Joshua Tree Camping – What You Need to Know

4 months ago 164
ARTICLE AD

Here’s what you need to know about camping in Joshua Tree.

Joshua Tree National Park is one of our favorite parks. It’s a great getaway with friends, an amazing spot for astrophotography, and we especially love going rock climbing here.

Joshua Tree Camping - What You Need to Know Before Your Trip

This post may contain affiliate links, where we receive a small commission on sales of the products that are linked at no additional cost to you. All opinions are always our own. Read our full disclosure for more info. Thank you for supporting the brands that make Local Adventurer possible.

Last Updated: June 22, 2020

What You Need to Know About Joshua Tree Camping

Now that we live in Las Vegas, Joshua Tree is only 3 hours away. We’ve gone a few times as a day trip but realized it makes for a really long and tiring day. Now when we visit, we try to spend at least one night whether it’s camping, glamping, or hotels.

If you want to make the most of your time in the park, we highly recommend camping for convenience. Driving into the main area of the park takes about 30 minutes, and that’s not counting the time you might have to wait at the gate.

We’ve done tent camping, car camping, and even RV camping in Joshua Tree, and so far we’ve camped at Belle, Jumbo Rock, White Tank, and South BLM land.

In this post, we’ll go over our best tips for Joshua Tree camping. If camping is not your thing, you can also find plenty of hotel options and Airbnbs near Joshua Tree National Park.

What You Need to Know Before Camping in Joshua Tree National Park

There are two seasons for camping: May through September are mostly first-come, first-served and some campsites may close. September through May is busier, and four of the campgrounds are first-come, first-served, and the other four can be reserved online. In each spot, you can have up to 6 people, 3 tents, and 2 vehicles (if there is enough space). Sometimes if your neighbors have a bigger space, they might let you park your second car. You cannot attach lines to any vegetation. Hammocks and slacklines are not permitted in campgrounds. Quiet hours are from 10 pm to 6 am, and check out is at noon. There is a 30-day camping limit each year. Only 14 nights may be between October and May. All tents and camping equipment must be set up within 25 feet of the picnic table or fire grate. Food and odorous items (sunscreen and toiletries) must be stored securely. There are various rodents, foxes, and on rare occasions, black bears. Pets must remain on-leash at all times. Campfires are only allowed in designated fire rings. You must bring your own firewood and you are not allowed to gather vegetation, alive or dead. Bring extra water to douse your fire thoroughly. There are limited spaces that fit RVs and trailers. At Hidden Valley and White Tank Campgrounds, RVs may not exceed a combined max length of 25 feet. Other campgrounds may not exceed 35 feet. If you are unable to find a campground, there is BLM land and private campgrounds nearby. Have cash ready to pay for your campsite. Reservations can be made up to 6 months in advance. Many of the sites do not have potable water. Bring water.

Joshua Tree Camping Sites

There are 9 campgrounds in Joshua Tree.

1. Belle Campground

Year Round: Sites are first-come, first-served.
Number of Sites: 18
Fees: $15/night
Amenities: Pit Toilets, Trash & Recycling Collection

This small campground is great for stargazing and astrophotography. Since the campground is further away from the large sites and popular attractions, it’s also much quieter.

We’ve camped here once in our Airstream. When we arrived at the park late at night, we didn’t realize how hard it would be to find a big enough site for our Airstream + Truck. We circled several campgrounds for hours. Lucky for us, someone was packing up at 3 AM to beat the traffic back to LA, and they had one of the few sites that would fit our RV setup.

For RVers: There are only a few sites that can fit up to a 35 foot RV set up. Look for sites 2, 4, 6-8, and 14-18.

Belle Campground Joshua Tree
Belle Campground Joshua Tree National Park
Belle Campground Joshua Tree National Park California

2. Black Rock Campground

May to Sept: Sites are first-come, first-served.
Sept to May: Reservations required. 
Number of Sites: 99
Fees: $20/night
Amenities: Flush Toilets, Trash & Recycling Collection, Potable Water, Amphitheater, Dump Station

The Black Rock Campground is located in the northwest corner of the park giving you easy access to hiking Warren Peak. On top of that, you’re only five miles away from the town of Yucca Valley which means you can get cell reception (although it still can be spotty). Plus, you’re in one of the thicker Joshua Tree forests in the park which makes for a beautiful backdrop.

