Rainbow Basin/Owl Canyon Campground


The Rainbow Basin Natural Area/Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC), managed by the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Barstow Field Office, is located eight miles north of Barstow, California, off Irwin Road (not Fort Irwin Road). The main access route is Fossil Bed Road. The ACEC has outstanding landscapes, geological, and paleontological features. Its multicolored rock walls, accented by changing light conditions, create dramatic photographic opportunities.

Activities include hiking, camping, photography, sightseeing and horseback riding. The washes are good hiking trails to discover the natural beauty of our public lands.  Visitors can also drive the Fossil Canyon Loop, a narrow one-way dirt road best driven in high clearance or four-wheel drive vehicles. Touring is only authorized on routes signed as open and is prohibited in all washes.  


Know Before You Go

  • Permits are needed to remove fossils. If any are found, leave them in place and notify the Barstow Field Office at (760) 252-6000.
  • Poisonous snakes are common desert hazards.
  • Be aware weather extremes.  Rainbow Basin has a flash flood risk. 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 adequate water, food, clothing, and first aid supplies.
  • Rainbow Basin is a mix of public and private lands.  Respect landowners' rights. All BLM California Desert District offices sell Land Status maps that show land ownership (public, private, state and military).
  • Drive only on routes signed as open. Routes not signed as "open" are closed to all vehicles.
  • Staging off-road vehicles/ATVs is prohibited in the Rainbow Basin ACEC and Owl Canyon Campground.

Camping and Fees

The Owl Canyon Campground has 22 campsites (no hookups) that are available on a first-come first-serve basis. Campsites include a picnic table and a fire ring. The camping fee is $6.00 per night. Potable water may or may not be available, but 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 Baker or Barstow, California. Please follow Leave No Trace principles: pack it in—pack it out.

Adventure is at Your Fingertips


Geographic Coordinates

35.01236944, -117.0385861


Rainbow Basin Natural Area is located 8 miles north of Barstow, California, off Irwin Road (not Fort Irwin Road). The main acess route is Fossil Bed Road.