The American West, or to be more specific, the Colorado Plateau, is renowned worldwide because of its reddish landscapes and mind bending formations.
The best representation of the area’s aesthetic is located in Arizona, Colorado, Utah and New Mexico. Many dream of visiting places like Zion, Bryce, Arches, Grand Canyon and Mesa Verde.
But, what about California? Is that state associated with red rocks? To be honest, it is not. But, since I love to add a magic twist to everything, I would say it is not associated with red rocks but we do have areas with red rocks.
In a remote area of the Mojave Desert, where the Sierra Nevada converges with the El Paso Mountains, cliffs, buttes and rock formations rise from the arid floor. A lot of the rocks in the area have red tones due to a high concentration of iron. That is why 27,000 acres of terrain have been designated as the Red Rock Canyon State Park.
This place is located about 120 miles from Los Angeles and 80 miles from Bakersfield (it is closer to the cities in the Antelope Valley area). As you can see, a considerable amount of time will be involved in reaching the place from a big city. In addition, the paved areas can be toured by car in about an hour. So, it is not necessarily day trip material.
However, if you are driving from Los Angeles to cities located along the US-395 (Mammoth Mountain, for example), a stop in this park is worth your time. The same goes for people who like camping and riding off-road vehicles.
As a matter of fact, that is what happened to us. We were driving home back from Bishop and we decided to stop.
The red, pink and green rocks of Red Rock Canyon can be seen from the freeway. Once you enter, red and white cliffs will welcome you. There is no fee to walk along the paved road or the Hagen Canyon Trail. In my opinion, this is the most scenic part of the park.
It is easy to see why. Just look how those rocks!
The most famous formation in the park is called Turban Rock. Can you see it? Maybe a little bit of imagination is needed (but it is pretty obvious to me).
Once you get back on the road, you can continue to the Ricardo Campground. Now, a fee is charge to enter this day use area (or you can pay to camp). The road in here was built to connect the campgrounds but you can drive it to see the formations.
My advice is not to pay the fee since the free area is way more scenic than this part. Now, paying the fee will make sense if you are some kind of travel junkie that wants to see everything (that would be me), a geology lover or a person that is willing to hike around. In that case, head to the ranger station located inside the campground and ask for hiking recommendations.
On the other side of the road, across the park’s main entrance, there is another series of formation called Red Cliffs. You can stop for free in here.
As you may have noticed, I was able to see only a small area of Red Rock Canyon. Nonetheless, this is a very distinctive part of California, the state I proudly call home. This park is another fantastic example of the richness and life that can be found in our deserts.
There you have it. Now, you can explain the connection between California and red rocks!
- The park is 25 miles northeast of Mojave on Highway 14. Signs indicated where to turn.
- Please follow the rules since they help to protect this ecosystem.
- Day use and camping fee
- The free areas are very scenic
Have you visited a place like Red Rock Canyon or a place that has surprised you?
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