When most people think of Las Vegas, their first thoughts turn toward casinos, resorts, clubs, and gaming. But according to James Hoke, president of TourGuy.com there is a growing interest in horseback riding that takes visitors beyond city limits and into Red Rock National Conservation Area. The Red Rock National Conservation Area, also known as Red Rock Canyon, is located 17 miles west of the Las Vegas Strip, just outside the city limits. It is best known for its red rock formations and natural canyons, protected by almost 200,000 acres of land. The area has more than 30 miles of hiking trails, picnic areas, and rest stops along a 13-mile scenic route.
“There are a number of unrelated public interests that are driving the revived interest in horseback riding,” says Hoke. “Everything from the recent success of the movie War Horse to the promise of the upcoming Olympics with Elizabeth ‘Beezie’ Madden vying for her fourth gold medal in London.”
At Red Rock Canyon, riding horses in an authentic and beautifully striking area is also part of the allure, especially because ranchers in other states have added more luxuries like swimming pools, day spas, and ATV rides. As much as such luxuries are welcomed, there are fewer horseback tours that retain the authenticity of the American West.
“The horseback rides we offer are authentic for two reasons,” says Hoke. “They follow the Old Spanish Trail, which is the same trail used by frontiersmen, pioneers, traders, and outlaws; and because the area is located on federally protected land, which means any luxuries are confined to Las Vegas. Out here, there is just you, your horse, and miles of open wildness right out of the American West.”
The Old Spanish Trail is a historic trade route that once connected Mexican settlements near New Mexico to Los Angeles. The trail itself spanned 1,200 miles across five states, including Nevada. The trail was a popular route between 1829 and 1848 until the outbreak of the Mexican-American War. After the war, the trails were largely abandoned except by outlaws and bank robbers who helped make the Wild West famous in American history. One of the most famous gangs included the Wild Bunch a.k.a. Butch Cassidy’s Hole-In-The-Wall Gang, which operated in Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, and Nevada.
TourGuy.com offers two tours in the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, one that includes a Western-style breakfast and another that includes lunch. Saddle time for both tours is approximately two hours, with the entire adventure taking four hours. Both also include stops at Bonnie Springs Ranch, which maintains a replica of an 1880s mining town.