Exploring Red Rock Canyon State Park & Fossil Falls

It’s been awhile since Matt and I enjoyed a week away, so on Saturday morning, we packed a bag, fed the cats, and jumped in the car for a quick get away to Red Rock Canyon State Park, about 90 miles north of Los Angeles in the Mojave desert. While there isn’t much in the area in terms of restaurants, shopping or other things “to do”, the natural beauty of the park more than makes up for the remoteness of the area. In fact, I loved the “remoteness” of it all, as driving in Los Angeles means you’re always surrounded by other people, cars, noises, and buildings. On highway 14, the expanse of sand and desert stretched limitless around us, surrounded only by brushy peaks of rock-like mountains. Because pictures will do a better job explaining Red Rock’s beauty than I will, enjoy!

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After a few hours scurrying across the rocks of Red Rock, we headed back to our hotel. I had hoped to catch a glimpse of some petroglyphs the next day but was disappointed to find out you needed to pre-arrange a tour to see petroglyphs at the high-security China Lake Naval Base. I was determined to find petroglyphs anyways, so I googled furiously via iPhone in our hotel room until I stumbled upon a listing for “Fossil Falls” on a rockhound message forum. Fossil Falls is another hour north of Red Rock Canyon, in an area called Little Lake. Fossil Falls is an awesome geological feature formed by lava flow over 400,000 years ago. According to Wikipedia, “During the last ice age, glaciers formed in the Sierra Nevada. Meltwater from the glaciers pooled into large lakes, including Owens Lake and the Owens River. The river traveled through to Indian Wells Valley, and its course was diverted several times by volcanic activity. The falls were formed when the river was forced to divert its course over a basalt flow, polishing and reshaping the rock into a variety of unique shapes and forms.[5][3]

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The falls are incredible because you can actually climb into them, and suddenly you’re 30 feet deep into a canyon, poking your head into holes and squirming through cracks and fissures to get to the other side. We were lucky enough to spot four petroglyphs! Petroglyphs are stone etchings, made by chipping through layers of rock to expose different colors. These petroglyphs could be over 5,000 years old, and were likely made by the Coso people, who built their homes along the river. The areas around the falls were surrounded with sparkling pieces of Obsidian, evidence of Native American life. The obsidian, which is a black lava glass, was used to make arrows, hammers, knives and spears.

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As you can see, there was pretty much no way to take a bad picture surrounded by such amazing sights. I get unreasonably excited when there are historical artifacts like petroglyphs or arrowheads nearby (it’s my inner anthropology nerd) so this was right up my alley. Being able to put my hand next to where someone stood over 4,000 years ago, chipping away at layers of rock, is an awesome feeling.

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It was the perfect weekend full of adventure, relaxation and activity. We ended up walking over 3 miles on Sunday, and I definitely got a good workout climbing up and down the rock walls. This trip has made me excited for where else we have yet to explore in California — including Mammoth, Lone Pine, the Salton Sea, Death Valley and Temecula. I love California! Have you ever seen petroglyphs, and does Red Rock Canyon/ Fossil Falls seem like a place you’d want to visit? It’s definitely worth the short drive up from Los Angeles, or on the way down if you’re coming from the North.


6 thoughts on “Exploring Red Rock Canyon State Park & Fossil Falls

  1. The only thing I found interesting at the Salton Sea was the history of it. It’s always fun walking along a beach thru the skeletal remains of little fish. Although the date orchards on the way there were a fun place to stop.

  2. That looks awesome! There are still so many areas of California that I’ve yet to explore and I’ve lived here 17 years already. LOL One of my favorite weekend getaways is heading out to Joshua Tree. I just love the peaceful tranquility of the desert!

  3. Amazing shots! I saw them on Instagram, but seeing them bigger on here really shows the beauty. Speaking of which, your outfit was adorable – pretty in pink!!

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