Driving along Highway 14 in Central California reaching the southernmost tip of the Sierra Nevadas, prepare to be greeted with dramatic views of red cliffs, tributary canyons and colorful badlands. Welcome to Red Rock Canyon State Park! This unique state park offers spectacular other-worldly views, miles of hiking trails, off-roading fun, and camping at Ricardo Campground.
My trip to Red Rock Canyon started with a quick trip to the Visitor’s Center, which included a small but interesting museum exhibit showcasing the palaeontologic and anthropologic treasures found throughout the park. The Visitor’s Center also exhibited the wildlife that can be found throughout the park, including Golden Eagles and Desert Tortoises!
About a mile south of the Visitor’s Center is the parking lot for the Hagen Canyon Natural Preserve. This is the parking lot for Hagen Canyon Nature Trail trailhead. This little trail is about 1.3 miles long and easy to complete yet still offers breathtaking views. Veering off trail allows you to hike along the colorful and interesting rock formations. You can spend hours exploring the different rock formations and cliffs that run along this trail. It is important to be mindful of where you are trekking to avoid unnecessary erosion and disruption to the natural environment. Much of the sedimentary rock formations are fragile and will break under excess weight or stress.
The red rocks bring color and life to the otherwise dry and expansive desert. The rocks get their red coloring from the oxidization of the iron in the rocks and sediment. Although I didn’t get to witness it on this trip, during rain showers, the dripping red sediment make the rocks appear as if they are bleeding!
If you are road tripping through Central California and have a few hours to spare, definitely consider exploring the unique landscapes of this park! Remember to be safe and bring plenty of water, as the summertime brings scorching heat to the Mojave Desert.