Thursday, April 10, 2014

Photo Essay: Red Rock Canyon, Mojave Desert

At the Southernmost tip of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, Red Rock Canyon State Park (not to be confused with the Red Rock Canyon in Nevada or the one in the Valley) is one of those "anything goes" hiking destinations where you can meander aimlessly and climb rocks to your heart's content.

But I prefer a real trail, a bit of structure, so there are two options for me to explore the red and orange desert cliffs, the buttes that rise from the earth and served as landmarks for the 20-mule team freight wagons and any surviving pioneers who'd successfully crossed Death Valley.



For my first visit, on a blustery afternoon, I chose the Hagen Canyon Nature Trail, in the western portion of the park.



The scenery should look familiar to anyone who's seen Jurassic Park or any number of westerns that have been shot here.



It's usually a good destination for wildflowers, but after a dry winter, the show is not quite so spectacular this year.



The nature trail is an easily navigable loop...



...with an unmarked inner loop...



...but as long as you stay to the right, you'll find your way.



The trail leads you through a flat alluvial plain...



...surrounded by all of these rock formations...



...and crosses several washes several times, making the rock markings and cairns essential to find your way.



For those who like climbing and getting close to the rocks...



...access is more or less unrestricted.



I prefer to take in the sprawling landscape from afar...



...scanning the visual panorama...



...looking for wildlife but seeing none.



Had I not stayed on the trail...



...I might've missed the tiny blooms of spring...



...the park's other colorful outcroppings – these on the canyon floor, taking the form of petals and leaves.











Technically in the Mojave Desert, there are also also some joshua trees to be found...



...but mostly, you are surrounded by colorful geology...



...flowing in ribbons...



...ready to be climbed...



...and admired from afar.



Highway 14 runs right through Red Rock Canyon, splitting it in two, with nature preserves on either side of it. Now that I've seen the Hagen Preserve, I'll have to head back and explore the Red Cliffs. But the wildflowers won't last long...

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: Red Rock Canyon, Nevada
How Much Farther Does This Go?
Photo Essay: Another Red Rock
Photo Essay: Robber's Roost Ranch Fake Ghost Town