Adventure seekers looking to get outdoors and away from the bright lights of Las Vegas or explore the different mysteries of Nevada should be sure to head to Red Rock Canyon where they can seek out the strenuous and stunning Ice Box Canyon trail. Prepare to scramble over slick boulders, because this trail requires climbing, sidestepping, and hiking shoes with a solid grip. Although temps in this area can reach the extremes of heat, Ice Box Canyon is, true to its name, typically 10 to 15 degrees cooler than the surrounding desert. With a shaded and winding trail, seasonal waterfalls, and chilled pools throughout, this is challenging terrain for experienced hikers or just those wishing to push themselves to try a new adventure.

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Getting There: All The Things You Need To Know About Red Rock Canyon

Red Rock Canyon is located about 25 miles west of the Las Vegas Strip. Timed Reservations are required for all visitors and can be made online. :

  • Beginning October 1, 2022, the Bureau of Land Management requires Timed Reservations for vehicle entry to the Scenic Drive between 8 am and 5 pm through May 31, 2023. Timed Reservations are available online, along with entry passes, and visitors with annual passes can enter their pass number at checkout. Reservations are still required on "fee-free days" for entrance between 8 am and 5 pm.

The fees and passes are as follows:

  • $15 for a Car / Truck for a 1-Day Pass
  • $10 for a Motorcycle for a 1-Day Pass
  • $5 for a Bicycle or Pedestrian 1-Day Pass

You can also opt for a Yearly Pass:

  • Red Rock Annual Pass is $30
  • America the Beautiful Pass is $80

However you plan to visit, make sure to reserve your Timed Reservations and get there early, as the parking lot for the Ice Box Canyon trail has been known to fill up fast.

The Ice Box Canyon Trail: Strenuous, Slippery, And Stunning Views

Once hikers are at the trailhead, which is at an elevation of 4,215 feet, they can begin the arduous and rewarding 2.3-mile trek. Beginning in the open desert, the trail leads to the narrow, immense walls of the box canyon with dry and diverse vegetation throughout. In the summer months, average temperatures in Red Rock Canyon can reach into the 90s, yet the narrow canyon barely sees sunlight, so you can expect the temperatures on the trail to be in the 70s. The trail is not considered too long and typically takes hikers around 2 hours to complete, yet it can be extremely challenging because of the rocky terrain. Expect a lot of scrambling over large boulders and loose rocks, and, for good measure, keep your eyes peeled for frogs hiding out in the pools along the trail. The hiking challenge increases with an elevation gain of around 530 feet.

Locals and Las Vegas visitors alike delight in this demanding journey, with an environment seemingly all its own. Narrow twists and turns, with low-light and seasonal waterfalls that can be seen from December through April, the opportunities for distraction, taking memorable photos, and just enjoying the beauty of this corner of the world, are endless.

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The rock scrambling should be approached with care, as much of the trail can be slick, especially from December through April, as well as if it has been less than 24 hours since the last rainfall. Following along the trail, while it is marked, is generally left to the hikers' sense of observation and perception. If you find you have encountered increasingly difficult and dangerous terrain, it is very likely you have inadvertently stepped off the trail.

The seasonal pools and waterfall are located roughly 1.3 miles into the hike. While exploring the terrain, remember that the canyon rock offers very little traction and if one slips they can descend into a pool, or, even more precariously, slide down to the canyon floor. Hikers are cautioned to never, ever place their hands where they cannot see, as this is one way to have an unwelcome encounter with a snake.

Despite the demanding trail and hazardous rock scrambling, the Ice Box Canyon trail offers one of the most unique hiking experiences in all of Nevada, with views on the journey including the captivating scenic vistas of the Rainbow Mountains as well as Turtlehead Peak. From difficult terrain to impressive waterfalls, with pools along the way to enjoy, hikers can bask in the drama of their surroundings and feel a sense of accomplishment for navigating the land. For explorers looking to experience the challenge and beauty of nature, this is one hike that should not be missed.