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Rainbow Basin, CA

Tuesday, April 26, 2022 - 9:15am by Lolo
460 miles and 8 hours from our last stop - 1 night stay


Rainbow BasinRainbow BasinOn most of our trips to the Southwest we stop for the night in Barstow, as it is the perfect one-day drive (8 hours), and is the crossroads to many destinations further east. The town itself doesn’t have much to offer, except for numerous moderately-price hotels and some decent restaurants, but we have found one gem just 8 miles north of town in a completely uninhabited part of the Mojave Desert - Rainbow Basin.

We had discovered Rainbow Basin on our last pass through Barstow and found it to be a very rejuvenating experience after a long day of driving on interstates, especially during the golden hour, which is usually when we arrive.

Rainbow BasinRainbow BasinDespite its close proximity to Barstow, it is totally remote and undeveloped. There isn’t even a visitor center. The only evidence of man is the unpaved 4.6-mile loop BLM road that winds through the colorful gorges. Before the start of the loop road is the Owl Canyon campground, which is first-come-first-served and costs $6.

The Basin is part of the Calico Peaks range in the Mojave Desert. Noted for its colorful and interestingly shaped sedimentary rock formations, it was named a National Natural Landmark in 1966.

Rainbow BasinRainbow BasinThe park is pretty small but packs a lot of stunning scenery along its 4.6-mile scenic dirt loop road. We got there in time for golden hour, and spent a delightful two hours scampering up and around the interesting rock formations, which at this time of day light up in colorful blues and reds.

The wind was picking up, as it seems to always do in the desert this time of year, so we headed back to town to grab dinner at a new Italian place we had discovered on our last visit - DiNapoli’s Firehouse on Main Street (Route 66), just a short walk from the Rodeway Hotel where we were staying.

Rainbow Basin location map in "high definition"

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