The Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is located approximately 15 miles west of Las Vegas, Nevada and can be seen from the Las Vegas Strip. It is managed by the Bureau of Land Management as part of its National Landscape Conservation System and is visited by more than 2 million people each year. The conservation area includes a set of large, red rock formations; a set of sandstone peaks and walls that are up to 3,000 feet high called the Keystone Thrust. Also, one of the most notable features is a set of ancient pictographs known as “Hands Across Time” that were created by Native Americans who resided in the area.
To visit the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, see below for hours of operation and cost.
Hours of operation:
Open daily at 6 a.m. Closing time varies by season.
The visitors center is open daily, 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
$7 per car
$5 for commercial vehicles (tour buses and limousines, for example)
$3 for motorcyclists and tour bus riders
$30 annual pass
Alternately, if you are visiting Las Vegas for work or pleasure, hikes can be booked through various tour company’s like Escape Adventures, which I used for this tour while visiting the area. The package that I used included pickup at the hotel, bottled water and snacks, a guided tour, as well as transportation back to the hotel for a total of $120. This post is NOT endorsed but Escape Adventures, but the guide did such a fantastic job that I wanted to provide them as a recommendation for anyone visiting the area and interested in such a guided hike.
Hands Across Time
The first Native Americans in the area were attracted due to its resources of water, plant, and animal life which is not easily found in the surrounding desert. Several different Native American cultures may have been present over the last millennia including the:
Southern Paiute- 900 to modern times
Patayan Culture – 900 to early historic times in the 1800s
Anasazi – 1 AD to 1150.
Pinto/Gypsum- (Archaic) 3500 BC to 1 AD.
San Dieguito – 7000 to 5500 BC.
Paleo-Indians – 11,000 to 8000 BC.
Along the area’s Scenic Loop Drive, there is a stop that includes an interpretive sign and fenced viewing area to see the “Hands Across Time” pictographs.
The sign reads:
“The red hand prints at this site are pictographs. The native people may have created them by coating their hands in paint then pressing them on the surface of the rock to make the prints. Paints were made by mixing powdered minerals, clays, or charcoal with a liquid binder such as plant juices, saliva, or egg whites. The red pigment of these hand prints came from hematite (iron oxide). Paint could be applied with fingers, hands, or fiber brushes. These handprints are a fragile part of an ancient story and are easily damaged by touching. Keep the story intact by respecting this ancient site.”
“The earliest known southwestern rock art was created by hunter-gatherer Indians several thousand years ago. They decorated canyon walls, rock shelters, and boulders. In Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, Southern Paiute, Mojave Indians, and early explorers and settlers continued to create rock art over the years.”
The pictographs are stunning and you can almost sense the presence of those who made these hand prints so many hundreds or thousands of years ago. These hand-prints become even more prominent and recognizable when run through the program DStretch which is commonly used to view and enhance ancient rock, example included below.
Reportedly, these pictographs were vandalized in 2010 with spray paint and it was feared that these images would be lost forever. The Friends of Red Rock Canyon Organization were able to recover them however, ensure that they would continue to be available for future generations to see.