Our authors find a great day trip less than 20 miles from Las Vegas…
By Jason Rupp and Carla Marie Rupp
Less than 20 miles west of Las Vegas is Cowboy Trail Rides, the most rugged, rewarding and beautiful cowboy-style experience a traveler can have.
It’s a daily excursion that takes you away from all the glitz, glam and neon of the gambling capital of the world, and out on a one- to five-hour trail ride through the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. It’s a family-operated attraction run year-round by a congenial cowboy couple whose goal is to continue to bring something different to the typical Las Vegas experience.
A Taste of the American West
It’s the perfect and easy excursion for those who want a taste of the American West, an added “wild with style” entrée to one’s Las Vegas menu. In fact, when we took a ride we met Las Vegas visitors from around the world, some who vowed this was the best day of their trip to America’s playground, even better than one of the expensive shows on the Strip. We’d have to agree it was one of the most memorable and special times.
Join Cowboy Trail Rides and you become a cowboy or cowgirl for a day. You’re part of the experience, not a member of the audience as you are on The Strip, and it provides a thrilling, exhilarating feeling where one’s imagination often runs wild.
For many it’s like being in a segment of a Western film, riding with John Wayne, Clint Eastwood or the Gold Rush pioneers. In fact, that’s not to far from the truth since many movies and commercials have been filmed in Red Rock Canyon.
While Cowboy Trail Rides offers an assortment of horseback rides from the one-hour Coyote Canyon Ride to the five-hour Wow Ride, our favorite is the sunset ride with the Western-style outdoor dinner around a campfire, complete with songs sung by a guitar-strumming cowboy. Many people, including us, enjoyed our cowboy’s performance so much we snagged a copy of his music to take home along with, of course, the requisite t-shirts.
Great Food on Our Cowboy Trail Rides
One of the best parts of the ride though, was the scrumptious, filling food after the horse ride. You can have either steak or salmon, both perfectly fire-grilled, along with baked potato, butter and sour cream, corn on the cob, beans and slaw, all perfectly cooked and served by the wranglers as you relax beneath the the big Nevada sky with a gazillion stars smiling down on you.
Food tastes incredibly delicious outdoors with family, new-found friends and the real cowboys who lead you out on your trail ride. And you needn’t come as a group – visitors can also come solo and have a good time. Heck, it’s the most convivial atmosphere under the sun (or the moon by the time the night is over).
We’ve enjoyed these rides several times and when we’ve arrived found that the many horses (perhaps 60 or so in the Cowboy Trail Rides stables) and the Red Rock scenery provide a perfect backdrop for photos before the ride begins. A wrangler will select a horse for each new “cowboy” and give pointers, such as on how to hold and use the reins (this is when you’re also provided waivers to sign).
Our wrangler put our horses and us in a single file and kept a close eye on us as the ride began. Many of us had brought cameras along and the wrangler used them to take pictures of our horses and us at different points where there were gorgeous landscapes. I remember how the colors and shades of the brush, cactus, sky and clouds were all so incredibly amazing.
Cowboy Trail Rides Shuttle Pick-up in Las Vegas
Our first visit to the stables was when we stayed a few days at the Red Rock Hotel and Casino, a hip hotel with an awesome swimming pool, exceptional spa and lavish buffets all day, located at the front of the canyon. It was their recreation staff that recommended the trail rides. We enjoyed the experience so much that at another time when we stayed at a downtown Las Vegas hotel we scheduled Cowboy Trail Rides for a shuttle pickup. They pickup from most of the city’s hotels, which makes it easy to get there and back.
After our last sunset ride and cookout, we decided that the next day we wanted to explore the joys of Red Rock Canyon further and so we took our rental car out for a drive on the 13-mile scenic loop (required nominal fee, with opening at 6 am daily and closing varying according to the season). We stopped first at the Visitor Center (8 am to 4:30 pm), a good place to learn about the geology, animals and cultural history of the area, as well as about hikes and other recreational activities provided.
The Pink Jeep Tour through Red Rock Canyon is another tour worth taking. Its informative guides point out key sights and discusses Native-American history, wildlife, rock formation, medicinal herbs, edible plants and other information, all very interesting.
If you plan on visiting Las Vegas it’s nice to know there’s a big world just outside of it, and not just the mega-size attractions such as Hoover Dam and Lake Mead. If you also visit the enchanting panorama in the Red Rock National Conservation area, you can have your cake and eat it too. Or, as in our case, a campfire dinner.
Cowboy Trail Rides range in price from $69 for the one-hour Coyote Canyon Ride to $329 pp for the five-hour backcountry Wow Ride. The Sunset Trail Ride and Western BBQ is $169 pp. Other rides of varying duration are also offered.
We dream of visiting Red Rock again and singing our hearts out with that lonesome, endearing cowboy after dinner. I might add that Roy Rogers and Dale Evans’ hit “Happy trails to you…until we meet again” has come to be one of our most beloved tunes.
If You Go:
Cowboy Trail Rides
Red Rock Canyon Stables
Las Vegas, NV 89124
Tel: (702) 387-2457
Red Rock Canyon Interpretive Association
Tel: (702) 515-5367
Red Rock Hotel and Casino
11011 W. Charleston Blvd.
Las Vegas, NV 89135
Tel: (702) 797-7777
Pink Jeep Tours, Inc.
3629 W. Hacienda Ave.
Las Vegas, NV 89118