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(Last Updated On: May 11, 2021)

Red Rock Canyon State Park is seriously one of the most underrated State Parks in Southern California. Scenic desert cliffs, stunning red hues, buttes, I had no idea it existed until last year and have gone twice now! It is the perfect add on or stand alone destination to have one of the Best California Road Trips.

Red Rock Canyon State Park is the perfect spot for California Road Trips. Scenic cliffs, vivid colors and fun film history!

Land Acknowledgement: Kawaiisu Lands. Find what Native Land you are visiting by using the app Native Land! I encourage you to read the history and culture of the Indigenous people who’s land you are visiting!

About Red Rock Canyon State Park

Red Rock Canyon State Park. Scenic orange and red cliffs with layers and ridges.
Hagen Canyon

Craving a weekend getaway in Southern California with vivid colors, scenic desert buttes and cliffs, and some fun film history? Red Rock Canyon State Park may be the perfect spot for your California Road Trips.

Many Westerns were filmed here including The Big Country and The Outlaw. More recently, Westworld has also filmed at this SoCal State Park. Any Beyonce lovers? Destiny’s Child filmed a music video here too. I need to google all of these immediately.

Red Rock Canyon State Park was established as the first state park in Kern County in 1968 and consists of over 27,000 acres! There are now FIVE total State Parks in this county, TWO National Forests, and one National Monument.

The Land belongs to the Kawaiisu People and there are petroglyphs and other artifacts found regularly in this area. PLEASE respect any artifacts found by leaving them as you found them.

How was the Canyon formed?

It is believed that this area was under water millions of years ago. The vibrant reds and oranges are due to high amounts of iron in the rock sediment. As the sediment is exposed to oxygen, the iron essentially rusts and becomes red.

I read that during heavy rainfall the red sediment is carried down the canyon and gives the rocks the appearance that they are bleeding. Whoa.

Where is Red Rock Canyon State Park in Southern California?

Located two hours away from Los Angeles, Red Rock Canyon State Park sits where the El Paso Mountains meet the Sierra Nevada Mountains near Cantil California in Kern County. It can be found right off of State Highway 14, 80 miles east of Bakersfield and 25 miles north of Mojave California.

  • From Los Angeles: 2 hour drive
  • Las Vegas: 4 hour drive
  • San Francisco: 6 hour drive

Best Things to Do in Red Rock Canyon State Park

A lot of Red Rock Canyon is very accessible which makes it really easy for an add on to your California Road Trips. But you could also very easily make it a weekend trip and stay at the campground.

1. Hagen Canyon

Swirled Red and orange rock at Red Rock Canyon in California. Perfect spot for California Road Trips.
Views of Hagen Canyon parking lot

Right off of the highway, this is one of the first views you’ll have of Red Rock Canyon State Park when coming from the North. You can see the rock formations very well from the parking lot, but we chose to venture out a bit further on the trail.

2. Red Cliffs Nature Trail

Towering orange cliffs in the desert of California.
From Parking Lot of Red Rock Cliffs

The Red Rock Cliffs Nature area and parking lot also have incredible views. These views are similar to those at Hagen Canyon, but all of the rock formations are unique in their own way so I definitely recommend checking out both.

  • 1 mile lightly trafficked loop
  • features a cave
  • dog friendly
  • 100 feet elevation gain

Important Things to Know for this California Road Trip Destination:

  • Leave No Trace! Be mindful of packing out all trash and what parts of the trail are prone to erosion.
  • Do not collect artifacts or plants that you may find here
  • Bring extra water and sun protection (sunscreen, hat, shades) as there is very little shade here and temperatures are HOT.
  • Adequate footwear. I made the mistake of wearing Birkenstocks. I know, bad move. We only ventured a little bit from the parking lot so I thought I’d be fine. Wear comfy, breathable, supportive shoes or sandals! Check out my footwear guide HERE
  • Plug in GPS for your next destination while you have cell service as I did not have much luck finding any signal while I was there.
  • Check current COVID updates affecting this State Park HERE

Where to Stay Near Here

Red Rock Cliffs

Ricardo Campground

This campground is located within the State Park and has 50 primitive spots and has NO reservation system. It is a first come first serve system and does fill up on weekends (depending on the season).

  • potable water
  • toilets
  • fire rings
  • tables
  • NO shower
  • $25/night

Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Areas

There are five camping options nearby that are FREE, but usually lack amenities. This is how I afford to travel as often as I do. I car camp with my partner in our Subaru Forester on BLM land. This is such a good area to hang out and getaway on a SoCal camping trip.

Neighboring Cities

More of a hotel/Airbnb person? Check out Mojave or Ridgecrest!

Nearby Destinations!!

Stay tuned for more from this road trip each week.

Save For Later!

Scenic cliffs, vivid colors and fun film history! Red Rock Canyon State Park is the perfect spot for California Road Trips for a weekend or a road trip add on!

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