Hiking Red Rock Canyon with a Toddler

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As a midwestern girl, born and raised, if you asked me to list the kind of nature found in the desert, I’d probably mention snakes, cacti, and scorpions.  I mean, OBVIOUSLY, I’ve seen the nature documentaries about life in the desert, but come on.  It’s the desert.  Since moving to Vegas we’ve made an effort to do more things outdoors (gotta live it up before we head back to the tundra that is Chicago).   And the desert in the spring is gorgeous.  If you haven’t seen it, you’re missing out.

Just about thirty minutes from The Strip in Vegas is Red Rock Canyon, a National Conservation Area.  Red Rock consists of a 13 mile scenic driving loop with 19 different trails of varying intensity and length.   You can make Red Rock a morning outing, or an all day event.  If you’re a rock climber – which I decidedly am not –  you can even register for permits that allow you to camp overnight on certain climbing tracks.  One day entrance fees are $7 per vehicle, but if you plan on visiting frequently – or visiting National Parks around the country – you can buy Annual Passes for $30 for Red Rock exclusively, or $80 for the national “America the Beautiful” pass.

The entrance to the Lost Creek trail

Depending on age and ability level, there really are trails for everyone.  In April, we hiked the La Madre Spring trail which was longer and a bit more strenuous than I expected or was ready for, but clearly I survived.  Penny rode most of that trail – even the crazy uphill parts – in our beat-up secondhand BOB stroller pushed by the Husbeast.

This time, armed with plenty of water and a packed lunch, we set out to hike three different trails:

Both of the trails we made it on were short, and easy enough to manage with Penny.  The trails would absolutely be manageable for older toddlers and young children, but at 16 months, Penny’s not quite stable enough (or tall enough) for tackling the larger rocks.  For the most successful hike with a toddler be sure to bring:

  • Lots and lots and lots and lots of water
    • There are parking lots at most – if not all – of the trailheads. We brought my EcoVesselwaterbottle in my backpack and Justin’s CamelBak HydroBak, and left other bottles of ice water in a cooler in the car to refill with between trails.
  • Snacks
    •  These are mostly for the toddler if they get cranky mid-hike (also helpful for hangry adults). Pretzels or Veggie straws are easy to feed to kiddos being worn on your back.
  • Sun protection
    • While there are areas of shade on some of the trails, be sure to apply sunscreen and wear hats.  Penny has sun bonnets from etsy, and a hat that came with her bathing suit.
  • A way to babywear!
    • We don’t have a specialized fancy hiking backback like an Osprey Child Carrier; we just brought our Tula, but if you wrap and baby/toddler wear, a lightweight summer weight woven wrap would work as well.  I wouldn’t go with the ring sling since it traps one arm and would make climbing/balance difficult.
      Justin and Penny checking out one of the informational signs along the trail.
  • Patience.
    • Come one! You’re hiking with a toddler.  And you may not hit all the trails you want.  And if they’re walking on their own, they may find that the rocks at the trailhead are way more interesting than hiking on the actual trail.  See photo evidence below. 😉
  • Your sense of Adventure!


“Man. These rocks are so much better than ANYTHING I could possibly see today,” said Penny, the budding geologist,  as she refused to go any further.

If you find yourself anywhere near Red Rock, I absolutely recommend a visit to Red Rock. If you’re concerned about the hike being strenuous, Lost Creek is super manageable with lots of plant and animal life, informational signs, and a waterfall at the end – depending on recent rain or snow melts.  Take a peek at some of the sights – including a little lizard friend – from our most recent hike.

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