Red Rock Canyon over Thanksgiving Weekend

Sunset over Ricardo Campground in Red Rock Canyon State Park

Full photo album -> HERE


It was time to get outside again this Thanksgiving. Where did we end up going? We returned to Red Rock Canyon State Park once more. This time we were going to stay two nights, so there would be a full day to explore the area. Our adventure began on Black Friday.

Driving through the valley and over Tehachapi Pass was full of rain. It was spotty here and there from the house, but once we started to pull the grade on Highway 58, the water fell from the heavens. It was a nice way to wash the truck and we passed along by semi trucks and other cars. We did pull over for a few extra supplies in Tehachapi before descending down into the desert. The rain did stop about 5 miles east of Tehachapi and it was sunny and windy. This made for a smooth descent into the desert and then up Highway 14 to Ricardo Campground in Red Rock Canyon State Park.

As we pulled into Ricardo Campground late afternoon and the sun was beginning to set. We had some of the high clouds float over and it provided quite the range of light. The sky looked on fire at times. Jaden, being trapped in the truck for several hours, was ready to get a hike in. John was happy to go along so the three of us decided to walk along the road that circled through the camping area.

Our walk was welcomed and we enjoyed stretching our legs. The wind was blowing too, but that did not detour us from walking. Jaden was happy to explore and pretend he was driving on freeways once more, but in the desert. We waved at fellow campers as we passed by and eventually found the nature trail close to the visitor center. Jaden wanted to walk on it again and show me what I had missed the last time we were out there.

The trail was well marked and lined with rocks. Jaden went along pointing out all the numbered posts. We didn’t have the guide so we were not sure what the significance was as we passed. Jaden I guessed remembered a couple along the route. It was now getting harder to see, but it made for a fun silhouette photo. We then made our way back for food, socializing, and getting ready to settle down for the evening. The next day was going to be a full day of adventure. We did have a small fire before going to bed, but the wind was making it cold and difficult at times. We did not stay out too long as a result.


As the sun began to rise, so did Jaden and I. The sun beamed through the window and all was quiet the in the trailer. In order to keep it quiet a bit longer, I had him play Minecraft on the iPad for a bit. I browsed online for awhile in the meantime. Soon John and Glenda were up and breakfast was on its way. Once that was finished, we were dressed and ready to head out on adventure. We were going to hike up behind the campground.

The hike started out on the single road that looped through Ricardo Campground. As you pass by all the camping sites you find the Nature Trail. It was nicely posted and rocks guided the path. There was a larger group on a guided hike, but we ventured up the ridge line.

The hike up to the ridge was short and we were at the top before we knew it. There foot traffic west east up to Whistler Ridge, straight south down to the backside where we wanted to go, and west to follow the mountain that surrounds the camp. Jaden and I ended up going east to see the vista point while John enjoyed the view until we returned.

Jaden made quick of the hike until it started getting steeper. As it did, I noticed the winds picking up. The further up to the ridge we went the harder the wind would blow. We tighten the cords on our hats and pressed on. Soon we were at the top and greeted with a nice view while trying to hold onto our hats. If they somehow came off, we would lose them.

Whistler Ridge

The time spent on the ridge was short, extremely short. Just enough time to grab a panoramic photo and make our way down back to John. It was a nice detour but our main hike was still to come. The wind began to die down as we hiked along the trail. I was grateful because even with the chin straps, our hats wanted to fly off our heads!

The journey ahead

Now back with John, we proceeded south down the trail. We were going to hike up an old wash to see what was behind the hills we saw from our campsite. The wind was practically non-existent at this point. Both Jaden and I were happy about this as we hiked along. In about 5 minutes we were in the wash and heading down to see where a waterfall would be located. John mentioned there was one, so we wanted to check it out.

The wash goes through a steep canyon and then drops off down to the floor below. This was about 100 yards from where the trail met the wash. We took a look and admired it for a couple minutes before turning back to trek up the wash. It was at this point we stumbled onto a geocache.

Underneath some rocks were Magic The Gathering playing cards, pens, a journal, and a toy snake. It was getting scattered about so we collected it all and put the plastic snake on top to maybe scare someone. Reading the journal, we were not the only ones with this idea as the snake had started others before us. Jaden wanted to write in the journal before we continued on our adventure.

Hiking up the wash

The journey was quiet and peaceful. We were the only three hiking and exploring the area. As we walked Jaden pretended streets and freeways. He started to get a little nervous that we were lost, but we soon distracted him by exploring some of the eroded hills to the south.

Jaden enjoyed hiking up into the slots as far as we could safely venture into. John also went to check out some of the slots created by the rain and wind. Before leaving this cool area, John and Jaden posed for a photo together with the hills in the background.

Now it was time to find a loop around to get back to camp. Both John and I knew we could do a full loop, but it was up to use to figure out how. We hiked on and had to double back a few times. Jaden was acting a little dramatic saying “we’re lost, we’re dead.” We laughed and it reminded me that he was actually quoting Dash from the movie Incredibles. He had the tone and pitch down perfectly.

Eventually we found a possible way to complete the loop. The only catch was to climb up one of the hill faces and through a slot. We took our time and Jaden was excitingly nervous at this point. I kept reasurring him that this was part of the adventure and to be brave. He held my hand on the steep ascent until we arrived at a small ledge. Here we needed to climb up a finger-like ridge on the back of a rock and hoist ourselves onto the mesa like top of the hills. John was the first to go up with my support. Then we hoisted Jaden up. Finally, John assisted me and we made it.

Looking back down into the valley we climbed out of that morning.

We were all excited to be at the top. Both John and I knew this was what we were looking for in order to make the loop. There were user created trails again up to the edge where we climbed and so we followed them back. Jaden was a lot happier too. I think he finally believed his dad and grandfather that we were indeed not lost.

Hiking back there were plenty of panoramic views. The sky was a beautiful blue, the silence was wonderful, and not a single person was out here that we could see. We eventually hiked enough to find a view down into our campsite.

The trailer below is our camping site.

The loop was about to be complete as we looked down on our site. We yelled trying to see if Glenda would hear us. No luck there, but we did have cell service again. We tried sending a text as we wanted to wave down to her. No luck either so we proceeded along the trail.

The hike back was now starting to look familiar to me. We had hiked in this area many times before, but never did the full loop. Jaden was not sure of the area until we started pointing out landmarks and rock features to him. He then recognized where we were at and I think that made him even more comfortable of his surroundings.

We made it back and rested a bit in the camper. Stories were shared of our adventure with Glenda who walked down to the Ranger Station. This is why we could not get a hold of her earlier. Eventually nightfall came and we roasted hot dogs over a fire. Jaden loved that idea and started making menus so we could order. He then started making small books sharing the adventure he went on. It was a great day outdoors.


The last day was spent eating breakfast and packing up our truck. John and Glenda were going to leave later that afternoon. We picked up after ourselves, said our goodbyes, and made our way back home. The drive back was nice as the air was clear and no rain. Another adventure in Red Rock Canyon State Park was complete.