Climb Like a Local: Red Rocks


Categories: Climb Like a Local

Lose yourself in the dazzling Mojave Desert, and you might just forget how close you are to Sin City. Red Rocks has it all—from quality boulders to adventurous 20-pitch trad routes and everything in between. And in case you’re in the mood to get debaucherous, the sandstone cliffs are just minutes from Vegas.

Rock climbing in Red Rock Canyon, Nevada
Photo © Jon Glassberg

Local Vibe: You’ll find trad climbers, sport climbers, and boulderers—in that order—at Red Rocks. Despite the abundance of trad climbers, you’ll be hard-pressed to find them when you first roll up—they’re way off down in the main canyons exploring big multi-pitch terrain. The hard sport climbers (remnants of the 1980s Red Rocks sport renaissance) can be found in the Calico Hills. Wherever you’re headed, get ready for a choose-your-own-adventure trip.

Avoid the Crowds: Red Rocks classics tend to be crowded, but if you branch out from Cat in the Hat, you will be rewarded. Even a short hike will get you away from the lines. As a rule of thumb, the farther you get from the loop, the fewer people you’ll run into.

Local Pet Peeve: Climbing on wet rock. The sandstone here is super fragile, so it’s easy to damage if you climb on it during or after rain. How do you know if the rock is too wet? If the ground under your intended route is anything but dusty, pick another spot to climb until it dries out.

Watch Out! Access to the 13-Mile Scenic Drive Loop, which brings you to a number of classic Red Rock climbs, is limited to daylight hours. The loop opens at 6am every day and closes at sunset (5pm November through February; 7pm March and October; and 8pm April through September). The BLM does issue parking tickets, but you can avoid one by calling 702-515-5050 up to a week before your climb to secure a Late Exit Permit. Just be sure to leave all the information required, or they won’t issue you one.

Who's Got Your Back? The Southern Nevada Climbers Coalition represents the climbing community at Red Rocks.

Pro Tip: Red Rocks and sunny days go together like french fries and ketchup. While most people only visit the desert during the dead of winter, you can find plentiful shade and good climbing temperatures at Red Rocks well into April most years. Check the guidebook for North Facing crags with a little exposure (wind), and if that isn't cool enough for you, nearby limestone zones like Mt. Potosi, Mt Charleston, and Clark Mountain are higher elevation and completely climbable even into the summer months. ~Jonathan Siegrist, pro climber and Red Rocks regular

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