Our much anticipated family vacation began on June 22nd with a ridiculously early flight out of Dulles International Airport. Once we landed in Las Vegas, Nevada, we met up with the rest of our family, grabbed our baggage, and picked up our rental SUV. Lunch was a priority and gave us an opportunity to catch up with the kids and close in on our plans for our week of adventure. First on our agenda – hiking in Red Rock Canyon.


Red Rock Canyon Visitor’s Center

As we left the city we skipped driving down the Las Vegas Strip, opting to leave that for our final day when we returned to the airport. We had more important things to do like exploring Red Rock Canyon, a 195,819-acre National Conservation Area within the Mojave Desert, before making the two-hour drive to our AirBnB in Washington, Utah.

Once inside the park, first on our agenda was to stop at the visitor’s center to pick up a guide and get a feel for the area.


Seeing this huge taxidermy mountain lion perched up high overlooking the visitor’s center information desk was a bit sobering, but it’s always interesting and important to know what animals might be seen in the area.


Scenic Drive

Once we got on Scenic Drive, a 13-mile one-way loop, we stopped at various overlooks as we considered our options for where we should hike. The view of Calico Hills from one of the first overlooks was quite stunning.

Red Rock Canyon


We stopped for pictures a few more times as we wound our way around the loop…

Red Rock Canyon

Photo credit: Jess

Desert Yoga

Apparently Daniel needed to center himself after so much sight seeing and found a sweet little cypress tree for a quick yoga pose.

Red Rock Canyon

Photo credit: Jess


Don’t Bottom Out!

We settled on La Madre Spring, a moderate 3.3-mile roundtrip hike that started just beyond Willow Springs for our hiking destination. The farther we drove on Rocky Gap Road, a bumpy 4×4 spur road from the loop, the more concerned we got that our SUV might not be the right vehicle for the terrain. We decided to turn around before we bottomed out and ruined our rental and unfortunately, didn’t get to see the springs.


Hiking to Ice Box Canyon

Back on Scenic Drive, we decided to play it safe and park in a trailhead parking lot for our hike into Ice Box Canyon, a difficult 2.6-mile roundtrip trail that goes from dirt paths in the open desert to rock and boulder scrambling as you close in on the canyon. If you’re lucky, you’ll be treated to a waterfall once in the canyon; however, lack of rainfall or recent snow melt could lead to a disappointingly dry display.

Photo credit: source

The first section was easy as we crossed the desert in the hot sun. Eventually, the dirt path that had wound its way past yucca and cacti became more difficult as it became covered with more and more rocks. Here’s our youngest son Daniel and his girlfriend Jess posing just after we moved onto the rockier section of trail.

Red Rock Canyon


As we hiked up the canyon larger and larger boulders covered the trail forcing us to either climb across or scramble around (when possible) in order to keep going.

Photo credit: Jess


Before we made it all the way to the end of the trail, I decided to turn around because the constant climbing over the larger boulders was starting to aggravate my already inflamed SI joint and I didn’t want to make it any worse on my first day of vacation (regular walking and hiking didn’t bother it at all). The rest of the family decided to turn around with me, and with that, we cut our hike short without seeing if water was flowing over the waterfall.


The First Official Family Hiking Selfie

As we hiked back out of the canyon, we posed for the first of many family pictures. Behind Bill and me are Joseph and Julie on the left and Daniel and Jess on the right.

Photo credit: Bill

Lost in the Desert

During our hike back out of the canyon Julie, Jess, and I got separated from the guys when we veered to the right and down a hill in an area that didn’t look familiar. We were surprised when we couldn’t find them once we made our way back up out of the gully and even more so when we didn’t meet up again until we were on the last section of the trail.

Red Rock Canyon

Photo credit: Jess

With the guys in tow, we finished our hike and happily hopped into the air conditioned SUV as we set out to find the Airbnb that would be our home for the next week.

Red Rock Canyon

Photo credit: Julie

Final Thoughts on Red Rock Canyon

Only a short drive away, Red Rock Canyon is a great escape from the hustle and bustle of Las Vegas. Our peaceful hike in the dessert was such a contrast to the glitz and glamour, and dare I say, fakeness of Las Vegas.


  • Questions:
  • Have you been to Red Rock Canyon?
  • Which do you prefer: desert, mountains, or beach? ~ I like them all, but the beach the least.
  • Where are you headed for your next vacation?