Winter rains and chilly weather are just what we need in the Bay Area but if you want to get away from that for a time, consider this trip. All the stops noted below are desert areas which should be dry and relatively warm, at least during the day. All but one are also first come, first served sites (non-reservable) so you take your chances on sites but are not tied to a fixed schedule. My plan is to start at Red Rock Canyon State Park in CA and then wander east into the Las Vegas area; hitting the strip is optional. You may elect to do some or all of this.
First Stop- Red Rock Canyon State Park northeast of the town of Mohave which is northeast of Bakersfield. A nice park with about 50 campsites for tents or RV’s to 30 feet with an elevation of 2,600 feet. If you can score a site nestled below the sandstone bluffs its really nice. Sites are relatively primitive with picnic tables, fire rings and vault toilets with drinking water but no showers. A dump station is available. In March there may be a nice wildflower display. There are several hiking trails to be enjoyed. It’s about 400 miles from Santa Rosa; the fastest way to get there from the Bay Area would be to take Interstate 5 or Hwy. 99 to Bakersfield, then Hwy. 58 east to Mohave and north on Hwy. 14. www.parks.ca.gov.
Next Stop- Mohave National Preserve- Hole in the Wall Campground. The Mohave Desert is somewhat iconic as it joins two other deserts here, the Sonoran and the Colorado. The campground has 35 sites for tents or RV’s of any length with picnic tables, fire rings, drinking water and vault toilets. A dump station is available. The Mid-Hills Campground is nearby with 26 sites if needed. Boondockers can just pull-off onto a previously used site just off the road. Elevation is 4,400 ft. Attractions include the Kelso Dunes and Mitchell Caverns, which can be toured. A must-see is the semi-ghost town of Kelso. It houses a beautiful train depot (still functional) that serves as the National Park Service headquarters here and will transport you back in time. If still in business the old-school diner will help with that feel. The preserve has its own species of rattlesnake, known to be highly venomous so watch your step and be careful with your dog. But not a big deal. To get there we’ll backtrack to Hwy. 58 east to Interstate 40 east, then Essex Road to Black Canyon Road. Don’t go as far as Needles. www.nps.gov/moja.
Next Stop- Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area- Red Rock Campground, Nevada. A BLM property 17 miles from the Las Vegas strip. Wild burros, the desert tortoise, big horn sheep, hiking, rock climbing. Wildflowers. What’s not to like. Never been there but looking forward to it. 66 of the 80 sites can be reserved at www.recreation.gov or [masked]. The rest are first come, first served. If desired we can reserve spots on the fly. www.redrockcanyonlv.org.
Next Stop- Valley of Fire State Park, NV. Nevada’s oldest and largest state park at 40,000 acres. Two campgrounds with 72 total sites with picnic tables, fire rings, shade structures, flush toilets and showers. Some sites have electrical and water hook-ups for $10 extra. 55 miles from the Las Vegas strip. Abuts Lake Mead National Recreation Area. Hiking, petroglyphs, sheep sightings, wildflowers. Never been there but looking forward to it. Water lovers could check out Lake Mead. www.parks.nv.gov/parks/valley-of-fire.