Joshua Tree camping guide for desert adventurers

Joshua Tree Camping Guide for Desert Adventurers

Joshua Tree National Park is a bucket-list camping destination for its unique landscape dotted with the park’s namesake trees and incredible rock formations in a remote and wild setting.

With mountains as a backdrop, the scenery at Joshua Tree is stunning by day, and at night the skies open up to an expanse of stars any tent camper or RVer will never forget.

Finding the best campground to experience Joshua Tree National Park is simple — you only need to read this guide. Inside, you’ll find the top camping options with details on amenities, nightly fees, how to book, what to expect, and even some tips to make your stay even better.

Using this best guide to Joshua Tree camping will help you avoid making rookie mistakes and instead create an amazing vacation unlike any other!

Top Reasons to Visit Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National park

If you’re unsure what there is to do when you visit Joshua Tree National Park, check out these top draws.

HIKING and HORSEBACK RIDING

Joshua Tree has incredible hiking and horseback trails, with experts agreeing they are the best you’ll find on the US west coast. With over 100 miles of trails that meander through the Indian Canyons, you’ll take in waterfalls, scenic landscapes, and fascinating flora and fauna.

ATVs/OFF-ROADING

Joshua Tree is a rare national park that allows four-wheel-drive vehicles, such as Jeeps and ATVs, to explore the trails.

STARGAZING

With no night-time light pollution to detract from the view, you can lay down a blanket in Joshua Tree and feel transported to another world. Bring along a telescope for an even more in-depth look into the universe. Trust me; it will be worth it.

WILDLIFE

The trees that make Joshua Tree so famous are a Yucca plant, that early Mormons named for the branches that looked as if “arms” were pointing them to the promised land.

Take a closer look at this arid landscape, and you’ll see an abundance of wildlife, including 57 species of mammals, along with many types of lizards, amphibians, birds, and insects.

PHOTOGRAPHY

The landscape photography in Joshua Tree is legendary. Whether you’re a professional looking to capture the park’s natural wonders or a guest looking for that epic shot to post to social media, you’ll never be at a loss for the subject matter.

Plan some shots during sunrise or sunset when the colors burst across the landscape for surreal and stunning photos.

SPRING FLOWERS

Wildflowers bloom across Joshua Tree from March through as late as June, with lower elevations showcasing a swath of color earlier in the season. As you hike to higher ground, you’ll encounter wildflowers blooming later in the season.

WEATHER

The weather in Joshua Tree is pleasant most of the year, with clear days with humidity hovering around 25%. Temperatures in the spring and fall average a high/low of 85°F and 50°F (29°C/10°C). Summer (late May-August) brings temperatures of over 100°F (38°C) during the day, with nights around 75°F (24°C). Winter day averages 60°F (15°C) but temps at night can fall to freezing, with snow possible at high elevations.

Best Joshua Tree National Park Campgrounds and RV Parks

Joshua Tree camping is outstanding, with the locations inside and outside the park. Pre-pay camping fees online or at any park entrance station. Up to six guests are allowed per campsite.

1. White Tank Campground

Open for CampingSeptember-May
Sites Available15 primitive RV or tent sites
Nightly Rate$15 – First come, first-served

Amenities:

  • Trash collection bins
  • Vault toilets
  • Campsite picnic table and fire ring

White Tank Campground is in the north end of the park off Pinto Basin Road and is conveniently close to Arch Rock. The campsites (3,800 feet elevation) are well-spaced, giving you a truly rustic camping experience.

Be aware that the RV size limit is 25-feet in length total, which means a travel trailer and tow vehicle combo must be under this number. No generators are allowed.

INSIDER TIPS: Site #4 is extra special if you can snag it, but any spot here is superb for stargazing as it seems darker than other campgrounds in the park.

If you want to be here over the weekend, your chances to secure a spot are best if you arrive midweek, when you won’t have to compete with as many other guests looking for a campsite.

Joshua Tree White Tank Campground (Video)

2. Jumbo Rocks Campground

Open for CampingYear-round
Sites Available124 primitive RV or tent sites – Reservation required Sept-May
Nightly Rate$20

Amenities:

  • Trash collection bins
  • Vault toilets
  • Campsite picnic table and fire ring

Jumbo Rocks Campground (elevation 4,400 feet) has a great central location and provides some of the best views of rock formations.

Some campsites can fit RVs up to 32 feet, while others are tiny and can only fit a tent. No generator use is allowed.

INSIDER TIPS: This campground is possibly the most beautiful in the park, with convenient direct access to trails like the one to Skull Rock.

The campsites at the front of the campground offer better views or cool features like rock formations as part of your site. The larger campsites are at the back if your RV is big.

