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Red Rock Canyon State Park, California, United States

Red Cliffs Trail

Red Rock Canyon State Park

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Length: 0.7 miles / 1.1 km
Family Friendly • Dog Friendly
Overview: The Red Cliffs Trail at Red Rock Canyon State Park travels past reddish cliffs comprising sandstone, mudstone, and some volcanic rocks. Evidence of slumping, or possibly faulting, is seen in this cliff formation, which makes it an excellent place to see geology in action.

Although the main trail is only 0.75 miles long, there are several pleasant unofficial trails and washes nearby. It is possible to spend several hours in this area exploring the desert landscape just off the main trail.

Tips: Leaving the trail is encouraged! Many interested rocks and features are found off-trail, but be very careful of loose, weak, crumbly rock underfoot and fractured overhanging rock. If you should find fossils, petroglyphs, pottery shards, or opals, please leave them for the next person to discover.

Dogs are allowed on a 6-foot leash, but not allowed off-trail.

Summers can be very hot, and the winters chilly. Carry water, sunscreen, and windproof layers

Points of Interest



The parking is located on the east side of Highway 14 just south of Abbott Drive (the main drive leading to the Red Rock Canyon State Park Visitor Center and Campground).

There is a picnic area here.

CA State Park Day Use Fee is not currently required for this trailhead, but is encouraged to support this park and is required for the visitor center. Check and make sure this is still the case when you visit.

Red Cliffs showing faulting and slumping

The prominent red cliffs nearby will draw your eye, and a close inspection shows that these erosional forces that formed these cliffs are still at work. The cliffs are formed from interbedded sand and mudstone, with the red staining due to iron. Water seeps out between the rock layers after heavy rain and runs down the cliff, eroding sand away as it goes. Large fractures, or slumps, can be seen in the cliff face. The upper portion of the cliff is starting to slide out on a 45-degree fracture. This is the source of the many boulders at the base of the cliffs!

Bench at overlook

On top of a hill just off the main trail is a pleasant bench.


The rocks in this area comprise light-colored weak sand and mudstones overlain by darker and harder volcanic ash and lava (basalt). The red staining seen on the sandstone is a result of iron staining.
The red cliffs erode from faulting or slumping, and water seeps. After heavy rainstorms, water seeps out from between the layers and runs down the side, taking sand with it.

The cliffs are all tilted at an angle of 17 degrees, due to intense faulting in the past 10 million years as the North American and Pacific plates slide past one another. Nearby is the Garlock fault, a left-lateral strike slip fault, that is thought capable of an earthquake and has registered 35 km of offset.

The Trail

The trail is pleasant, sandy, and easy to follow.


The desert is home to many species of plants which will bloom and dry out at different times of the year.
Pictures in this guide taken by: V.L.Zimmer, iHayley

Red Cliffs Trail Trail Map

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About the Author

10 guides
view VZIMMER's profile
Hiker, Snow-lover, Rock-Lover, River-Lover, Nerd.

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