Red Rock Canyon State Park

California > Red Rock Canyon State Park

In the southernmost foothills of the Sierra Nevada range, Red Rock Canyon State Park covers a small area of badlands and exposed, angled, mudstone strata which form cliffs and ravines, with the rocks eroded into many wonderful forms. Despite its proximity to the mountains, the surrounding region still presents a completely desert appearance and the approach from the south passes through wide, empty, desolate valleys with little or no vegetation, crossed by long straight roads such as the busy CA 14, between Mojave and US 395, which runs through the middle of the park. The road follows beside a seasonal wash along a shallow valley - the Red Rock Canyon - although not all is interesting as the colorful sedimentary formations are found only in certain places; other parts are bordered by dull scrubland.

The State Park

Red Rock Canyon park is only 3 by 3 miles in extent and spans both sides of CA 14. Much of the best scenery can be seen from the highway, though several dirt tracks do lead to other areas to the east, and two main locations that invite further exploration are found to the west - one is around the Ricardo campground, set at the base of white cliffs and hoodoos (eroded pinnacles), reached by a short side road in the middle of the park; a nice place to camp since the 50 sites are quite well-separated and many are set right amongst the formations at the foot of the canyon walls. The visitor center is located nearby, and there are several short hikes that lead up the cliffs and through the adjacent cacti-covered land.

Hagen Canyon

The second main site of interest is Hagen Canyon, just south of the Ricardo turn-off - a one mile long side valley with intricately eroded, multi-colored cliffs, washes and mounds, quite similar to the Bisti Wilderness of distant New Mexico. The rocks here have various different strata in shades of red, white and grey, and are topped by a band of black lava, each layer having eroded in different ways. Hagen Canyon has a short trail though visitors are encouraged to walk anywhere. Overall, Red Rock Canyon State Park is interesting but quite small so unless camping, a couple of hours spent exploring is probably enough - maybe less in summer as temperatures can be quite extreme. The best time is during the spring wildflower season.


For hotels, the nearest towns are Ridgecrest (32 miles north) and Mojave (25 miles south).

Highlights: Angled, multicolored mudstone strata that have been eroded into cliffs, ravines and badlands, either side of a larger canyon, course for Hwy 14. Popular for camping and photography
Nearest city with hotels: Mojave, 25 miles
Management: California State Parks
Location: 35.364, -117.981
Seasons: All year, though summers are very hot

Red Rock Canyon - Photographs

  • 7 views of Red Rock Canyon State Park
  • photograph
    Hagen Canyon
    Formations beside CA 44

    Eroded cliffs
    Nearby places Similar places

    Pinnacles National Natural Landmark (60 miles) - strange spires in a dry lake bed near Trona

    Saddleback Butte State Park (75 miles) - solitary peak with scattered Joshua trees, at the south edge of the Mojave Desert
    Nearby places Similar places

    Cathedral Gorge State Park, Nevada - fantastic eroded rock formations

    Rainbow Basin National Natural Landmark, California - badlands bordering desert flats, near Barstow
    Red Rock Canyon SP is part of the California Deserts itinerary

    Back to Top

    All Contents © Copyright John Crossley | Comments and Questions | Site Map

    Arizona California Colorado Idaho Nevada New Mexico Oregon Texas Utah Wyoming Slot Canyons Travelogue