Jumbo Rocks Campground at Joshua Tree National Park (Video)

3. Hidden Valley Campground

Open for CampingYear-round
Sites Available44 primitive RV or tent sites – First come, first-served
Nightly Rate$15

Amenities:

  • Trash collection bins
  • Pit toilets
  • Campsite picnic table and fire ring

Hidden Valley Campground (elevation 4,200 feet) is the ideal spot if you love to hike and climb, with prime formations, like the Wonderland of Rocks and Chasm of Doom, waiting for you to tackle.

Smaller RVs fit best here, but bring plenty of water and remember that generator use is prohibited.

INSIDER TIPS: This is a very hard campground for availability, especially during the busy season. The slowest days are Monday and Tuesday if you’re trying to grab a campsite.

This campground attracts a young, athletic crowd looking for climbing adventures and has a different vibe than other options within Joshua Tree.

Hidden Valley Campground | Joshua Tree National Park (Video)

4. Indian Cove Campground

Open for CampingYear-round
Sites Available101 primitive RV or tent sites – Reservations required May-Sept
Nightly Rate$25

Amenities:

  • Trash collection bins
  • Pit toilets
  • Campsite picnic table and fire grate

Indian Cove Campground (elevation 3,200 feet) is spectacular with the benefit of being able to refill water at the Ranger Station two miles away.

The campground sits just north of the park’s north main entrance gate and is surrounded by a granite range perfect for climbing. No restrictions are listed for RV length but do inquire with the NPS before booking to ensure you’ll fit.

INSIDER TIPS: With more campsites and a less popular choice for visitors, this campground is easier to secure a spot.

The campground does allow generator use during specified times, which is great for RVers looking to camp with a bit more comfort.

Indian Cove Campground | Joshua Tree National Park (Video)

5. Black Rock Campground

Open for CampingMay-October
Sites Available99 RV or tent sites – Reservations required
Nightly Rate$25

Amenities:

  • Trash collection bins
  • Flush toilets
  • Potable water
  • Campsite picnic table and fire ring
  • Dump station

Black Rock Campground (elevation 4,000 feet) is west of Highway 62 and delivers impressive panoramic views with an abundance of Joshua trees.

While the campground is a long drive from the main park attractions, the number of campsites (that can fit longer recreational vehicles), plus the fact you have water and dump station access, make this park ideal for RVers. You can also run a generator during specified hours.

INSIDER TIPS: This campground is the closest to the towns of Yucca Valley and Joshua Tree, allowing you to grab more supplies, connect to cell phone service, or grab a restaurant meal.

This campground is a top choice for horse backing, with particular campsites set aside to accommodate the staging of horses.

Black Rock Canyon Campground | Joshua Tree National Park (Video)

6. Cottonwood Campground

Open for CampingSeptember-May
Sites Available62 primitive RV and tent sites – Reservation required Sept-May
Nightly Rate$25

Amenities:

  • Trash collection bins
  • Flush toilets
  • Potable water
  • Campsite picnic table and fire ring
  • Dump station

Cottonwood Campground (elevation 3,000 feet) is in a remote southeast section of the park near the Cottonwood Visitor Center. It is possibly the less scenic of the group, with a flatter terrain with fewer rocks or foliage.

On the positive side, the campsites are spread out, which provides more privacy. The lower elevation also means the temperatures here are warmer than those at higher campgrounds.

The campground also offers water, a dump station, and limited generator use. Larger RVs will fit here.

INSIDER TIP: This is a great campground if you want to stay close to I-10 and aren’t looking to visit the popular hiking trails or rock formations that are a long drive to reach.

Cottonwood Campground at Joshua Tree National Park (Video)

7. Belle Campground

Open for CampingSeptember-May
Sites Available18 primitive RV or tent sites – First come, first-served
Nightly Rate$15

Amenities:

  • Trash collection bins
  • Vault toilets
  • Campsite picnic table and fire ring

Belle Campground (elevation 3,800 feet) is another fantastic location for stargazing, but also delivers on interesting rock formations and scenery.

The maximum length for RVs is 35 feet (only six sites of this size), and generators are not allowed. The serenity at this campground is top-notch yet close to Skull Rock and Park Boulevard.

INSIDER TIPS: This campground is easiest to reach from the town of Twentynine Palms and has many spacious campsites. You can get cellphone service a couple of miles up the road.

Belle Campground | Joshua Tree National Park (Video)

8. Ryan Campground

Open for CampingYear-round
Sites Available31 primitive RV and tent sites – Reservations required
Nightly Rate$20 (3 bike sites for $5 a night)

Amenities:

  • Trash collection bins
  • Vault toilets
  • Campsite picnic table and fire ring

Ryan Campground (elevation 4,300 feet) offers a central location and is adjacent to the California Riding and Hiking Trail with four equestrian sites set aside for horse-loving guests.