The downside is that you still have to drive through the main entrance of the park to visit any of the popular sites, which can have long lines during the busy season.

For RVers: There are a lot more sites at this campground that will fit up to a 35 foot set up for RVs. The campground has 61 ADA-compliant sites, and the Black Rock Horse Camp has 20 sites.

Pro Tip: The Black Rock Nature Center is at the heart of this campground where you can find the park store and exhibits. It’s also a great place to find resources to help plan your day.

3. Cottonwood Campground

May to Sept: Sites are first-come, first-served. Loop B is Closed. Group campsites are reservations only.
Sept to May: Reservations required. 
Number of Sites: 62, 3 group campsites
Fees: $20/night, $35-40/night for the group campsites
Amenities: Flush Toilets, Trash & Recycling Collection, Potable Water, Amphitheater, Dump Station

Cottonwood Campground is located at the southeast entrance to the park. They have all the necessary amenities, and it’s organized into two loops, one of which closes during the summer.

This campground is out of the way and has less to do nearby. Unless you’re only trying to see Lost Palm Oasis, we don’t see ourselves staying here anytime soon.

4. Hidden Valley Campground

Year Round: Sites are first-come, first-served. 
Number of Sites: 44
Fees: $15/night
Amenities: Pit Toilets, Trash & Recycling Collection

The Hidden Valley Campground is climber central. We’ve always wondered what it’s like to camp here, but we have yet to snag one of the coveted spots. Not only are the campsites nestled amongst massive boulders, but it’s walking distance to some of the most iconic climbing in Joshua Tree National Park.

These are usually the first sites to fill up during the busy season and a lot of people stay for the maximum number of days each season. 

The downside is it’s more crowded.

For RVers: RVs up to 25 feet do fit in some of the sites as well. If you’re any larger than that, you’ll have to head to other campsites.

Note: Hammocks and slacklines are not permitted in campgrounds and must be tied to rocks or climbing bolts when set up elsewhere.

Joshua Tree Campgrounds

5. Indian Cove Campground

May to Sept: Sites are first-come, first-served. Loop B is Closed. Group campsites are reservations only.
Sept to May: Reservations required.
Number of Sites: 101
Fees: $20/night, $35-50/night for group campsites
Amenities: Pit Toilets, Trash & Recycling Collection, Amphitheater

The Indian Cove Campground is located off Highway 62 between Joshua Tree Village and Twentynine Palms. It’s a secluded campground with the Wonderland of Rocks and a few trails to explore.

The downside is that you still need to drive to one of the park’s entrances if you plan on exploring the rest of Joshua Tree.

For RVers: There are sites that fit RVs up to 35 feet.

6. Jumbo Rocks Campground

May to Sept: Sites are first-come, first-served. 
Sept to May: Reservations required.
Number of Sites: 124
Fees: $15/night
Amenities: Pit Toilets, Trash & Recycling Collection, Amphitheater

Jumbo Rocks Campground is right in the heart of the park. It’s central to all the major attractions.

On our most recent visit, we car camped here with friends. Not all the sites have enough space for 2 cars, but our neighbors were nice enough to let us leave one of our cars in the space they weren’t using.

For RVers: There are sites that fit RVs up to 35 feet as well as 122 wheelchair accessible sites.

Jumbo Rocks Campground

7. Ryan Campground

Year Round: Sites are first-come, first-served. Equestrian sites require reservations.
Number of Sites: 31
Fees: $15/night, $15/night for equestrian sites, $5/night for bicycle sites
Amenities: Pit Toilets, Trash & Recycling Collection

The Ryan Campground has 31 campsites centrally located in the park. Because it’s right next to the California Riding and Hiking Trail, there are also 4 designated equestrian sites and 3 bicycle sites. The bicycle sites only allow 3 people and 3 tents per campsite.

8. Sheep Pass Campground

Year Round: Sites are available by reservation only.
Number of Site: 6 Group Campsites accommodating anywhere from 10-60 people
Fees: $35-50/night
Amenities: Pit Toilets, Trash & Recycling Collection

Although there are 3 campgrounds with group sites, this is the only one dedicated to groups. Reservations can be made up to a year in advance and RVs aren’t allowed.

