Red Rock State Park, CA – A Visitor’s Guide

Continuing with our series of guides to California’s awesome state parks, today we’ll be taking an in-depth look at Cuyamaca Rancho State Park!

Red Rock State Park, CA - A Visitor's Guide, Red Rock Canyon sunrise with lenticular cloud.

Why this series? We’ve visited California many times and have pretty much covered all of the major attractions, including the stunning national parks, such as Yosemite, and Redwood National Park. We plan on returning to California in a year, this time slow traveling in an RV for several months, looking for those hidden gems off the beaten path. With that in mind, researching state parks just makes a lot of sense! And we’re sharing the results of that research in this series of posts.

Where is Red Rock State Park, California?

We like big buttes, and we cannot lie – which is why we wanted to take a trip out to Red Rock Canyon State Park. If you’re anything like us, you’re going to love the painted cliffs and unbelievable rock formations that you can find in this park.

Driving to the park is almost as scenic as hiking through it. Red Rock Canyon State Park is smack-dab in the middle of the Mojave Sector of the Tehachapi District. Once you’ve landed in California, your trip length will vary depending on your base of operation. Wherever you’re coming from, though, you’ll always find yourself on the scenic State Highway 14 in Kern County.

How to Get to Red Rock State Park, California

photograph of the Red Rock Canyon entrance.

Getting to Red Rock State Park isn’t too tricky. Some 25 miles northeast of Greater Mojave, you’ll follow Highway 14 past Cantil and look for the park’s unmissable sign. While it’s easiest to drive to the park yourself, you can take a bus out to Mojave and taxi to the park from there.

How Far is Red Rock State Park From Los Angeles?

Los Angeles makes an excellent base of operations for anyone looking to make the most out of their California vacation. The drive from Los Angeles to Red Rock State Park isn’t too intimidating. You’ll make it to the park in an hour and fifty minutes after traveling 120 miles. It’s easiest to follow CA-14 south, but make sure you have your GPS on hand so you can avoid getting lost.

As mentioned, anyone who isn’t interested in driving can take a bus from Los Angeles to Mojave. On average, a bus trip out to Mojave will take you four and a half hours.

How Far is Red Rock State Park From Bakersfield?

If Los Angeles is a little too busy for you, you can stay in Bakersfield instead. The drive from Bakersfield to Red Rock State Park takes about an hour, and fifteen minutes, as you’ll need to travel 80 miles down CA-58 E., You’ll end up back on CA-14 when you’re getting close to the park.

What is There to Do in Red Rock State Park?

What is there at Red Rock State Park besides the beautiful views? If you’re looking for activities to entertain the kids or reinvigorate your interest in the wild, you can:

  • Visit the local historic and cultural sites
  • Go for a picnic at any of the nearby picnic tables
  • Spend a few hours cooling off in the visitor’s center
  • Enjoy guided tours provided by park staff
  • Tour the park from the comfort of your car
  • Go geocaching

Hiking in Red Rock State Park

Once you’ve got your bearings, there’s no better way to spend a day in Red Rock State Park than on the park’s gorgeous trails. When you’re out and about, you can explore:

  • Red Cliffs Trail – the perfect beginner’s trail, Red Cliffs Trail is only a mile long and fairly easy to navigate.
  • Nightmare Gulch Loop Trail – this trail stretches out over 8.8 miles and will challenge newcomers, but experienced hikers will find it rewarding.
  • Last Chance Canyon – despite the intimidating name, this trail is only moderately difficult at 13.9 miles long.
  • Burrow Schmidt’s Tunnel – a moderately challenging trail that’s 10.5 miles long.
  • Ricardo Campground – a great trail for beginners that’s only 1.4 miles long.
  • Nightmare Gulch Overlook Trail – a moderately difficult trail that’s 10.1 miles in length.
  • Mesquite Canyon Road – a relatively easy trail that’s 11.6 miles in length.
  • Ricardo Camp South Loop – a moderately difficult trail that tracks 1.5 miles.
  • Opal Canyon – a moderately difficult trail that’s 8.5 miles in length.

When’s the Best Time of Year to Visit Red Rock State Park?

Red rock canyon sunshine

Choosing when to visit California is always a little tricky. If you want the best weather for hiking, though, you’ll need to visit between May and September. California doesn’t see too much rain during these months, meaning that the hiking trails will be dry and easy to navigate. Make sure you bring sunscreen and extra water before hitting the park, though. California may have a dry heat, but it’s not a heat you want to underestimate.

