My wife and I recently took a trip to Las Vegas to celebrate a friend’s 50th birthday. Vegas was a hoot but we also took some time to skip out of town and do a little hiking in some nearby state parks. My wife had a great time hiking the trails…I had a great time looking for squirrels!
Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
Our first outing was to the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area which is only about a 30 minute drive from the Strip. Red Rock Canyon is an absolute gem and is one reason that we will be going back to Vegas soon.
The canyon is breathtakingly beautiful and was perfectly designed for hiking and sightseeing. The park has a wonderful Visitor’s Center, a scenic 13 mile one way loop to drive and plenty of spots to pull over and hike along its numerous trails.
We didn’t have a lot of time so we only hiked a little while along the Calico Hills Trail. Many of these trail heads have excellent parking and even have well maintained bathrooms. If you are a casual hiker like myself then you will love this place. The hiking at Red Rock can be as hard or as easy as you want as long as you choose your trails properly!
I ended up spotting quite a few squirrels although at first I thought they were chipmunks. When I was looking through the information at the Visitor’s Center I learned that I had been watching some White Tailed Antelope Ground Squirrels.
I am glad I didn’t try to feed the little guys because it looks like they are biters!
Apparently these little ground squirrels are pretty popular with the public as the park even has a bronze statue of one perched on the back deck.
I suspect that I am not the only person who has confused these ground squirrels for chipmunks. I plan on doing a little research to figure out what are the differences because they sure look similar to me!
Other wildlife we saw on our Red Rock trip were a few desert tortoises along with some hummingbirds that I could not identify. The hummers were too quick for me to take a good picture. I tried doing a Google search to identify them but it turns out that the park does not have any cell phone signal so that wasn’t an option 🙂
Valley of Fire State Park
For a different kind of fun we took a trip out to the Valley of Fire State Park.
The beauty at the Valley of Fire is a full higher level than at Red Rock Canyon (although the facilities are not as nice).
We had hiked in the Valley before (and loved it) but this time we decided to do something a little different and ended up taking an ATV tour.
We would ride for about 20 minutes and then get off the ATVs and hike around a little. We made three or four stops so there wasn’t a lot of hiking but it was enough to stretch your legs.
We saw a few more White Tailed Antelope Ground Squirrels in this park as well and our tour guides confirmed that the critters were indeed squirrels and not chipmunks.
I really enjoyed the ATV ride but it came with a downside. You can either pay attention to the trail, your speed and the person in front of you OR you can pay attention to the amazing beauty that is all around you. But you can’t do both.
No Squirrels in Las Vegas
The squirrels we saw at the two parks were the only squirrels we saw during our four days in Las Vegas. I didn’t see a single squirrel in the city itself which was pretty freaky for me. I am used to squirrels being everywhere!
Unsurprisingly the landscaping was also very different from the lush lawns that I am used to seeing in rain soaked Baton Rouge. It was interesting as heck to see the rockscape yards and various cacti in the area. It didn’t look like anybody in Vegas did much yard work as the few patches of green that I did see ended up being Astro Turf!
Do Yourself a Favor
If you ever find yourself in Las Vegas and get tired of the noise, lights and drunks then get out of town and hit up Red Rock or Valley of Fire. Between the two parks Red Rock is a better place for a quick and easy trip. Go ahead and give it a try…I promise that you will have a great time.
Just don’t feed the squirrels.