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Red Rock Canyon State Park

Hagen, Red Cliffs Trails

1 to 2 miles round trip; Season: October-May

The view of Red Rock Canyon may very well seem like déjà vu. Cliffs and canyons in these parts have appeared in the background of many a Western movie.

A black-and-white movie of Red Rock Canyon would be dramatic: shadow and light playing over the canyon walls. Technicolor, however, might more vividly capture the aptly named red rock, along with the chocolate brown, black, white and pink hues of the pleated cliffs.

Gold fever in the 1890s prompted exploration of almost all the canyons in the El Paso Mountains. During this era, Rudolph Hagen acquired much land in the Red Rock area. He named the little mining community/stage stop Ricardo after his son Richard. The Ricardo Ranger Station is located at the site of the once-thriving hamlet.

Red Rock Canyon became a state recreation area in 1969; when it became obvious off-road vehicles were damaging the hills and canyons, Red Rock was upgraded to park status in 1982.

Best places to hike are in the park’s two preserves. You’ll find some trails to hike, but this park lends itself to improvisation.

Hagen Canyon Natural Preserve is a striking badlands, with dramatic cliffs capped by a layer of dark basalt. A one mile loop trail explores the area. Red Cliffs Natural Preserve protects the 300-foot sandstone cliffs east of Highway 14.

The park nature trail, a 0.75 mile path tells the geologic story of the area, and points out typical desert flora. It’s keyed to an interpretive pamphlet available at the trailhead. Join the nature trail at the south end of the park campground.

Directions to trailhead: Red Rock Canyon State Park is located 25 miles north of the town of Mojave off Highway 14. Turn northwest off 14 onto the signed road for the park campground. Follow this road a short mile to Ricardo Ranger Station. The station has a small visitor center with nature exhibits.

© 2012 The Trailmaster, Inc.
From John McKinney’s
Day Hiker’s Guide to California’s State Parks
Trail descriptions and maps have been reproduced with the permission of the author.  To learn more about The Trailmaster and other related publications please visit their website at