Red Rocks in California

Visit Red Rock Canyon State Park in California

Colorful badlands, towering buttes, and scenic desert cliffs form a hikers paradise. Red Rock Canyon State Park is a lightly visited desert wonderland where the southernmost tip of the Sierra Nevada converges with the El Paso range. There are several awesome trails here, but a good place to start is the Red Cliffs Trail.

The short and easy 1-mile loop trail travels around the cliffs, allowing you the opportunity to get a better view of the beauty surrounding you. From the very beginning of the trail you see spectacular views of the trail’s namesake: the red cliffs composed of sandstone, mudstone, and volcanic rocks towering above you. From the parking area, the trail leads up a small hill where you can see panoramic views of the park. (This trail has only 100 feet of elevation gain.)

There are several other trails in the park that you can tack on if you feel like doing more exploring (the Hagen Canyon Nature Trail across the street is a fun choice if you have time). Red Rock Canyon State Park is far too hot to visit in the summer (the Mojave Desert’s triple-digit temperatures are no joke).

But once the temperature starts to drop in the fall, the park is a great choice. Conditions tend to stay good through early spring, when the park fills with bright wildflowers. Summer’s too hot, spring sees the most visitors, so fall is an ideal time to go.

CAMP: Ricardo Campground, just north of Hagen Canyon, has 50 first-come, first-served campsites, many situated right beneath eye-popping fluted cliffs. Tables, potable water, pit toilets, and fire rings are provided. $25 per night.

Red Rock Canyon State Park is open from sunrise to sunset. Be sure to check for trail closures before visiting the park. Day use is $6/day. There is no reception in the park so download maps before you go. Bring plenty of water and go early to avoid mid-day heat. Check weather before you go, and do not hike on hot days. No dogs.

Story and photos by Natalie Bates, @wanderwithnatalie

Trending Stories NorCal

View all Stories
  1. From Town to Falls

    Mount Tam’s Cascade Falls is a bit under the radar, tucked back off a residential area in Mill Valley. Some people drive up to the tiny parking lot nearest to the falls. Do an easy 3-mile (round-trip) hike right from downtown Mill Valley, weaving through quiet streets and secret trails.

  2. The Carson Show

    Carson Falls is ready for primetime. This three-tiered, 100-foot stunner is hidden back in a canyon outside of Fairfax and reached on a 3.25-mile (round-trip) hike.

  3. Sugarloaf Ridge State Park waterfall hike in Sonoma Valley

    Sweet as Sugarloaf

    Right in the heart of wine country there’s plenty more than wine flowing right now, with an oft unheralded waterfall that surges to an exuberant spectacle from all the recent rain.

  4. Sponsored

    Sonoma Valley's 100 Days of Winter Wellness Guide

    This winter wellness plan goes to 100! Nurture yourself in 2024 with Sonoma Valley’s 100 Days of Winter Wellness guide. It’s a perfectly curated array of inspiration and ideas.


Trending Stories SoCal

View all Stories
  1. A woman stands at Dante's View in Death Valley, looking out to Telescope Peak and Manly Lake, Badwater Basin below.

    Sunset Hike (and Manly Lake Vista!) at Dante's View

    It’s one of the world’s best places to watch a sunset. Dante’s View is a 5,476-foot vantage of the whole southern basin of Death Valley from the top of the Black Mountains. On clear days you get views of both the highest and lowest points in the contiguous U.S. 

  2. Skull On!

    Temescal Canyon not only has epic views, it's got a waterfall right now, one that only shows after big rains. Head out on this 4.6-mile loop.

  3. Woman hiking on the trail at Trebek Open Space in Los Angeles County

    Trebek Open Space

    While most hikers head over to adjacent Runyon Canyon, instead do the 2-mile hike at Trebek Open Space and pay your respects to the legendary Jeopardy host and philanthropist, Alex Trebek.

  4. Woman on Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes at Death Valley National Park

    Starry Night & Dark Sky Adventures

    You don’t have to stay out all that late to experience eminent stargazing at Death Valley National Park. The park's been given the highest ranking of darkness by the International Dark-Sky Association. Here are a trio of amazing ways to witness the mesmerizing night sky at Death Valley: