Thinking of camping in Joshua Tree? This guide to Joshua Tree camping includes how to get there, when to go, the best campsites, and more!
If you’re planning an overnight trip to Joshua Tree National Park and wondering where to camp, then you’ve come to the right place. There are plenty of amazing campgrounds in Joshua Tree but, like most destinations, they’re not one size fits all.
Located in south central California, just a few hours from both Los Angeles and Las Vegas, Joshua Tree National Park is famed for its unique “trees” of the same name, incredible hiking trails, dark sky areas, and interesting rock formations.
People tend to come here to spend time in nature as a refuge from the city, but it’s truly a paradise whether you’re a hiker, photographer, or simply someone craving a break in the Mojave Desert.
Table of Contents
Joshua Tree Camping (When To Go & The Best Campgrounds)
How to Get To Joshua Tree
To get to Joshua Tree National Park, you’ll first have to get to a nearby major city. Palm Springs International Airport (PSP) is the closest airport at about 50 miles away, while Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is 143 miles and Las Vegas International Airport (LAS) is 182 miles.
Then, once you land in one of these cities, you’ll have to rent a car. While there is some public transportation in the area, it’s quite limited and the park itself doesn’t have a shuttle service. I recommend renting a car right at the airport and then traveling to Joshua Tree via Interstate 10 or California Highway 62.
How Many Days Do I Need in Joshua Tree?
While you can probably see Joshua Tree National Park’s highlights in a day, if you want to go hiking or explore more of the off-road sites, then I’d recommend at least 2-3 days.
Of course, if you’re coming here for a mental vacation in the desert, then there’s no time limit to how long you should stay in Joshua Tree.
Read more: The Best Places to Camp in California
When to Camp in Joshua Tree
The best time to camp in Joshua Tree is during the shoulder seasons — March through May and September through November. Summers are super hot and, unless you have electricity and bring a heater, winter can be a tad chilly.
That said, November through May is the busiest time of year at Joshua Tree, so definitely book your campsite ahead if you want to secure a spot.
Can You Camp in Joshua Tree Without a Reservation?
Most of Joshua Tree National Park’s 500 campsites are available to book by reservation, which you can do online up to 6 months ahead of time at recreation.gov. Campsites in some areas tend to sell out though, so I do recommend booking ahead of time. Plus, much of the park does not have cell service, so don’t plan to book on the fly.
Campgrounds at Joshua Tree that don’t require a reservation are Hidden Valley, Belle, and White Tank. These are first-come, first-served, and you can pay upon entry. Just keep in mind that these sites tend to be jam-packed during the busy season, especially during weekends, so plan to get there as early in the week as possible.
For more information, visit nps.gov.
Which Campground is Best in Joshua Tree?
Though there are hotels and other accommodations in the surrounding areas, if you want to stay overnight in the park itself, then you’ll have to book a campsite. Thankfully, there are 9 awesome campgrounds in the park to choose from — my favorites are Hidden Valley, Indian Cove, and Jumbo Rocks (although they do tend to book up fast).
Of course, which campground you choose depends on what you’re looking for. Here’s what to expect from each of them.
Best Joshua Tree Campgrounds
Jumbo Rocks Campground
With 124 campsites, Jumbo Rocks Campground is the largest camping area at Joshua Tree. The scenery here is excellent, with large boulders that you can climb, and the famous Skull Rock is just a short hike away. While there are picnic tables, fire rings, toilets, and trash and recycling pickup at this location, there is no electricity or potable water.
Hidden Valley Campground
A first-come, first-served location, Hidden Valley Campground is open year-round and features 44 sites with pit toilets but no potable water. There are some RV slots here, provided your vehicle doesn’t exceed 25 feet, and fees must be paid at the entrance station upon arrival.
This is an extremely popular campground, given that it’s centrally located and in easy reach of most sites, so if you travel during the busy season, then you’ll have to come at the right time to get a site.
Read more: The Ultimate Guide To Vegan Camping
White Tank Campground
One of the smallest campgrounds in Joshua Tree, White Tank is home to just 15 sites. It’s perfect if you’re looking for a peaceful escape without too many people around, and it’s located directly next to Arch Rock Nature Trail. Sites here are first-come-first-served and don’t provide electrical hookups or water.
Sheep Pass Campground
Home to six group campsites, Sheep Pass Campground should be on your radar if you’re accommodating a group of between 10 and 60 people. Though the campground has vault toilets and trash pickup, it does not have electricity or potable water.