The campsites are roomy but expect less privacy as this campground is full most of the time due to its prime location.

RV maximum length is 35 feet, and generators are not allowed.

INSIDER TIP: The best advice from experts is to set an alert on your phone or calendar six months out from your expected travel dates to reserve a spot as soon as the Park Service reservation system allows.

Ryan Campground | Joshua Tree National Park (Video)

9. Joshua Tree BLM Campgrounds

Open for CampingYear-round
AmenitiesNone (but guests do state cell phone service works)
Nightly RateFree

There are two dispersed BLM (Bureau of Land Management) campgrounds near Joshua Tree National Park. One campground is north of the park, while the other is south.

Expect more barren terrain and absolutely no facilities, which means dry camping planning. You’ll also need a vehicle to travel in and out of Joshua Tree park each day.

The advantage of choosing BLM for camping is that you’ll never worry about finding a spot, and it’s free. You can bring enough water and supplies to camp for a few days without issue with good planning. However, you may need to leave your campsite on longer vacations to restock supplies.

BLM camping also provides more freedom to make noise or camp with a large group.

BLM Camping North

66455 Broadway

Joshua Tree, CA

BLM Camping South

Cottonwood Spring Rd.

Chiriaco Summit, CA

Joshua Tree South BLM | Free Boondocking in California (Video)

10. Private Campgrounds and RV Parks Near Joshua Tree

If you want to take in Joshua Tree but prefer a more luxurious camping experience with full hookups for RVs, look into these nearby private RV parks and campgrounds:

Joshua Tree Lake RV & Campground

2601 Sunfair Road, Joshua Tree, CA

Little Pioneertown RV

55408 Twentynine Palms Highway, Yucca Valley, CA

JT Sportsman’s Club

6225 Sunburst Avenue, Joshua Tree, CA

Twentynine Palms RV Resort

4949 Desert Knoll Avenue, Twentynine Palms, CA

Palm Springs/Joshua Tree KOA

70405 Dillon Road, Desert Hot Springs, CA

Tips For Visiting Joshua Tree National Park

Arrive or Book Early

Joshua Tree Camping Guide for Desert Adventurers

The first-come, first-served camping in Joshua Tree National Park requires effort to get a spot, especially in high season on a weekend. If your schedule allows, it’s best to arrive Monday-Wednesday to get a campsite through the weekend.

For campgrounds that allow reservations, remember that Joshua Tree uses a six-month rolling advance reservation system, and it’s wise to grab one as close to the date they open booking slots. So, for example, if you want to arrive on May 1, book your campsite on November 1 or very soon after.

Frequent visitors like to call the Ranger Station directly to check the status of first-come, first-served campgrounds. It also can’t hurt to call the Joshua Tree Campsite Reservation Line at (877)444-6777 to check for last-minute cancellations.

Other Joshua Tree pros send out a “scouting car” that can arrive earlier in the day or week to book any available openings and remain at the campground until the rest of the group can arrive. Remember that campsites left vacant for 24 hours will be rebooked, so you can’t reserve without setting up and occupying camp.

Bring Plenty of Water and Supplies

With only two campgrounds with a potable water source, and no other convenient food or water available, you’ll need to haul everything for your stay. Water for drinking and washing up will go quickly, especially during the summer.

Bring as much extra food, water, and other supplies as you can manage to help you avoid time-wasting trips into town.

Be Ready to Unplug

With no Wi-Fi and minimal cell phone coverage, you must expect and plan to be out of touch during your visit to Joshua Tree. With all the unique sites to see and trails to explore, you’ll want your phone to take pictures but won’t miss interruptions from calls and texts.

Summer Is Hot

With temperatures over 100°F during summer in Joshua Tree, you may want to consider visiting at another time of year. Unfortunately, the weather is so unforgiving in the summer that some campgrounds are closed to reduce staff stress and medical issues with guests.

The ideal time, and most busy, is September through November and again in March through mid-May.

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Beware the Jumping Cactus and Other Dangerous Wildlife

Joshua Tree is home to the Jumping Cholla cactus, which can be a painful experience if you get too close during hikes and the barbed spines sink into your skin. For an idea of what I am talking about, check out this video by Classy Flowers!

Other creatures to watch out for are the seven different species of rattlesnakes found around rocks or sunning in pathways, scorpions, and spiders like the brown recluse or black widow. Luckily, rattlesnakes like to hibernate from November through March, but that doesn’t mean you should lower your guard.

Coyotes and mountain lions reside in the park but tend to avoid humans. However, some that are hungry or protecting young may attack or venture into campgrounds, so keep your eyes open.

QUOTE:
"Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore."
-- Andre Gide

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