Red Rock Canyon

This February we took a short road trip to the Mojave Desert, located in the southwest of the USA. The Southwest is arid. The Mojave Desert lies in the rain shadow of several mountain ranges, so it’s even drier than the rest of California.

At Red Rock Canyon outside Las Vegas, Nevada, we hiked along the Calico Hills, shown above. The hills are sandstone — deposited sand that turned to stone when covered and compressed by later deposits. Iron leached into some of the stone, turning it red.

Shown below, the Calico Hills have stone of several colors. Deep-red stones are at the top. The middle-right has pink stones with red streaks. The foreground and far-left have sand-colored stone. The Mojave yucca (yucca schidigera) plants in the foreground are a California native plant that grows to 5 m (16′). They need no summer water and require excellent drainage.

mixed colors in the Calico Hills
Calico Hills in Red Rock Canyon

The pink stone in the middleground shows pink and tan veins.

pink and white streaks in the calico rock
pink and white streaks in the calico rock (click to enlarge)

To provide a sense of scale, there are three climbers on the left in the photo above, shown in this crop.

three climbers
three climbers

You can still see the layers of sand deposited long ago. Veins of red run through the layers.

layers of rock with colored veins
layers of rock with colored veins

The Calico Hills face a dry plain with hills in the distance. Those in the center have a deep-red stripe like the Calico Hills.

hills with a deep-red band
distant hills with a deep-red band of color

Red Rock Canyon is a great place to hike: just outside Las Vegas, with red and pink rocks that tell a story of how they came to be. On a February morning, the weather was just right.


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I enjoy travel, art, food, photography, nature, California native plants, history, and yoga. I am a retired software engineer. The gravatar is a Nuttall's woodpecker that visited our backyard.

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