Red Rock Canyon State Park
Red Rock Canyon became a state park in 1968, partially due to the influence of then governor and future President of the United States, Ronald Reagan. As an actor Reagan had made a number of movies in the park, and felt that its historical importance as well as natural beauty should be preserved and made available to the people of California.
The park lies in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains, on the northern edge of the Mojave Desert. It is about 130 miles north of Los Angeles. It is this proximity to Hollywood coupled with its unique beauty that has made it such a popular filming location: ranging from classic westerns to modern science fiction films the likes of Jurassic Park and Starship Troopers.
When one first drives through the park on Highway 14, one is immediately amazed by the spectacular array of colors making up the cliffs that line other side of the highway: whites, pinks reds and browns, giving an overall impression of a deep rust red (hence the name).
The park is not a large one, covering an area of only 9 square miles. However, within these 9 square miles is included a great number of fascinating geological features: magnificent cliffs, buttes and dazzling rock formations. Red Rock Canyon is most definitely a feast for the eyes.
Red Rock Canyon also boasts a fascinating history for those interested in geology. For those interested in fossils there are quite a few to be found in the park (although no dinosaur bones, as its appearance in Jurassic Park might lead one to believe).
Centuries ago, this area of Red Rock Canyon was home to the Kawaiisu Indians, whose petroglyphs can be seen in other parts of the Sierra Nevadas (unfortunately there are none on display within the park itself). This area was also used in the 1800’s as a stop for wagon trains, and housed the survivors of the deadly Death Valley trek in 1850.
Camping in Red Rock Canyon State Park, California
Red Rock Canyon is an excellent and almost unused campground for California campers. Compared to other state and national parks in the area, it is quite infrequently visited. This is good for those interested in camping there, because there are rarely if ever large crowds of people to contend with for campsites or to be seen when hiking the area.
Hiking is one of the best things about Red Rock Canyon state park. None of the area is off limits, so one can travel and explore wherever one wants to go. The varieties of hikes and explorations one can make within the park are quite numerous. I camped here for a week and never once got bored of hiking through the cliffs and climbing across the rock. Many of the walks offer amazing vistas upon their heights.
There are many forms of wildlife living within the park, and they are always a pleasure to see. One of the highlights of my trip to the park was climbing up part of the Canyon I spotted an owl sleeping inside a small cave within the rock. It was a rare sight and a beauty to see.
There are also guided tours that you can take if you would like to learn a little more about the history and geology of the canyon. I took one of these, and it was quite an interesting trip. I recommend taking one of these on your first day there, so that you can learn a little bit about the park and know a little bit more about what you are seeing while you spend the rest of your time exploring.
While Red Rock Canyon might not offer some of the world landmarks one might see in other parks (like the Sequoia National Forest or Yosemite), it is one of the best times I have had while camping. The special magic of the place is something difficult to describe, but it is something that I felt right away and continued feeling the entire time I was there.
If you are a camping fan, and are looking for a lesser known place to camp more out of the way, Red Rock Canyon is a great place to stay. It only costs 10 dollars a night for camping (5 dollars if you just want to stay for the day). It is, to me, one of the best kept secrets in California hiking and camping.