Winter Camping in Red Rock Canyon State Park

Spending the holidays surrounded by nature is something we’ve grown to love and look forward to. Finding places that are good for December travels in our campervan can be a challenge, but our California deserts is always a good bet. For our 2018 Christmas holiday trip we made plans to camp at Red Rock Canyon State Park on Dec. 23 for one night then make our way to Joshua Tree National Park for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. We were a bit nervous since we were going to try for first-come first-served campgrounds the entire trip. No reservations, and no real back up plans! Since we camped at Red Rock Canyon State Park 3 years ago on Christmas Eve and had the place pretty much to ourselves, we were hoping that the situation was going to be similar. Our timing was a bit off on the day of our departure since we hosted a family holiday get-together the day before, and then all the last-minute trip preparations got the better of us. This meant we were driving the last leg to Red Rock Canyon SP during sunset. It was a beautiful drive, but we were a bit anxious wondering if we were going to get there in time to score a campsite…DSC_6768.JPG

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Making our way to Red Rock Canyon State Park

We drove through the Red Rock Canyon SP campground (Ricardo campground) in the dark, and our hearts sank as we saw campsite after campsite taken. We even started thinking of possible plan Bs. However, soon enough, we started to see open campsites and we breathed a sigh of relief. The 50 site campground was much more crowded than last time, but there was still plenty of spaces available. We picked a campsite directly next to a cliff and got busy setting up camp. By this time we started noticing a strange light coming from the hills beyond and it took us another minute to realize that we were witnessing a moonrise. What an incredible moonrise it was!

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Parked the van next to these cliffs
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Beautiful night sky to view the stars (before the moon appeared)
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Moonrise!
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Dec 23rd full moon
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The moonlight illuminated the cliffs
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Warming up around the fire

The next morning we woke up to an incredible view of the cliffs. This is what it’s all about! We explored all the nooks and crannies of the cliffs and after a couple of hours we finally made ourselves pack up to get to Joshua Tree in time to find a campsite. We didn’t want to leave!!

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First view of the cliffs
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Campsite #20 was amazing!
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Bright sunny Christmas Eve day
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Sparsely populated campground (past campsite #20, #1-19 was mostly occupied)
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Red Rock Canyon cliffs!
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Visitor center is seen middle left of the picture
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Walking into a “room” we found in the crevices
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Walking into the “room”
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The open air roof
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The campervan gives a scale to the size of the cliffs
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Exploring the cliffs

I found the photos I took from our last visit to Red Rock Canyon State Park in 2015 (Dec 24) and realized that we had actually stopped at campsite #20 to take pictures because it was such a great campsite. The photo on the left with my hubby doing the Saturday Night Fever dance is from 2015 and the photo on the right is from 2018 (he’s tired from all the dancing so he’s sitting at the picnic table), same cliffs.

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The red rocks of Red Rock Canyon State Park

We didn’t have time to go on any hikes at Red Rock Canyon this trip, but we plan on returning to explore more areas of the park. For us, the highlight of our stay was the night-time vistas due to the full moon and waking up to the incredible views of the cliffs surrounding the campground. We love, love, love this campground!!

Joshua Tree National Park is about a 3 hour drive from Red Rock Canyon State Park. This was a great place to camp on our way to Death Valley National Park as well, only about 2.5 hrs.

Stay tuned for our experience at Joshua Tree National Park during the government shutdown…

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On our way to Joshua Tree National Park, beautiful drive

17 thoughts on “Winter Camping in Red Rock Canyon State Park

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