As the southwest desert portion of our 2017/18 snowbird adventure was winding down, we decided to finish it off with a visit to Red Rock Canyon State Park in California. I’d driven by this fascinating state park on several occasions on our way to visit other locations such as Trona Pinnacles and Alabama Hills.
The highway cuts right through the park with tantalizing views of tilted red striped sandstone cliffs. Off in the distance, glimpses of a campground can be seen with sites nestled up against funky looking badlands style canyon walls. The park has been on my RVing todo list for a while.
California? Isn’t Red Rock Canyon in Nevada?
Mention Red Rock Canyon and people usually assume you’re talking about the more famous park of the same name west of Las Vegas. That Red Rock Canyon is a National Conservation Area, and this Red Rock Canyon is a California state park. Adding to the confusion is its location at the southern end of the Sierra Nevada range. Red Rock Canyon SP is located a 30-minute drive north of Mojave, CA on highway 14. This section of the highway is a good four lane roadway but be warned; the winds can’t get extremely gusty. Large illuminated signs warn when high loaded vehicles need to take caution.
Red Rock Canyon Camping
The camping area would have you believe you are in a park that should be called Beige Rock Canyon. The campsites are situated up against bizarre shaped tan-colored sandstone cliffs in a large semicircle. In the middle is a large bowl area ribboned with sandy washes and loads of Joshua trees.
The 50 campsites are bare bones with a picnic table and fire pit. Most are just a sandy area and a place to park the rig. Very few spots are level, and the majority are rather unlevel. Bring lots of leveling blocks! Sites go for $25 a night, no reservations. Stated max RV limit is 30 feet, but I saw many rigs longer than that squeezed in. There are a few longish pull thrus.
There is a small visitor center but was only open Fri, Sat and Sun when I was there late March. When not open the camping and day use payments are made through a self-pay box. Bring cash.
There are also vault toilets and water spigots scattered around the campground. Tenting is very popular here, especially on holiday weekends. I spotted an RV dump station, but it blocked off when we were there. So, be sure to phone ahead or arrive with a full water tank. An RV park in Mojave called Spaceport offers dump and fills.
If you can’t get a spot in the campground, there are free BLM camping areas just outside the park to the north called Dove Springs and a few miles to the south called Jawbone. Just be warned they are off roader OHV areas so not likely to be quiet. For information on these, visit the Jawbone Station Visitor Center. They have a large assortment of maps for sale and staff to answer questions.
What to Do?
The park is a treasure trove for photographers, hikers, and four wheelers. Anne and I had a blast hiking the park’s trails, exploring the intriguing scenery and interesting little sandstone nooks and crannies. I loved hiking up onto a ridge to get a panoramic view of the red cliffs, tilted and jutting up out of the earth. Wow! Fantastic geology right there to explore.
Another cool feature that this park boasts that many other red rock type parks lack is the presence of Joshua Trees. They add another dimension to the photos with their brightly colored green leaves and funky shapes.
Unfortunately for us, many of the back roads are a little narrow for our large dually truck. Also being a two-wheel drive, I didn’t trust it too far off the beaten path, especially in the sandy washes. However talking to some fellow campers with 4WD jeeps, they informed me the area is terrific for that sort of thing. Four Wheeler’s will be in heaven here.
I give Red Rock Canyon SP, and the campground a big Love Your RV! thumbs up and we plan to return next year for another visit and more exploring. Check this DesertUSA article for more information.
Video Highlights from Red Rock Canyon
Red Rock Canyon SP Photo Gallery
See all the cool spots we visited by checking out the Love Your RV YouTube channel and viewing the 2017/18 Snowbird Trip video playlist