Exploring the Adventurous Side of the Antelope Valley

The Antelope Valley is a wild desert oasis with fascinating wildlife, ancient artifacts, landscape,  and aerospace history. It is the location where Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier and where the Air Force has its flight test center. For decades, people have been traveling to the Antelope Valley to seek adventure and see if they had the right stuff.

Antelope Valley is located 30-minutes north of Los Angeles in Northern LA County. It is a vibrant community of 457,000 people and the center of Aerospace. The main cities are Palmdale and Lancaster.  

There are many amazing adventures for any van and RV nomads in Antelope Valley. Most of these adventures revolve around exploring the surrounding desert, hiking, and watching the wildlife. 

The 12 adventures (I admit two are outside the Antelope Valley) I have highlighted in this article will provide you with an assortment of adventures to go on from hiking fantastic rock features, racing a car over 100mph, boondocking, fishing, and driving on a musical road. Al list of these adventures are:

When to Visit 

The best time to visit the Antelope Valley is in the fall or springtime. The springtime is my favorite because the wildflowers put on a colorful display, and the weather is excellent with an average temperature of 75 º F.  Summer temperatures average 95º F and occasionally get as high as 115º F. Still, evenings are peaceful with warm breezes and clear skies.  The average minimum temperature during the winter is 33º F.   

Antelope Valley Poppy Preserve

The Antelope Valley Poppy Preserve offers eight miles of trails through gently rolling hills. It is a great place to get away from the city and relax in the quiet of the countryside, with the birds singing and hawks gliding silently overhead. 

The preserve offers benches located along the trails that make good places to sit quietly and watch for wildlife, such as meadowlarks, lizards, and gopher snakes.  If you are lucky, you may spot a coyote or bobcat.  Numerous burrows around the trails may shelter mice, gophers, kangaroo rats, beetles, scorpions, etc.

The best time to visit the Antelope Valley Poppy Preserve is during the springtime, when there is a chance that the poppies are blooming. If you are lucky enough to be there when this happens, you will be rewarded with an unforgettable landscape of yellow, purple, and blue.

Willow Springs Racetrack

Willow Springs International Motorsports Park is a unique stopover for any van lifer looking to see how fast their van can go around a racetrack. Willow Springs is located about 15-minutes north of Palmdale against a small mountain.  

The main racetrack is a 2.5-mile-long road course that is challenging and provides drivers with elevation changes and high speeds.

On the weekends, the racetrack will be filled with people pushing their sports cars to the limit. Some drivers will take you around the track if you help split the track cost. But if you prefer to sit back and watch the action, that is okay.

Exotic Feline Breeding Compound

The Exotic Feline Breeding Compound, or the Cat House as the cats like to call it, is a fun place to visit for any van or RV nomad looking to learn about exotic cats.  They have a variety of cats on display to include leopards, tigers, lynx, bobcats, and many other types of cats. 

The Cat House is an amazing place to learn about these magnificent animals. 

Vasques Rocks

Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park is 932-acre and located in the Sierra Pelona Mountains near Agua Dulce.  The rocks provide a perfect place for hiking or practicing your rock-climbing skills.  

Several hikes are possible at Vasquez Rocks. The most popular hike is a half-mile exploration of Famous Rocks, the most recognizable rock formation in the park. For a longer hike, try the park loop, which traces a portion of the Pacific Coast Trail (PCT).

  • See: Vasquez Rocks
  • Fee: Free
  • Address:  10700 West Escondido Canyon Road, Agua Dulce, CA 

Saddleback Butte State Park

Saddleback Butte State Park is a great place to spend the day hiking or just enjoying the surroundings. The mountain is 3,651 feet tall and towers over the Antelope Valley. The park is located 15 miles east of Lancaster on the western edge of the Mojave Desert.

You can hike to the top of Saddleback Butte by taking the Little Butte Trail for about 2.5 miles or the 2-mile Saddleback Butte Peak Trail.  Both trails are easy at the beginning but get more challenging as you reach the summit. But once you reach the summit, you will be rewarded with 360º views of the Antelope Valley and the Mojave Desert.

The state park was created in 1960 to protect the mountain butte, the native Joshua Trees, and other plants and animals that were once common throughout this high desert region. Please be mindful while hiking in the park and practice leave no trace behind.

There is a campground with 37 sites located here that is first-come, first-served. The campsites feature a table, ramada, BBQ grill, and fire ring.  Potable water faucets and full restrooms with a flush toilet and sink are located throughout the campground.  No showers.

  • Website: Saddleback Butte State Park 
  • Fee: $6 per vehicle; $20 camping
  • Address: 170th Street East, between East Avenue J and East Avenue K

The Musical Road

The Musical Road is an adventure where you do not even have to leave your van or RV. The road was created for a Honda commercial in 2008 and has become a tourist attraction ever since.

