This past weekend – let me remind you it’s mid-October – it was 100 degrees in Los Angeles. Most of my friends enjoyed our never-ending summer by heading to the beach, but not me! I spent mine in THE DESERT. Am I crazy?! Probably, but for weeks I had been excited for Red Rock Canyon camping so I wasn’t gonna let a little heat ruin my plans to enjoy this California State Park.
Red Rock Canyon State Park is located in California about 1.5 to 2 hours north of Los Angeles where the southernmost tip of the Sierra Nevada meets the El Paso Mountains. The easiest way to get there… plug the GPS coordinates 35.361109, -117.979882 into Google Maps and call it a day.
From Los Angeles (in your best SNL “Californian” voice) we took the 101 N to the 170 N to the 5 N to Highway 14 N and Red Rock Canyon camping is just 25 miles northeast of Mojave.
We arrived at Red Rock Canyon State Park at around 10am since campsites are first-come, first-served. Red Rock Canyon camping is allowed in designated sites in the Ricardo Campground at the base of the cliffs. There are 50 campsites that have tables and fire rings with grills for cooking. The best way to scope them out is to spend 5 to 10 minutes driving around the loop while jotting down site numbers you like. In case you’re wondering, the campground also has potable water and bathrooms, but no RV hook-ups or showers.
Once you’ve set up camp, you have the entire day to play games (Settlers of Catan), explore the miles of trails and relax. I definitely recommend hiking along the Desert View Nature Trail. It’s a relatively easy hike and offers stunning views of the entire park.
The coolest part about the hike is that the trail takes you along the top of the entire cliff giving you a bird’s eye perspective of Red Rock Canyon State Park with 360 degrees of desert views.
Once you’ve hiked the top ridge, it’s fun to go off the beaten path for some rock climbing on the cliffs.
As the sun goes down, make sure to find a good spot for sunset. I recommend taking the Desert View Nature Trail to Whistler Ridge. A 15 minute hike to the top will offer you a gorgeous sunset view.
After sunset, make your way back to settle in for the night of Red Rock Canyon camping and enjoy a good old-fashioned dinner over an open campfire. Once you’ve eaten enough s’mores, the best part of the night is the stargazing. Red Rock Canyon State Park offered the most breathtaking California sky I’ve seen in my eight years here.
There are 50 first-come, first-served campsites in the Ricardo Campground. Since it was 100 degrees in mid-October, there were plenty of campsites available. We chose site 41 and were very happy!
Some of the sites are on slopes so try to pick one where you can pitch your tent on flat ground to avoid sliding. The campground is also known to fill up quickly during the spring and fall, especially if the weather is nice. Red Rock Canyon camping is $25 per night ($23 with seniors) and $6 per additional vehicle. Day visitors pay $6 sunrise to sunset.
Staycations are too often underrated! Sure, I love traveling around the world, but sometimes all it takes is a short car ride to offer a global travel experience. On a smaller scale, the rock formations and colors, rustic terrain and starry night skies of Red Rock Canyon State Park reminded me of my trips to the Grand Canyon and Australian Outback. As close as I was to Los Angeles, I couldn’t have felt further away from home. If you’re on a budget and looking for a quick camping adventure, you can’t go wrong spending 24 hours at Red Rock Canyon State Park.