Red Rock Canyon State Park features scenic desert cliffs, buttes and spectacular rock formations. The park is located where the southernmost tip of the Sierra Nevada converge with the El Paso Range.
The unique and colorful layers of white, pink, red, and brown cliffs grace both east and west sides of Highway 14. These fluted folds are the result of wind and rain eroding the softer materials beneath the dark caprocks, which were formed by a harder lava flow layer.
The colorful and scenic cliffs that comprise Red Rock Canyon State Park has been the location of many movies, videos and commercials, including Jurassic Park. In addition, the canyon is considered a wonderful classroom for the study of geology, paleontology and photography as well as an ideal place for family camping and exploration.
Seasons / Hours
- Open year round, 24 hours a day
Rates & Fees
Admission Fee: $6.00 per vehicle day use.
Camping Fees: $25.00 per night. Rate subject to change.
$ 15.00 charge for dumping septic tanks.
Ricardo Visitor Center The visitor center is during the spring and fall seasons, usually Thursday-Sunday with varying hours. This may be changed due to California budget problems.
Campfire programs are scheduled for Saturday nights, spring and fall.
Nature walks are scheduled for Sunday mornings, spring and fall.
There are no food or supplies within the park.
The visitor center and parking area are fully handicap accessible with two designated handicap campsites in the Ricardo Campground.
Climate, Geography, Setting
Red Rock Canyon State Park is located on the northwestern edge of Mojave Desert in southeastern California. The canyon area itself is in the southern El Paso Mountains of the Sierra Nevada, 25 miles north of Mojave, California on California Highway 14.
The weather at Red Rock Canyon can be changeable and temperatures can vary widely during a single day. Nighttime temperatures can drop below freezing and rise into the 60s during midday. Freezing temperatures in Winter with occasional snowfalls, are contrasted by hundred-degree temperatures common in Summer. The best time to visit the park is during the Spring and Fall months.
The spectacular gash situated at the western edge of the El Paso Mountain range was on the trade route for thousands of years by Native Americans. The area was once home to the Kawaiisu Indians. Petroglyphs in the El Paso mountains are from these people. About 1850, it was used again by the survivors of the famous Death Valley trek, including members of the Arcane and Bennett families along with some of the Illinois Jayhawkers.
Later, some prospecting was done in the 1860s, until in 1893, placer gold activity began with hundreds of miners sifting the sands in the canyon. The canyon was also used as a passage in driving large flocks of sheep northward, as a stagecoach stop, as a railroad route, and later as a truck stop.
This beautiful and scenic wonder of California was established as a state park in 1968 when legislators created Red Rock Canyon State Park, the first state park in Kern County
Each tributary canyon is unique, with vivid colors. Natural preserves have been set aside within the park to protect Red Rock's unique vegetation, wildlife and geology. After wet winters, the park's floral displays are stunning with Goldfields, Lupine, Indian Paintbrush, Sand Verbena and 200 other species. Joshua Trees, typical of the sandy, well-drained soils of the higher desert mingle with Cheesebrush, Bursage and Indian Tea. Lower desert Fishook Cactus, Desert Holly, Sagebrush and Saltbush also abound.
Wildlife includes Roadrunners, hawks, lizards, mice and squirrels. Unique rock formations include layers of red and white sediment, and pink and black volcanic rock, deposited in an ancient inland lake and uplifted by faulting including the Garlock Fault. Streams and rivers carved the stunning canyons and cliff faces we enjoy today. These colorful rock formations in the park served as landmarks during the early 1870s for 20-mule team freight wagons that stopped for water. The park has been the site for a number of movies and protects significant paleontology sites and the remains of 1890s-era mining operations.
Things To Do
Picnicking is available in designated areas.
Hiking is permitted throughout the park, except the Scenic Canyon area during nesting season from February through May. Observe closures along Scenic Cliffs near Iron Canyon during birds of prey cliff-nesting season.
Vehicular travel is allowed along designated roadways within the park. Off-road vehicles must have a green sticker and must remain on designated roads.
Equestrians may ride on horse trails and designated primative roads. A staging area is located in the Red Cliffs parking area and at Dry Horse Camp, south of the main canyon entrance.
Camping & Lodging
- There is no lodging available in the park, but here are many motels nearby in Mojave and Ridgecrest. (Rates, availability and reservation online click on city)
- Ricardo campground, an old stage station offers 50 camp sites. No hookups and no reservations are required. Fee is $10.00 per night.