Women looking wistfully towards hidden waterfall

Finding the hidden waterfall on First Creek Canyon Trail

First Creek Canyon trail is an enjoyable trek across the desert towards towering red and white sandstone rock formations. In the wet season, hikers can enjoy a hidden waterfall a short distance off the main trail.

In this guide:

Red Rock Mountains in the distance across the desert floor
View from First Creek Canyon Trail

First Creek Canyon Trail Stats

Trail descriptionOut and back
LocationFirst Creek Trailhead, NV-159, Las Vegas, NV 89161
Parking lotLas Vegas, NV 89161
Round trip mileage~4.3 Miles (including the waterfall)
Average time~2 Hours
DifficultyEasy/ Moderate
Elevation gain~484 feet
Elevation Max4,126 feet
Elevation Min3,642 feet
Best time to visitOctober through May
Amenities at TrailheadInformation sign board
Entrance FeeFree
Rating3.5 Mooses

Trail Maps

Interactive map of our route including pictures along the trail:

Map included at the First Creek Canyon Trailhead.

Trail map
Trail Map

What to expect on the trail

We arrived at the trailhead on a Saturday morning just before 8 a.m. There were already at least ten vehicles parked at the trailhead.

Since the First Creek Trail is not within the paid area of the scenic loop at Red Rock Canyon, it tends to be quite popular.

Trailhead for First Creek Canyon
First Creek Canyon Trailhead

The trail starts out wide and flat, with mostly gravel underfoot.

The path is lined with wooden beams that look like they belong at a beach.

Path winding towards Red Rock Canyon near Las Vegas

If it wasn’t for the rock formations in the distance, this part of the trail would be rather boring. It’s essentially a flat gravel path leading across the desert. This becomes more apparent on your return trip.

Luckily, the gorgeous red and white sandstone mountains save the day and we were determined to find the elusive (and seasonal) waterfall.

Mount Wilson along First Creek Canyon Trail

The trail winds past a multitude of different cacti and if you’re incredibly lucky, you might spot a burro in the area (we didn’t).

Catcus bathed in sunlight
Cacti along the trail

You may also see some wildlife on the trail such as these Western Scrub Jay.

Scrub Jay
Scrub-Jay in some branches
Scrub Jay

For the first mile or so, the path is mostly gravel, with a few areas of larger rocks strewn along the way.

Desert landscape facing red mountains
Rocks on the trail
Red Rock Mountains near Spring Mountain Ranch
Cactus in the desert with red mountains in the distance

The path is well marked and easy to follow at this point.

Sign showing First Creek Canyon

About a mile in, you’ll notice a fork in the trail, with a sign pointing you to the left. To the left is the official First Creek Canyon trail and to the unmarked right fork, you’ll head towards the hidden waterfall.

First Creek Canyon official trail marker
Stay left for the official trail, right for waterfall

Continue down the path to the right until you see a large tree.

Path leading to a hidden waterfall along First Creek Canyon
Tree in the distance

Before you reach the tree, take a sharp right and head down to the falls area. If the waterfall is running, you’ll hear it at this point.

Large tree in the desert
Turn right before the tree (you’ll see a trail head down into the creek area)

Watch your step as you head down.

Path surrounding by stones leading to a waterfall
Trail leading down to the waterfall

Rounding the bend, you’ll catch your first glimpse of the falls.

Waterfall in the desert
First views of the falls

When we reached the bottom, we found we had to hop over some rocks and across a stream to get to the best viewing area of the falls.

Waterfall in the desert
Waterfall in a desert landscape
Hidden waterfall

Depending on the water level, this may require getting wet.

When we visited, we mostly had the falls to ourselves. It was quite magical.

Waterfall after a heavy rainstorm in the desert

We left the waterfall area and continued towards Mount Wilson and the end of the First Creek Trail.

The path from the falls does intersect back with the main trail without having to backtrack. In fact, you’ll find many side “burro” trails throughout the area that you can use.

Man walking on First Creek Canyon Trail
Mt. Wilson in the distance

As you continue on the trail, there are several areas the First Creek stream is accessible. We stopped along the way to enjoy the water views.

Stream in the desert

The last stop on the First Creek Canyon trail is the “grotto.” This can be accessed off the right-hand side of the trail as you near its end.

Follow the trail markers towards Mt. Wilson and the canyon in front of you.

Arrow painted on a rock along First Creek Canyon Trail
Nearing the grotto area

View of Mt. Wilson.

