This article highlights Red Rock Canyon State Park in California!
The American West, or to be more specific, the Colorado Plateau, is renowned worldwide because of its reddish landscapes and mind-bending rock 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 has been designated as the Red Rock Canyon State Park.
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Red Rock Canyon Location
Red Rock Canyon is located in Cantil (or in the vicinity of this population center, this is Kern County). Cantil is located about 120 miles from Los Angeles and 80 miles from Bakersfield. The park is closer to the cities in the Antelope Valley (Lancaster and Palmdale).
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 a day trip material.
However, if you are driving to and 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.
Touring Red Rock Canyon
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 at 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 charged 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.
If you want are interested in only a quick look, I recommend not paying the day-use fee. As mentioned, for a short stop and some super cool photos, the free area will suffice.
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 who is interested in hiking. 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 formations called Red Cliffs. This is a free zone too.
Hiking in Red Rock Canyon
If you are interested in spending more time around this wonderful part of the state, take into consideration the following hikes:
- Red Cliffs Trail (1 mile) – Access through the Red Cliffs area (free)
- Ricardo Campground (1 mile) – This consist of walking the loop connecting the different campsites inside the park (fee)
- Hagen Canyon Nature Trail (1.2 miles) – The trailhead is located before the park’s entrance (free). Do not miss the walk/hike since this is one of the best parts of the park
- Ricardo Campground South Loop Trail (1 mile) – Provides views of badlands and beautiful rock formations
- Nightmare Gulch Overlook Trail (10 miles) – Access through the Red Cliffs area (free)
Red Rock Canyon Details
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.
There are separate day use and camping fees (of course, no need to pay the day use if you are camping).
The free areas are very scenic so, you are able to enjoy this place for free.
Keep in mind the summer months’ temperature can be brutal in the area.
Bring enough water for each person at your party. It is a good idea to have something to eat in the car (good ideas include fruit, granola bars, protein bars, and such) and carry a cooler with essentials.
Wear the proper footwear if you are expecting to go beyond the parking lots. Even if your walking is minimal, you will need non-slippery, sturdy shoes.
Ladies, I do not recommend visiting in long dresses or skirts. Darker colors will work better.
Wear sun-protective gear (hats, caps, sunglasses) and sunblock. Combat the dry weather with body lotion, moisturizer (face), and lip balm.
Do not rely on having cellphone service.
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!
More of the Area
More of California
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