What Time Does the Park Open?

Red Rock State Park opens at sunrise every day and closes down as soon as the sun sets. If you want to stay later, you’ll need to spend the night at Red Rock’s campsites.

How Much Does it Cost to Get Into Red Rock State Park?

Getting into Red Rock State Park doesn’t cost too much. Do note, though, that you’ll be charged person-by-person instead of by vehicle. Admission fees break down as follows:

  • Adults (fourteen years old or older): $7
  • Youths (younger than fourteen): $4
  • Children (six and younger): Free

Additional Questions

Have more questions about Red Rock State Park? Find your answers here.

Can You Drive Through Red Rock State Park?

If the hot weather and long walks aren’t up your alley, never fear. You can easily use your car to visit some of Red Rock State’s Park’s most iconic features. Take a drive down Scenic Drive, a 12.5-mile-long loop that’ll take you past some of the most notable buttes and peaks in the park. If you want to get out of your car and take a closer look at one of the features, you can easily pull over into one of the park’s many overlooks. Stay put for as long as you like to get the most out of your visit.

How Much Time Do You Need at Red Rock State Park?

Red Rock State Park is an expansive get-away, full of beautiful sites that you just can’t beat. How much time you spend in the park, though, is entirely up to you. If you’re satisfied seeing all there is to see from the front seat of your car; then you can spend as little as two hours in the park. If you want to experience Red Rock State Park at night, you can easily pitch a tent in one of the designated camping areas and watch the stars come out.

Don’t be afraid to personalize your time in Red Rock State Park. Your trip, after all, is what you make of it.

Can You Go Horseback Riding Down Red Rock State Park’s Trails?

You are allowed to bring horses onto all of the roads in Red Rock State Park. Do note, though, that some of these roads may be closed for seasonal reasons. If a road is marked as closed on your map, it’s best to avoid it.

Where To Stay When Visiting Red Rock State Park, California

Red Rock Canyon sunrise with lenticular cloud.

Red Rock State Park makes for a great day visit. Once you’re finished with the day, though, where should you kick up your heels? If you don’t want to spend the evening camping, there are plenty of hotels and B&Bs nearby. Your options will depend entirely on how far away you’re willing to drive after a few hours of hiking.

Vagabond Inn Bakersfield South

Unfortunately, there aren’t too many hotels in Cantil. The closest you’re going to get to Red Rock State Park is Bakersfield. If you’re looking for a unique place to stay in the area, then the Vagabond Inn Bakersfield South is the place for you. Just off of Highway 99, you’ll be able to enjoy a free continental breakfast before heading out to the park for the day.

Each room at Vagabond Inn Bakersfield South comes equipped with a coffeemaker, free WiFi, air conditioning, and fully-stocked bathroom. If you’re too tired to drive through the town, you’ll be able to take the hotel’s shuttle to local restaurants and museums.

Book your room through Booking.com!

Hollywood Inn Express South

Anyone using Los Angeles as their home base for a tour of California’s state parks will have their choice of hotels. One of the best you can visit is the Hollywood Inn Express South. This affordable downtown hotel puts you within ten minutes of the Walk of Fame.

More importantly, you’ll be able to enjoy a complimentary suite of amenities after a long day hiking through Red Rock State Park. Each room comes equipped with cable television, a direct-dial phone, and a fully-equipped bathroom.

If you’re looking to entertain the kids, you’ll even be able to get tickets to Universal Studios through the hotel at a discounted rate.

Book your room through Booking.com!

Ocean Park Hotel

Finally, if you want to come home from the desert and enjoy some ocean views, there’s no better place to stay than Ocean Park Hotel. This hotel is a mere 3 miles away from Santa Monica Pier and will offer you a respite from the heat of the day.

Each room at Ocean Park Hotel comes equipped with a flat-screen television, microwave, refrigerator, and coffeemaker. If you happen to slip and fall while out on a trail, you can easily put a load of laundry in at the hotel’s on-site laundry facility. Even better, you’ll be able to park at this hotel for free – a rare treat in California.

Book your room through Booking.com!

About to visit California?

Make sure you check out our other guides too! Our California cities Bucket list would be a great place to start right now. Or you could try our recommendations for Northern California here, or just search your destination in our blog. If it’s a major Californian destination, we probably blogged about it by now. And if we haven’t, leave us a comment to let us know!

Red Rock State Park, CA - A Visitor's Guide

Red rock canyon sunshine

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