Red Rock Canyon State Park
is located where the southernmost tip of the Sierra Nevada Range converges with the El Paso Range in Kern County California. This area of colorful and dramatic rock formations was part of the Native American trade route for thousands of years, then in the 1800's prospecting and mining took over. Sheep herding, stage coaches, a railroad and a truck stop have all had their time in this passage. More recently movies, videos and commercials have been filmed here.
For us, Red Rock Canyon State Park was the perfect opportunity to get back into desert hiking...and we had the place entirely to ourselves! The entrance booth was unmanned and there were only a couple of small rigs in the dry campground so we grabbed a map and headed back across the highway to Red Cliffs Natural Preserve.
There's a single lane dirt road that winds back into the hills for a couple of miles and ends at a gate where we parked with nary a soul around. This was our starting point to walk up Nightmare Gulch. The Gulch is closed February through June to protect breeding raptors, the rest of the year it is open to foot and horse traffic; fortunately for us they no longer allow off road vehicles into this unique environment.
Come along for a two and a half mile walk up Nightmare Gulch...
|Just off highway 14 the colorful cliffs welcomed us to Red Cliffs Natural Preserve.|
|More red striped cliffs along the road to our trail head.|
|Eroded white cliffs lined the far side of the wash as we walked north towards Nightmare Gulch.|
|Brilliant colors were underfoot in the wash.|
|As we entered the Gulch the colors and formations and variety of rock were amazing.|
|Hans added sky blue to the multitude of colors all around us in the Gulch.|
|A big old tarantula captured our attention.|
|Reds and whites in fascinating layers and drip formations lined the Gulch.|
|About two miles up the main canyon we diverted into a smaller tributary canyon and the walls closed in on us.|
|Reaching the end of the tributary we had risen enough that we had a view back towards the Gulch and the surrounding hills.|
|Heading back down canyon we got up close and personal with some fun formations.|
|Looking up a water carved channel.|
|Another view of the white cliffs near our trail head (note Hans at left).|
|Lovely desert colors along the road heading out.|
|Layers of color everywhere you look!|
|We spotted a roadrunner on the drive out and watched him catching bugs flying around the bushes in a wash |
for a good long time. Sometimes his crest was up...
|Sometimes he seemed to be in stealth mode!|
It seems early November on a week day is the perfect time to visit Red Rock Canyon State Park. We had the trail to ourselves and only saw a couple of people at the main parking areas. The ranger station was open by the time we finished our hike and we enjoyed their exhibits describing in detail the areas history.
They also had a 118 year old desert tortoise, Mr. Bob, on display. Mr. Bob has lived at the park for 16 years. Though I was searching I never saw a tortoise in the wild. There is a Desert Tortoise Nature Preserve
near by though where one might get lucky!
|Mr. Bob has strawberry lips!|
We spent two nights at Sierra Trails RV Park in order to visit the State Park. It's a small, rustic, no frills park just off highway 14. Nothing fancy but perfectly fine for a short stay. Good Verizon signal, non existent park wifi.
Onward to Twenty Nine Palms, CA!