approach them.
The potentially dangerous animals are much smaller. Rattlesnakes are present, but are rarely seen. Scorpions and Tarantulas are also present, but their sightings are even more rare.
'Dangerous' Cacti are much more abundant in Red Rocks, and it is best to avoid any human-cacti interaction. Some cacti (e.g. Tree Cholla) have barbed spines, making it very difficult to remove them once they have penetrated your skin.
If you climb often enough in Red Rocks, you will develop a love-hate relationship with Scrub Oak. You will love how easily they turn into belay or rappel stations. However, after enough bush-whacking you will think less highly of them.
If you have never visited Las Vegas Blvd, better known as the Strip, the best advice for a rest "day" is to go out at night visiting the human zoo and neon night life on the Strip, and have a rest day the day after. If you like sightseeing, your rest day can be spent visiting the Hoover dam, which is about 1.5 hours drive from Red Rocks to the East of Las Vegas. You can combine visiting the Hoover dam with a soak in one of the hotsprings just across the dam in Arizona. The Grand Canyon is not too far either. For a more active "rest" day, or when the weather is doubtful, it's easy to rent a mountain bike and ride on one of the nice trails found around Red Rocks. If it's too warm, you can also go and relax in the Pavilion Center Pool (see Water and Shower Info section).
If you suddenly feel lucky in the evening while camping at the 13 Mile Campground, the closest casino to Red Rocks is, how appropriate, the new Red Rock Casino. The casino also has a 16-screen cinema complex, so on cold evenings you can also take shelter here and watch a movie. The cinema has a small food court if you also want to get a bite to eat.