Off The Beaten Track – Rainbow Basin, Barstow, CA

The hidden Gem of Rainbow Basin

Since we were driven out early by high winds from our glorious spot in Lone Pine, our “pack” decided to wheel it out and head to shelter down south in the grand Mojave desert. We were looking for the best of the best -> solitude, beauty, views, trails. In other words a spot where no “beasts” have gone before. So, of course we took the back-road to Barstow, CA and stopped there ….. ????

Now those of you who know Barstow may be surprised. For those of you who don’t I’ll paint a little scene. Close your eyes and imagine if you will a desolate desert plain stretching, well…to infinity. Raise your thumb, twirl it around and plonk it randomly anywhere on this dreary landscape. Add-in several enormous truck-stops, a few sad strip-malls and an ad-hoc town and voilà, there you have it. Barstow has emerged like a single stubborn weed in a huge dusty back-yard. NO-ONE vacations at Barstow, at least no-one that I know.

Shadows of Joshua Trees in the canyon

So naturally that’s where we went. And naturally we found everything that we were looking for, because as everyone knows there’s a hidden gem in everything….somewhere….and right here the fabulous spot is called the Rainbow Basin.

Just ~10 miles out of Barstow on a long dirt road it rises from the desert like a diamond in the rough. Rainbow Basin is an ancient formation deposited in the middle Miocene (16-13 million years ago). Tectonic motion, compression and erosion raised the earth over many millions of years and sculpted the rock into alluring curves of mineral deposits. From neon green to deep red the layers roll like rock petals of a giant rose blossoming to enclose you completely. Add-in a sprinkling of picturesque Joshua Trees and you’ve created the painting of a masterpiece.

Biking into the Miocene era…

And there’s more than just pretty rocks here. The site is a paleontologists dream with over 368 sites and 17 new species of mammals discovered right here including the very first record of a mastodon in California. Camping is on BLM land right in the midst of the colorful painting, surrounded by miles of hiking and biking. It’s simply stunning!

Our “pack” hunkered down within the protective rocks for several days while the winds passed by up north, enjoying pretty much complete solitude (we were literally the only folks there the first 2 days) and gorgeous surroundings. A worthy and unexpected little stop  off the beaten track….and all of it in Barstow too.

Some pretty country out here
Entrance to the Rainbow Basin area
Sunset in camp
A pretty view of the rocks from the trail
Deep in Rainbow Basin
Blue sky and rainbow rocks
Click HERE To Shop

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the product links in the post above may be “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. That said, I only ever recommend products or services I personally use and love! Wheelingit is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

We LOooVE Comments, So Please Do

  1. Steve & Gari says

    Nina & Paul, Another beautiful spot on earth! Just another 20 miles or so continuing north on Irwin Rd you will find the Deep Space Network Goldstone Tracking facility, home of one of the DSN 70 meter (parabolic) antennas. I pasted a picture URL in the website field below. See the large basket truck at the base of the antenna for size perspective. For mankind an impressive feat of engineering, compared to the natural world that you all highlight, I must confess I choose the natural magnificence everytime.

    • libertatemamo says

      You know that’s exactly what I thought too! I never had ANY idea that Barstow had spots like this one.
      Just goes to show you can always learn something new :)

  2. Jerry B. says

    What’s the road like for that 10 miles to the campground? We usually stop at Calico for an overnight on the way to Death Valley, but this sounds like more fun.

    • libertatemamo says

      Hi Jerry,
      The first 5 miles are regular paved road. The last 5 miles are graded (very wide, very firm) dirt road. It may sound like alot but if it helps any it’s the best dirt road I’ve EVER driven. Would have no problems or hesitation taking any sized rig down there (just be prepared to get dusty). I’ll include pics of the road in my review of the campground (coming up next).

  3. William says

    Started following the blog 2weeks ago and really dig the reviews. I will hit the road full-time in spring/summer 2012 after my retirement from the Army. Great resource for rookies like me. Thanks!

    • libertatemamo says

      CONGRATS on the up-coming full-timing! As you can tell we LOVE the lifestyle and I’m sure you will to.
      Happy to have you along for the online ride for now :)


A Comment For Your Thoughts?

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *