Somewhere out in the Mojave Desert in southern California, there's an intriguing landscape of pink fluted towers, red canyons, and layered weathered cliffs similar to what you might find in Utah or Arizona. Motorists traveling through this desert often overlook Red Rock Canyon State Park, making it a serene escape for RV camping. Many drivers take US-395 instead of California Highway 14, where the park is located, just over two hours north of Los Angeles. Its proximity to Hollywood made it an ideal backdrop for many western movies.
Red Rock Canyon State Park covers 27,000 acres of land rich in history, fossils, fascinating geology, and remarkable vistas. Photographers treasure this landscape shaped by volcanoes and fault lines, especially at sunrise and sunset. Fossils found in this park include saber-toothed tigers, giraffe-like camels, and rhinos. The Native Americans who inhabited these lands for thousands of years left numerous artifacts and petroglyphs. More recent mining endeavors have left their own marks that you can explore today.
Red Rock Canyon State Park has numerous short trails throughout the property, on both the east and west sides of the highway. You'll find easy half-mile walks that take you through the desert habitat and longer hikes that can be combined into all-day affairs. These hikes take you past scenic cliffs, vast expanses of Joshua trees, and remnants of old mining operations. Keep an eye out for lizards, roadrunners, and birds of prey while on your hikes. If you visit Red Rock Canyon State Park during a spring preceded by a wet winter, you’re in for quite a wildflower display.
You’d almost think that the park becomes even more alive after the sun goes down. Despite being only 120 miles from the lights of Los Angeles, Red Rock Canyon State Park has remarkably little light pollution nearby. The campground is often dotted with telescopes at night as stargazers view the dark skies. You can participate in great campfire programs during the summer, led by guests including naturalists, paleontologists, historians, and Native American spiritual leaders.
There’s a network of old roads through Red Rock Canyon State Park, many of which are closed to motorized traffic today. You can still explore on your mountain bike as long as you stay on paved or established dirt roads. Ride through places with names like Nightmare Gulch and Last Chance Canyon, and let your imagination run wild thinking about the origins of the names.
Camping at Red Rock Canyon State Park
The campground at Red Rock Canyon State Park may be primitive, but it’s great for RV camping thanks to its isolation. There are 50 sites at Ricardo Campground with fire rings and picnic tables; four of these sites are wheelchair-accessible. The sites have a mix of pull-through and back-in driveways with a maximum vehicle length of 30 feet. You won't find any hookups at these sites, but there is a dump station, along with pit toilets and water spigots. You may also purchase firewood at the visitor center.
The Red Rock Canyon State Park campground is situated at the base of fascinating rock formations. This not only gives your RV campsite a great intimate backdrop, but the formations also serve as privacy fences between campsites. There’s no shade at the campground until after the sun settles behind these cliffs. You may bring your dog to Ricardo Campground on a leash, but they aren’t allowed on the sensitive park trails.
Exploring the Area
History buffs have a literal goldmine of activities near Red Rock Canyon State Park. Nearby explorations will take you to numerous old mining camps and Burro Schmidt's Tunnel, one of the wonders of the desert. A single person dug this his half-mile tunnel by hand between 1900 and 1938. Although it was constructed as a shortcut to haul ore, it was never used for that purpose when completed, and today takes visitors to spectacular views at the end of the tunnel – if you can find it.
Most RV campers visiting Red Rock Canyon State Park provision in either California City or Mojave, 20 to 30 minutes south of the park on Highway 14. These small cities have everything you need for your adventure, including sporting goods, groceries, and truck stops for fuel. They’re also where you’ll probably be if you search for an RV in Kern County. Be sure to stop into one of the small authentic Mexican restaurants for lunch or dinner while you’re there. Continuing on, the beaches of Los Angeles are only an additional 90 minutes south. Or, if your trip takes you north, you’re only two hours from both Sequoia and Death Valley National Parks, which couldn’t be more different from one another.