Featuring 18 campsites, Belle Campground is open from October through May and is the place to be if you’re looking for another quiet retreat. It’s fairly close to both Pinto Basin and the Sonoran Desert area of the park and provides pit toilets, campfire rings, and picnic tables. It doesn’t have potable water or electricity.
With 31 campsites close to the California Riding & Hiking Trail, Ryan Campground tends to fill up fast. Booking here requires a reservation in advance but features fire pits, vault toilets, and picnic tables. The sites here are non electric and don’t have potable water.
Indian Cove Campground
Close to some great rock formations, Indian Cove Campground is located away from many of the park’s main sites but is the place to be if you’re a rock climber or are just interested in being away from crowds. The campground features 101 campsites and vault toilets, but no potable water.
Home to 62 campsites in the Sonoran Desert, Cottonwood Campground may be away from the Joshua Trees but is home to flush toilets and potable water. The campground is also great for easy access to Mastodon Peak, Los Palms Oasis, and Cottonwood Visitor Center.
Black Rock Canyon Campground
Located on the western side of the park, Black Rock Canyon Campground is away from the park’s main sites but features 99 sites, flushing toilets, and easy access to plenty of hikes. The campground also has cell phone reception and WiFi.
Best Campgrounds Near Joshua Tree National Park
If you get to Joshua Tree and find that all the sites are full, then don’t sweat it — there are some more options nearby!
BLM (Bureau of Land Management) camping is free-range camping on designated pieces of land. Though these sites don’t have any amenities or rangers, they’re great if you are self-sufficient and want to go off-grid. You can find BLM Camping at BLM.gov, and remember to pack all your trash out!
Joshua Tree Lake RV & Campground
Located at 2601 Sunfair Road in the Joshua Tree municipality, Joshua Tree Lake RV & Campground is great whether you’re in an RV or tent. Just 30 minutes from the park, the campground features potable water, firepits, and showers.
Twentynine Palms RV Resort
A campground that also has cottages, Twentynine Palms RV Resort is a higher-end location with electrical hookups, a gym, pool, game room, bathrooms, and showers.
Best Hikes in Joshua Tree National Park
Located near Twentynine Palms, The Cap Rock Nature Trail is a 0.6 mile loop that will take you through woodlands and wildflowers and over to towering rock formations. For those familiar with the story, this is also where you’ll find Gram Parsons’ memorial. With just 20 feet elevation gain, this trail is rated as easy.
Black Rock Canyon and Panorama Loop
A 6.5-mile heavily-trafficked trail, the Black Rock Canyon and Panorama Loop will give you one of the best views in the park. The hike begins at the the Black Rock Canyon Campground visitors center, is ranked as moderate, and is great for wildflower viewing. Hot Tip: Do this hike clockwise for an easier trek back to the trailhead.
Fortynine Palms Oasis Trail
One of the most popular trails in the park, the Fortynine Palms Oasis Trail is a 3.1-mile out-and-back trail that has 700 feet of elevation and is rated as moderate. The trail features one of the most unique landscapes in the park given that it leads you right towards a gorgeous palm fan oasis.
Cholla Cactus Trail
Though the park is known for its Joshua Trees, chances are you’ve seen photos of the Cholla Cactuses that also call it home. These fuzzy cacti are best found on the Cholla Cactus Trail, a 0.25-mile trail rated as easy. Though the trail will only take you a few minutes to traverse, this area is super popular for photography – just don’t touch the cacti, they’re very prickly.
A trail known for its water source (a rarity in the desert), Barker Dam is a 1-mile loop that is famed for its sunsets and bighorn sheep spotting. With just 50-feet of elevation, this trail is rated as easy and will take you about an hour to finish.
What to Pack for Camping in Joshua Tree
Camping Supplies: Camping in Joshua Tree means loading up with quality camping gear. In particular, every trip requires a durable tent, camp chair, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, lightweight backpack, and hammock (only hang hammocks in designated areas, and not on Joshua Trees). I also recommend bringing headlamps and lanterns for walking around at night.
Clothing: Winters in Joshua Tree tend to range from moderately warm to chilly, so you’ll want to pack appropriately for the season. However, regardless of month, the best way to pack is to bring light layers that you can stack them depending on the temperature. You’ll want some moisture-wicking shirts, shorts, and hiking pants.
Shoes: Grippy closed-toe hiking shoes are a must in Joshua Tree to easily traverse the trail and avoid any creepy crawlies.
Water: Because potable water isn’t found at every campsite in Joshua Tree, you’re going to want to bring enough to last you throughout your camping trip. I recommend bringing a refillable jug, hydration bladder, and water bottle.
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