Rainbow Basin Natural Area
Near Barstow, California
Rainbow Basin Natural Area does not offer reservations through Recreation.gov. Please take a look at the area details below for more information about visiting this location. Enjoy your visit!
Rainbow Basin Natural Area is an Area of Critical Environmental Concern with outstanding views and geological and paleontological features. Many visitors come to see exciting multi-colored rock formations and walk the scenic canyons. A variety of desert adapted wildlife are found here, including the desert tortoise.
Rainbow Basin has a diverse landscape of hills, canyons and washes. Activities include hiking, camping, photography, sightseeing and horseback riding. Multicolored rock walls and mesas are accented by changing light conditions, making for many photographic opportunities. The washes are good hiking trails for experiencing the area's natural beauty.
Wildlife viewing is best during early morning and evening hours. In Fossil, Coon, and Owl Canyons, birds tend to gather in thick vegetation. Vegetation is critical for wildlife water, food, and shelter. So, washes in Rainbow Basin have been closed to vehicle travel to protect these areas.
The Fossil Canyon Loop Road is an interesting route for vehicle touring. This one-way narrow dirt road is best driven with a high clearance or four-wheel drive vehicles. Do not attempt the loop in a RV or trailered vehicle.
Camping and Fees
Owl Canyon Campground is a first-come first-served campground with 22 campsites (no hookups). Campsites include a picnic table and a fire ring. Fee is $6.00 per night.
There is a single tap centrally located for potable water that is brought in weekly by truck. It is advised to bring your own drinking water. There are vault toilets , but no dump facilities. Holding tanks can be emptied at facilities in the towns of Baker and Barstow. Please take all trash out with you.
Know Before You Go
Permits are needed to remove fossils. If any are found, please leave them in place and notify the BLM Barstow Field Office at (760) 252-6000.
- Weather extremes and poisonous snakes are desert hazards common to this area. Rainbow Basin has a flash flood risk as well. Avoid low-lying areas during storms and remember that rain upstream can cause flooding even though it is not raining in the immediate area.
- Tell someone where you are going and when you expect to return. Bring sufficient water, food, clothing, equipment, and first aid supplies for your activity. Rainbow Basin is a mix of public and private lands, including those held by the Southern Pacific Railroad.
- Respect private landowners' rights. Land ownership status can be found on the "Cuddeback Lake" Desert Access Guide. These BLM maps can be purchased from any of the California Desert District BLM offices.
- Within this Area of Critical Environmental Concern, routes are posted with "open" route markers. Use of passenger vehicles and four-wheel drive vehicles is permitted only on designated and signed "open" routes. All routes not signed as "open" are CLOSED to vehicles.
- Staging of off-highway vehicles (e.g. ATVs) is not allowed in the Rainbow Basin area or at Owl Canyon Campground.