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The desert is stark and the rock formations are colorful. It was quiet and serene at evening.
Rainbow Basin Natural Area
Closest available address
8 miles north of Barstow off Irwin Road (not Ft. Irwin Road) Barstow, CA 92311
Open 24 hours, but daytime hours are best.
Best time to visit
Rainbow Basin National Natural Landmark is a desert natural area located near Bartow, CA. It is managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The natural area is known for its colorful rock formations and desert landscape.
Rainbow Basin is about 11,000 acres and is made up of a mix of public and private lands. The main attraction is a 4 mile unpaved loop road that meanders through a mix of interesting eroded rocks, badlands and the Mojave desert environment. A campground is available nearby in Owl Canyon. The camping fee is a modest $6, but the campground only has basic features such as tables, a water tank and pit toilets.
The natural area also has some hiking, but the trails are not developed or well-marked. Unless you have the right equipment including good maps, it is better to go hiking on established trails in nearby national or state parks. Likewise, regular cars can drive the unpaved dirt loop road, but BLM recommends having a 4 wheel drive vehicle. RVs and campers should not use the loop road.
If you find yourself in Barstow or nearby it on Interstate 15, spending a couple hours to go see Rainbow Basin is a nice excursion. Viewing the rock formations and desert area at dusk was memorable and beautiful. If you like stark landscapes and not a lot of company, you also may have the place to yourself. Keep in mind though that it is a rugged area and can get very hot in the summer, so Rainbow Basin is not a good choice unless you have a suitable vehicle and adequate supplies if needed. Cell phones may or may not work here depending on the carrier.
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