Red Rock Canyon lies a few kilometers west of Las Vegas. It is an area of desert hills surrounded by mountains, but within the broad amphitheater are a number of sandstone hills. The “red rocks” are the Calico Hills, but there are also a number of other sandstone hills nearby. The cliffs and rock faces attract climbers. There are over 2300 climbing routes in Red Rocks Canyon listed in books and guides. But there are many scrambling opportunities too. By using ledges, ramps, cracks, and contouring routes we can work our way up and down many of the cliffs to the top. I used a winding route through the middle of this cliff to get to the tops of all of these hills:
As I explored each area I found new surprises – snags, agaves growing in cracks, cacti, bighorn sheep signs, a flowering plant in a sheltered area, cross-bedded layers, cliff swallows, alcoves, small arches, animal burrows, potholes, and more.
This is not hiking for those with a fear of heights or for those who are unsure with mild exposure. It is always a bit of adventure, but I take each step carefully, weighing the safety of the route, and making sure of each hand hold and foot placement.
It sometimes takes a while to find a way down and some routes that look good end at a cliff so I have to go back up and look for a new route. On this last day I had to climb back up twice to work my way over to a steep gully that went all the way down.
There are no trails or signage and with the bare rock, very few footprints ether. Each venture onto the rock requires exploration with the possibility that the route will come to a place where there is too much exposure (requiring technical equipment to proceed) so the best choice may be to go back the same way and look for a new route up.
We saw lots of hikers on the trails and quite a few climbers on the sheer cliffs, but on the upper sandstone hills I didn’t run into scramblers (though I imagine on holidays and weekends there would be more). On this last venture it was a giant sandstone playground for one. A return trip is already planned.