The musical road plays musical notes to the finale of Rossini’s “William Tell Overture.” The sounds are created as you drive over strategically placed grooves in the road.

The road is in Lancaster on Avenue G. The original road was paved over after residents complained of the noise but was relocated to a place further away from homes.

If you wish to hear the musical road play a tune, you must stay in the far-left lane. Though many drivers have tried the road at multiple speeds, it is said that driving at the speed limit of 55mph provides the optimal sound quality.

  • Location: 3187 W Ave G, Lancaster, California, 93536
  • Fee: Free

Apollo Regional Community Park

Apollo Park is located a mile from the Music Road and about 5-minutes from the freeway. It is a beautiful park that features three artificial lakes and tall trees.  

The park is named after the Apollo 11 astronauts and was dedicated in 1972.  

The 54-acre park hosts three fishing derbies every year, two for adults and one for youth, with prizes awarded for the biggest catch. Patrons can enjoy lunch under one of the many picnic shelters or just take a stroll on the walking paths around the beautiful lakes.

Apollo Regional Community Park is a perfect place to stopover and relax while driving to Mammoth.

Blackbird Airpark / Joe Davis Heritage Airpark

Blackbird Airpark is a must-visit for any van or RV lifer interested in aviation and has dreamed of flying some of the world’s fastest planes. The park is part of the Air Force Flight Test (AFFT) Museum at Edwards AFB.

Blackbird Park is the world’s only display of a Lockheed SR-71A and its predecessor, the A-12. The CIA version of the plane. There is also a D-21 drone and the only remaining U-2 “D” model in the world.

The Airpark was established to preserve these great military aircraft. It provides visitors from worldwide with an exciting and educational experience.

The Joe Davis Heritage Airpark is located next to the Blackbird Airpark. Visitors to the Airpark will see a collection of aircraft flown, tested, designed, produced, or modified at the United States Air Force Plant 42. The Airpark includes 21 retired military aircraft on static display, plus a 1/8 scale model of the B-2 Spirit, an AGM-28 Hound Dog Missile, a B-52, a C-46, and various aircraft components.                        

Devil’s Punchbowl County Park

Closed Due to Bobcat Fire

The Devil’s Punchbowl is a great place to spend the day exploring, rock climbing, and hiking among its rugged canyons and hills. The Devil’s Punchbowl is located in Valyermo and was created by the movement of the San Andreas Fault.

The fault created 1,310-acres of the unique landscape for visitors to explore. The landscape has Joshua Trees, California Junipers, Pinyon Pine Woodland, Desert Chaparral, and various wildlife.

Most people hike the 1.1-mile round-trip Devil’s Punchbowl Loop Trail. There is also a longer 7.5-mile loop trail that guides you through a deep canyon formed by the water runoff from the San Gabriel Mountains.

  • Location: 28000 Devils Punchbowl Rd, Valyermo, CA 93553
  • Website: Devils Punchbowl
  • Fee: Free

Just Outside the Antelope Valley

Red Rock Canyon State Park

Red Rock Canyon State Park is a great place to visit and camp while exploring the desert outside the Antelope Valley.  The park is located at the Sierra Nevada mountains’ southernmost tip and the El Paso Range.

The park has beautiful desert cliffs and canyons to explore. Each canyon is unique, with dramatic shapes and vivid colors. The park is well worth visiting for the scenic desert cliffs and the vivid colors during sunrise and sunset. Even if you stop over for a few hours, a visit is well worth it.

Located within the park is the Ricardo campground. It offers 50 primitive campsites, potable water, pit toilets, fire rings, and tables. There are no RV hook-ups or showers.

  • See: Red Rock Canyon
  • Fee: Entrance $5; Camping $10
  • Address: 37749 Abbott Dr, Cantil, CA 93519

Jawbone Canyon and Dove Springs OHV BLM

If you are looking for some off-roading and boondocking adventures just outside the Antelope Valley then Jawbone Canyon and Dove Springs OHV are excellent places to explore. Jawbone Canyon runs through Dove Springs OHV.

The Jawbone Canyon Off-Highway Vehicle Area provides a wide variety of riding opportunities, including cross country play, trail riding, and advanced technical hill climbing opportunities. Jawbone is also a great starting point to explore the hundreds of miles of trail riding opportunities available in the area outside of the OHV Open Area.

The Dove Springs OHV area offers over 5,000 acres of sandy bowl, flat terrain, and steep hill to ride. There are hundreds of miles of trails and riding opportunities within the OVH area to explore.

What is best about both of these areas is that it is BLM land; you can boondock for up to 14 days. If you don’t feel like boondocking, right outside the park is Red Rock Canyon State Parks and the Ricardo campground.  

Conclusion

The Antelope Valley is a fantastic place to explore and have fun while traveling in your van or RV. There are plenty of adventurous activities to keep you occupied and never bored. I hope you enjoy all that Antelope Valley has to offer.

References and Other Adventures: 

River Rafting

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