“Are the rocks really red, mom?”

hiking into Black Corridor To all who are wondering…Yes, the rocks are really red in Red Rock Canyon, NV. My kids were thrilled.

Chris once said, “Don’t ever ask me to go to Vegas, cause I won’t.” The flashy lights, questionable everything, and quantity of cement and people – all of it stressed him out. And to be honest, I agreed.

So how on earth did we end up there this last week?

red rocks, NVWell…we heard tale of a place called Red Rock Canyon, a mecca of climbing in the “climbing” world. And even better – tons of sport routes, meaning we could go as a family. Until our kids are older, we try to avoid trad routes simply cause of the headache with three young kids. We save trad for our date nights back home :). And luckily we have tons of climbing near home that allows that.

There are two facets to our trip: the climbing side and the Vegas side. And really they are sort of bipolar in relation to each other. So let’s talk about climbing today…tomorrow we will comment on all the rest.

Red Rocks Canyon lies approximately 20-30 minutes away from the Las Vegas Strip.  And like everywhere in Vegas, is crowded with both climbers, hikers, and camera ready city slickers alike. There is a thirteen mile scenic loop that runs through this natural conservation area, with pit stops, scenic overlooks, trail heads and parking at designated points along the way.

Nevada outdoors









Lesson #1: get their early. Lesson #2: come with a plan and a good map.  (And we would have save time if we had planned ahead of time, rather than at the visitor’s center. But this happens on adventures to new locals. We just didn’t know our location and weren’t with anyone else that did.)

We choose to hike into the Black Corridor at the Second Pullout. Despite getting lost trying to find it and then re-routing around a not-so-kid-friendly-approach, we did finally get there and were pleased at what we found. The hike is easy, starting with a decent into a basin and slight uphill (occasional scramble) to the corridor. Lots of sport routes, enough people to provide camaraderie but not so many you were waiting in line for routes. [This changed later in the day.]

Now the beta for you climbing parents:

  • red rocks NCAGet this guide book: Red Rocks, A Climber’s Guide, by Jerry Handren. We borrowed an older one from our friends – which was very helpful but we ended up purchasing this one at the visitor’s center, well worth the $35 bucks. Lots of newer routes, maps of approaches and color photos.
  • The hike to the Black Corridor was just long enough for the kids to feel like they went on a fun hike, but not so long they are ready to head home when you arrive at the crag. (Remember our kids are 2, 3, and 5 years old at this time.) It took us roughly 45 minutes to get in, 25 of those minutes were trail hopping cause we were lost and confused. A mixture of our poor navigation skills and the documented approach being solid class III.
  • The base is ideal for kids. No worry of kids falling off a cliff here! 4-5 foot wide corridor with a sandy bottom. So our backpack with small construction trucks was a major bonus. Maybe bring some sand toys?
  • LOTS of sport routes. So you can pick your poison.
  • Cool shade for most the day, sun at mid-day [hence the corridor thingy].
  • Kid Climbing: The easiest route was 5.9, which works if you have some experienced or tenacious little climbing tykes. We aren’t quite there yet but we did find some confidence building slabs that we could set a rope up on for them. Bring some trad gear for setting an anchor for this. We were able to set an anchor using a few small cams.

If you are reading this and half of it sounds like a foreign language, there is great family hiking throughout the conservation area. It is a great place to escape the boxed in feeling some people get in the big city.

Cost: Car day pass is $7 (motorcycle, bicycle, pedestrian) – $3

And lastly an special shout-out: Thank you awesome climbers that we met from Wisconsin. Thanks for being forgiving of a family showing up with three kids, being willing to share ropes, belays, and for offering to watch the kids while you took a break between climbs. You were overly helpful and made our time there a blast!

hiking with baby

3 comments on ““Are the rocks really red, mom?”
  1. Alyssa, Thanks for the link – I love your post, this is exactly what we need more of for climbing with kids. We went to Rumney and spent two hours the night we arrived trying to identify the safest/best places to climb the next day (with kids). Funny, our kids are about the same age (5, 3) so the beta is totally valid 🙂

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