Red Rock Canyon Visitor Center (all you need to know)

Outdoor Exhibits at Red Rock Visitor Center

The Red Rock Visitor Center is the gateway to the famed Red Rock Canyon. It boasts a multitude of indoor and outdoor exhibits, plant specimens and live desert tortoises.  Learn about the area, plan your visit in the park and enjoy the expansive views the center has to offer before exploring the rest of Red Rock Canyon.

Red Rock Canyon Visitor Center Fast Facts

Hours of Operation7 days a week, 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Address1000 Scenic Loop Drive, Las Vegas, 89161
Admission$15 / car or truck, $30 for annual pass or $80 for an America the Beautiful National Parks pass.  $2 timed reservation fee also required during high season (October 1st through May 31st from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.)
ParkingFree after admission
Average Visit Time1 Hour
Current info/ClosuresRed Rock Canyon Las Vegas
Scenic Drive Hours6 a.m. – 8 p.m., April through September 6 a.m. – 7 p.m., October and March 6 a.m. – 5 p.m., November through February
Rating4.5 Mooses
Entrance to the Red Rock Canyon visitor center
Entrance to the visitor center

Things to do at the Red Rock Visitor Center

  • Experience the multitude of informational exhibits both indoors and outdoors
  • Visit the gift shop for a local keepsake
  • Visit the information desk to help plan your visit to the park
  • Participate in a group tour of the site
  • Enjoy the live desert tortoise exhibits (seasonal)
  • Watch a free program in the theater
  • Photograph the beautiful Calico Hills directly from the visitor center
  • Attend a special event at the outdoor amphitheater
Red Rock Canyon Amphitheater
Amphitheater at visitor center

Our experience at the Red Rock Visitor Center

We arrived around 10 a.m. on a weekday and found the visitor center to be quite busy.  While there was plenty of parking in the large lot, there were also several large tours occurring at the facility at the same time we were there. 

Inside the Red Rock Canyon Visitor Center

After entering the visitor center, we noticed a gift shop off to our left and plenty of indoor exhibits off to our right along with a large viewing area of the Calico Hills. 

There were plenty of volunteers inside giving information to interested visitors along with a dedicated information desk that had maps of the area.  Inside the visitor center is also a large theater area where films are sometimes shown.  

After checking out the indoor exhibits, we decided to head outside where the majority of the exhibits are.  We also wanted to catch a glimpse of the famed desert tortoise. 

Pro-tip:  Don’t ask the information desk when the “turtles” are viewable, you’ll be quickly corrected they don’t have turtles, only tortoises. 

Outside is an expansive area with multiple interactive exhibits and plenty of habitats for the desert tortoises to explore.  Unfortunately, we visited after the tortoises had already gone into hibernation.  They don’t like extreme hot or cold temperatures and prefer a balmy range of temperatures between 79 – 93 degrees.

Red Rock Canyon Visitor Center Outdoor Exhibits
Outdoor exhibits and Turtle habitats
Outdoor Exhibits
Outdoor exhibits

As we were reading the signboards at the various exhibits, my husband noticed a tarantula slowly sauntering across one of the walkways near the exhibits.  It seemed unfazed by visitors gawking at him and happily snapping pictures. 

We watched it for quite sometime before it finally made its way out of the direct line of traffic.  Watch your step at the visitor center in case you’re lucky enough to spot one these creatures!

At the far end of the exhibits, there was a nice viewing area of the surrounding Red Rock valley including the Calico Hills.  

Red Rock Visitor Center View of Valley

With over 1 million visitors stopping at the visitor center every year, you may run into some crowds as we did.  Luckily, many of the tour groups that were there when we first arrived moved on and the venue quieted down a lot. 

Red Rock Canyon seen from visitor center
View from Red Rock Visitor Center

We finished checking out the outdoor exhibits and made at a quick stop at the gift shop before heading out to explore the scenic loop drive and our hike choice of the day, the Keystone Thrust Trail.

Should you visit the Red Rock Visitor Center?

Rating: 4.5 Mooses

What we liked

  • We enjoyed the expansive collection of indoor and outdoor exhibits.
  • The volunteers were helpful in answering questions and very knowledgeable about the area.
  • The gift shop was well stocked with local keepsakes and reasonable prices. 
  • We got to see a live tarantula running around on the paths near the outdoor exhibits of the visitor center.

What we didn’t like

  • We were disappointed we didn’t get to see a desert tortoise when we visited.  At the time, we didn’t know the tortoises would already be in hibernation.  We’ll be back again in the spring when they come out.
  • There were quite a few large tour groups at the visitor center when we there making it difficult to see some of the exhibits. 

Verdict: We highly recommend stopping at the visitor before you complete the 13-mile scenic loop drive.  We were really impressed with the quality and quantity of exhibits, not to mention the views from the location.  We’ll be back in the spring when the tortoises are out.

Calico Hills seen from Red Rock Canyon
Calico Hills

Know before you go

  • If you’re visiting Red Rock Canyon during high season (October 1 through May 31), you’ll need a timed entry pass to enter the park.  Visit Recreation.gov to order a $2 timed entry permit valid from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.).  You must have a park pass and a timed entry permit to see the visitor center as it is contained within the park.
  • The visitor center is located at the very beginning of the 13-mile one-way scenic loop.  If you pass the visitor center without stopping, you would have to drive the entire 13-mile loop and re-enter the park for another chance to see it.  It’s best to enter the park at 9 a.m. or after if you wish to stop at the visitor center.
  • The desert tortoises are usually viewable between April – October.  During the hottest part of the year, they are usually out in the morning time only. 
Lizard statute at Red Rock Visitor Center

Frequently asked questions about visiting Red Rock Canyon

When is the best time to visit Red Rock Canyon?

The best time to visit the park is in September and October when temperatures are usually in the 70s to 80s or in the early spring during April and May when the temperatures are on average in the 60s to 70s. 

How much time do you need to visit Red Rock Canyon?

We recommend allocating at least a half-day in the park, more if you plan on some of the longer hikes.  An average visit to the park includes an hour at the visitor center, and 1 – 2 hours driving around the 13-mile scenic loop including time to stop at some of the vantage points. 

When are the tortoises viewable at the Red Rock Canyon Visitor Center?

The tortoises are best seen between April through October.  The remainder of the year, the tortoises are usually in hibernation.  You’re most likely to see a tortoise after a seasonal rain and when temperatures are between 79 – 93 degrees Fahrenheit.  The remainder of the time, they’ll be hiding away in a burrow.

Tortoise at Red Rock Visitor Center

How do you get to Red Rock Canyon without a car?

We recommend booking a tour to visit Red Rock Canyon if you don’t have a car.  While Uber or Lyft will drop you off at the park entrance, the 13-mile scenic drive is best used by vehicle or by bicycle.  Alternatively, you could pay the uber to drive you through the scenic drive, but you’ll have to purchase a $15 day use pass (or show the America the Beautiful pass) to enter the park.  You will likely have difficulty getting a return uber from the park if you have one drop you off.

Red Rock Canyon Scenic Loop Drive
Red Rock Scenic Loop Map

What are the hours of the Red Rock Canyon Visitor Center?

The visitor center is open daily from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Parking lot at Red Rock Canyon Visitor Center
Parking lot for visitor center

What are some of the best hikes in Red Rock Canyon?

Our favorite two hikes in the park are Turtlehead Peak and Calico Tanks.  Others we have enjoyed are the Icebox Canyon trail and the Keystone Thrust trail.  We’ve also made a list of every hike in Red Rock Canyon

More Information for your trip to Red Rock Canyon

You might also like: