With its close proximity to the California High Desert Area, Ridgecrest is a hub of recreation and tourism. There’s so much to see and do like at historic and educational sites such as the Maturango Museum or outdoor recreational areas such as the Big and Little Petroglyph Canyons.
1. Maturango Museum, Ridgecrest, CA
© Maturango Museum
Established in 1962, the Maturango Museum is dedicated to sharing the natural and cultural history of the diverse Mojave Desert. Visitors will be able to see displays of Native American artifacts, contemporary arts and crafts, the Joshua Tree Habitat, and exhibits of animals, plants, rocks, fossils, and minerals. One of its most popular aspects are the guided tours the museum offers of the Coso Rock Art District in the China Lake Naval Weapons Station. Plan your visit around one of the their many annual events such as the Wildflower Show, the Ridgecrest Desert Wildflower Festival, or the Sylvia Winslow Exhibit Gallery Show. Browse our California weekend getaways guide for more ideas.
100 E Las Flores Avenue, Ridgecrest, CA 93555
2. Big and Little Petroglyph Canyons
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When you’re visiting Ridgecrest be sure to head out to the Mojave Desert, where within its Coso Range Mountains you will find two landforms: the Big and Little Petroglyph Canyons. These stunning platforms hold petroglyphs, or rock art, created by Paleo Indians and/ or Native Americans. There are over 20,000 documented images here, which is one of the largest amounts in any one location, and much of the images are remarkably undisturbed. There are various interpretations as to the meaning and function of the Coso petroglyphs, much of which you can learn about in the many guided tours that are available.
Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake
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3. Red Rock Books, Ridgecrest, CA
© Red Rock Books
Red Rock Books is a unique and charming bookstore that can be found in the historic Old Town Ridgecrest area - as a matter of fact, it’s the only physical bookstore in all of Ridgecrest. The family owned store has been around for generations and the building itself is quite popular historically for housing several other businesses prior such as a music store, a shoe shop, and a pet store. The wonderful 7,000-square-foot space holds an endless amount of new and used books, magazines, and other items, and if there’s anything you can’t find there, they’ll be sure to get it for you.
206 W. Ridgecrest Boulevard, Ridgecrest, CA 93555, Phone: 760-375-3454
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4. Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake
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Located in the Western Mojave Desert, Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake has been in use since 1943. It is the United States Navy’s largest single landholding and houses over 85% of the Navy’s space for research and development, testing and evaluation, acquisition, and weapons. Though installation tours are solely for official visitors and school trips, there are limited access tours to their museum which is filled with equipment, old fighter planes, and other artifacts, and into Little Petroglyph Canyon where you can see over 20,000 petroglyph drawings and paintings.
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5. Petroglyph Park
© Maturango Museum
Dedicated to observing and honoring Native American culture and art, Petroglyph Park is the latest addition to LeRoy Jackson Park. Visitors of all ages will love exploring the space and seeing the stunning artwork; the pictographs, petroglyphs, trails and blinds are representations of the works of indigenous natives, some of which are over 13,000 years old. You’ll feel as if you were transported to original tribal grounds as you wander through the 12-acre park. Additional features of the park include cooking facilities, picnic areas, playgrounds, and restrooms. The park is also home to the Ridgecrest Petroglyph Festival, popular festivities which attract locals and visitors from all over.
Ridgecrest, CA 93555, Phone: 760-375-8202
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6. Rademacher Hills
© Rademacher Hills
Outdoorsy visitors who are in Ridgecrest should definitely consider spending a day exploring the trails at Rademacher Hills. The 14-mile network winds through desert terrain and is perfect for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding. The level of difficulty varies from each of the 11 trailheads, ranging from open, flat paths to steep, rocky ridges. You’ll see interpretive signs along the way which will give you a better understanding on the area’s cultural history, natural resources, and geographical points of interests. The entire family is guaranteed to have a good time, especially between March and June when the weather is ideal for a day outdoors.
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7. Chimney Peak Byway
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Spanning nearly 40 miles, the Chimney Peak Byway gives you the opportunity to drive through one of California’s best desert landscapes. It could take you approximately one to two hours to drive the entire length of the rugged trek depending on the weather. On the road-less-traveled, you’ll get an up-close glimpse of designated wilderness, the Sierra Nevada, and the Mojave Desert ecosystem. Some of the animals you may come across include black bears, mountain lions, mule deer, bobcats, and much more. There are several public lands you can stop by to partake in outdoor activities such as camping, mountain biking, and horseback riding.
Between Hwy 178 and Nine Mile Canyon Road, Ridgecrest, CA 93527, (website link)
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8. Best Things to Do in Ridgecrest: Xin Bowl Asian Bistro
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Xin Bowl Asian Bistro is a family-favorite restaurant in Ridgecrest that is known for their delicious Asian fusion cuisine. All of the meals are made with fresh, natural ingredients and are cooked using healthy methods so that they provide the most nutritional value. The menu has everything from sushi and sashimi to noodles and rice dishes. Popular lunch entrees include the sweet & sour kitchen, spicy Thai green curry chicken, and the chicken with black beans. If you’re up for a sushi lunch, the three-piece nigiri sushi, which is chef’s choice, and the Ridgecrest Sushi Combo are extremely popular with patrons.
111- N. China Lake Blvd. Ridgecrest, CA 93555, Phone: 760-446-3888
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9. Best Things to Do in Ridgecrest: Schooners
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Schooners Patio Grille has been serving the people of Ridgecrest with delicious food and ice cold beer for over thirty years. It’s the best place to go when you’re in the mood for a filling, homestyle cooked meal. The menu is filled with thick crust pizzas, juicy burgers, and South of the Border favorites like nachos, quesadillas, burritos, tacos, and more. Daily specials are a great choice, especially on weekends when BBQ Ribs and Shrimps are served on Saturdays and Ribs and Cheesy Bread on Sundays. Thursdays and Fridays and steak days so don’t miss out on that either!
1400 N. Norma Street, Ridgecrest, CA 93555, Phone: 760-446-2700
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