Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is just minutes from the Las Vegas Strip, but it feels like a world away. This part of the Mojave Desert features a dramatic landscape of sandstone cliffs, limestone peaks, and eye-catching rock formations. Wild burros roam the valley floor which is dotted with Joshua trees, barrel cactuses, and yucca. It’s a spectacular sight and the kind of place that makes you think: I want to ride here.

Fortunately, you can! There are several trails in Red Rock that are open for equestrian use. Even if you find yourself in the area sans horse you can still experience the beauty of Red Rock on horseback. Cowboy Trail Rides has been guiding visitors here for more than 20 years. The family-owned outfitter is open year-round and offers a variety of options for riders of all skill levels.

Stunning views and interesting terrain in all directions.

This is not your ordinary nose-to-tail trail ride operation. Cowboy Trail Rides is owned and operated by Big Jim Sage, a native Nevadan with a long history on horseback in the southern part of the state. (Big Jim Sage was featured as a Rider to Know in May 2018. Click HERE to read.) Big Jim Sage has assembled a crew of professional wranglers and a herd of well-trained horses and mules give visitors an unforgettable backcountry experience.

Guided rides range from one hour to five hours. You’ll journey along canyon rims, through narrow canyons, and across mesas. No matter which ride you do, you are guaranteed stunning views the entire time. The trails are surprisingly technical in some areas, with switchbacks, steps, and some steep sections. Even experienced riders will find it an enjoyable experience.

On a recent trip to Las Vegas, I stopped by the ranch to try out the two-hour Canyon Rim Ride. After a safety brief from the wranglers, we mounted up and hit the trail. My horse was a nice little red roan mustang mare named Mustang Sally. The wranglers led us up to the top of a canyon with a ridge that offered incredible views. It’s hard to believe that the hustle and bustle of the city is less than 20 miles away.

Mustang Sally takes a break overlooking the Spring Mountains.

At the top, we stopped for a quick break to take photos and then headed down to make a loop back to camp. I marveled at all the plant life along the trail which is so different than that of northern Nevada. Mustang Sally was surefooted and quiet and the wranglers were friendly and knowledgeable. What a splendid way to experience Red Rock. My only complaint was that I didn’t opt for a longer ride!

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is truly a gem of Nevada and seeing it on horseback should be on every equestrian’s bucket list. Next time you’re in the area, do yourself a favor and head over to Cowboy Trail Rides.


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Story and Photos by Samantha Szesciorka