Mt Wilson
Mt. Wilson

We found this portion of the hike more “trail” like and less of a gravel path. The elevation is a bit higher and you’ll be closer to the rock formations.

Red Rock hills
Rock formations

Keep your eyes peeled on the right-hand side of the trail for some large multicolored red rocks. When you see them, you’ll have made to the “grotto” area.

Striped red rocks forming the grotto area
The Grotto area

It is often dry, but you may find some water here in the right time of year.

Just past the grotto area, you’ll enter in the canyon with Wilson’s Peak on your right. This is official end of First Creek Canyon trail.

Canyon trail leading to Mt. Wilson
Wilson’s Peak (on right)

Hikers wishing to continue onto Mt. Wilson, or just explore some of the rock formations may opt to go further. Otherwise, turn around and retrace your steps back to the parking area.

Here’s a few photos we took on our return trip.

Man walking along First Creek Canyon Trail
Garrya fremontii plant, aka Bearbrush
Garrya fremontii
Desert landscape looking south on First Creek Canyon Trail
Desert path lined with cacti
NV-159 in the distance
Calico Tanks in the distance
Calico Tanks in the distance

We definitely felt the walk towards the mountains were far more scenic than the return trip.

Barren views of First Creek Canyon trail
Desert path lined in gravel and flanked by wooden poles
Nearing the parking area

When we arrived back at the parking area around 2 hours later, it was nearly full. We’re glad we got an early start.

Is hiking First Creek Canyon trail worth it?

Rating: 3.5 Mooses

What we liked:

  • The hidden waterfall about one mile into the trail was unique and tranquil.
  • The red sandstone mountains of Red Rock Canyon never disappoint.
  • The landscape views were quite enjoyable, especially when the sunlight peeked through the clouds.

What we didn’t like:

  • The trail was quite busy on our return trip which included off-leash dogs and hikers blaring music on their speakers.
  • There was a large amount of animal waste on the trail from inconsiderate pet owners and wild burros (but we’ll give the burros a free pass).
  • The trail signage could be better, along with the parking off NV-159.

Verdict: The waterfall made this hike worthwhile. Unfortunately, it’s seasonal and not likely to be there unless you get lucky with recent storms. If there was no waterfall, we would rate this hike a 2.5 or maybe a 3. The high crowds and general boringness of the first part of the trail, along with inconsiderate pet owners makes this one we wouldn’t repeat.

Practical info for your trip

Current trail conditions

  • This trail is not within the paid area of the Red Rock Canyon Scenic loop; however, it may be useful to know if anything is happening at the park. You can also check out their webcam. More info here.
  • Check Alltrails for recent trail conditions and if you want to use it for navigation. We have no affiliation with them, but use their paid version for all our hikes.
  • Check the local weather for temperature forecasts.

What to bring

Be sure to check the weather conditions and pack appropriately.  This is what we brought for this hike:

Standard Gear:

Special Items of note:

  • Hiking Boots or closed toe shoes – A lot of the trail is gravel, but there are some patches of large rocks. If you’re going to reach the waterfall, you may have to jump across some rocks to get the best view. We recommend wearing either hiking boots or trail shoes with good grip on them.
  • Clothing – Be sure to bring appropriate clothing for rapidly changing conditions.  Weather can change extremely fast, especially during monsoon season.
  • Water / Snacks – There is no running water available at the trailhead. Bring plenty of water (especially in the hot summer months) and extra snacks.
  • Navigation – We use Alltrails (no affiliation) on all our hikes. While this is an “out and back” hike in a fairly straight line, we were happy to have the software to find the waterfall and grotto area.


There is a long narrow parking lot directly off the side of NV-159 (on the right-hand side as you’re traveling west). It can probably hold 30-40 cars.

Parking area off NV-159 facing west
Parking area for First Creek Canyon Trail

We highly recommend backing in the spot (if you can do so safely), as it’s much easier to reenter traffic on the highway.

Trailhead Amenities

There are no amenities at the trailhead for this hike other than a sign board that gives trail information.

First Creek Canyon Trail Information Map
First Creek Canyon Information Board

Trail Warnings

  • After desert rain, do not climb sandstone for 24 hours.
  • Flash flooding may occur during/after desert rain.
  • Stay on designated trials.
  • Cell phone service is unreliable.
  • Do not disturb or feed wildlife.

More info for your trip to Red Rock Canyon

How to Visit Red Rock Canyon for Free
Guide to Red Rock Canyon NCA
Things to do in Red Rock Canyon
Pine Creek Canyon Trail
White Rock Mountain Loop Trail Red Rock Canyon NCA

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