Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Featured Hike: Oak Creek Canyon Trail - Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

Oak Creek Canyon Trail
Red Rock Canyon National Recreation Area
Outside of Las Vegas, NV
May 2011

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
Red Rock Canyon was designated as Nevada's first National Conservation Area. Red Rock Canyon is located 17 miles west of the Las Vegas Strip on Charleston Boulevard/State Route 159. The area is 195,819 acres and is visited by more than one million people each year. In marked contrast to a town geared to entertainment and gaming, Red Rock Canyon offers enticements of a different nature including a 13-mile scenic drive, more than 30 miles of hiking trails, rock climbing, horseback riding, mountain biking, road biking, picnic areas, nature observing and visitor center with exhibit rooms and a book store.

The unique geologic features, plants and animals of Red Rock Canyon NCA represent some of the best examples of the Mojave Desert. In 1990, special legislation supported by the Nevada congressional delegation, changed the status of the Red Rock Recreation Lands to a National Conservation Area (NCA), the seventh to be designated nationally. This legislation provides the funding to protect and improve the area. Red Rock Canyon NCA is enjoyed by the local population as well as visitors from the United States and many foreign countries. One million visitors each year enjoy the spectacular desert landscape, climbing and hiking opportunities, and interpretive programs sponsored by the BLM.

The BLM is the largest administrator of public lands in the West. It adheres to the policy of multiple use, thereby providing recreational opportunities, protection for cultural sites, and the management of natural resources, including wildlife.

Oak Creek Canyon Trail

From Sunset Cities.com: Oak Creek is a hiking trail located about 2.5 miles south of the Red Rock Canyon Visitors Center on SR 159. Note, this trail is accessible from the Scenic Drive also. This hike is slightly longer and also takes you into Oak Creek Canyon. It's a great trail for hiking, horseback riding and photography. The hike is about 4 miles long, fairly level most of the way, with a limited amount of steep grades. It takes you from the Desert Scrub ecological zone to the Pinion Juniper zone. The contrast is interesting.
As you walk up the trail, you can actually see the environment change. On an average weekend you might meet 6 to 10 people along this trail. It takes you to the base of Mount Wilson, then Oak Creek Canyon and then Rainbow Mountain. 

Oak Creek is a good example of the type of stream found in the Great Basin. It is snow fed and starts deep within the canyon. As it makes its way to lower elevations, it waters a variety of environments and sustains numerous plant and animal communities. Eventually it disappears into the desert becoming part of the subterranean water table.

If your interest is photography, bring a lot of film. There are countless photo opportunities on this trail. Outstanding vistas, both to the north and to the south, the sheer cliff face of Mount Wilson, the jagged cliffs of Rainbow Mountain, the twisted forms of the Juniper trees, Oak Creek and Oak Creek Canyon. Even the rocks along the trail are worth the attention of your camera.

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