9. White Tank Campground

Year Round: Sites are first-come, first-served.
Number of Site: 15
Fees: $15/night
Amenities: Pit Toilets, Trash & Recycling Collection

We stayed at White Tank Campground during our first visit to Joshua Tree, and we loved how quiet it was here. It was also close to Arch Rock, which makes it possible to do some astrophotography at the arch.

Like Belle Campground, it’s away from the more trafficked areas of the park.

For RVers: RVs up to 25 feet are allowed in sites where they fit.

White Tank Campground Joshua Tree National Park California
Arch Rock Nature Trail in Joshua Tree National Park

Free BLM Campgrounds & Dispersed Camping Near Joshua Tree

If all the Campgrounds are full or you’re just looking for other options, there are a few options managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The advantage is that you can camp at these locations for free. The downside is that there are no restrooms and fires are not allowed (though we’ve definitely seen the remains of campfires).

North Joshua Tree BLM

This site is located just north of the Indian Cove Campground with easy access to Twentynine Palms and Yucca Valley. We haven’t personally been to this site, so we’re not sure how it looks, but the location is much more convenient if you want access to restaurants and shops.

South Joshua Tree BLM

There is dispersed free camping just outside of the park south of the Cottonwood entrance. You pull off the side of the road in an area that has a bunch of powerlines. We were confused about where you’re supposed to set up and ended up finding a spot that appeared to be a campsite.

It’s not well maintained, and there are shrubs growing everywhere. It was hard to be sure what was a campsite, but no one told us we had to leave.

Since we were coming back from Anza-Borrego to catch the wildflowers, it was the perfect spot to stay overnight before spending the next day in Joshua Tree.

We don’t recommend camping here unless you’re coming from this direction or exploring other parks nearby, since it’s so far from everything else in Jtree.

Backcountry Camping in Joshua Tree National Park

Backcountry camping is allowed in Joshua Tree National Park as long as you are following the rules. Before heading out into the backcountry, you must register at one of the backcountry boards, where you find the most up-to-date info and guidelines. Here’s a list of the boards:

Black Rock Canyon Cottonwood Spring Covington Geology Tour Indian Cove Juniper Flats Keys West
North Entrance Pine City Pleasant Valley Porcupine Wash Turkey Flats Twin Tanks

After registering, you can find any spot following these general guidelines:

Camp 1 mile away from roads. Stay 500 feet away from trails or water sources. You cannot camp in day-use only areas. Camp on durable surfaces.
Pack it in, pack it out. Do not feed wildlife. Pets are prohibited. Leave what you find.

Private Campgrounds near Joshua Tree National Park

You can also head to private campgrounds around Joshua Tree. Most options are north of the park where you can conveniently get to restaurants and shops too.

North of Joshua Tree

Joshua Tree Lake RV and Campground (44 sites, $) – 40 ft max RV length. They have water and electric hookups, and dump. JT Sportsman Club (78 sites, $) – full hookups. 50 ft max RV length Twentynine Palms RV Resort (170 sites, $) – full hookups and pull thru sites. 55 ft max RV length. Little Pioneertown RV (17 sites, $) RVs only with 60 ft max length. They have full hookups and pull-thru sites Yucca Valley Walmart Parking Lot – We also boondocked in our airstream and car camped here when campsites weren’t available. They just ask you to park far from the store. We always end up buying snacks or firewood here anyways.

South of Joshua Tree

Chiriaco Summit (20 sites, Free, Dispersed Camping) – 40 ft max RV length Palm Springs/Joshua Tree KOA ($) – full hookups available

Map of Joshua Tree Campgrounds

Essential Tips for Campers

Be sure to bring lots of water! We love using these bottles to keep our water cool. A cooler is a must for camping. This is the one we currently use. Pick up wood in town before heading to your campsite. Arrive early in the day to secure your campsites. Check out is at noon so you can claim a spot anytime after that. If you don’t have a reservation, have a back up plan so you don’t get stranded without a place to sleep. Temperatures can vary greatly from day to night. Bring layers and plan accordingly.

What's Nearby

Coachella and Desert X (34.1 mi east, 45 min, map) Palm Springs (54.7 mi east, 1 hr, map) Anza Borrego State Park (103 mi southwest, 1 hr 45 min, map)

Have you gone camping in Joshua Tree? Which of these campsites have you stayed at?

Did you enjoy this post? Pin it for later

Best Campground in Joshua Tree
Best Joshua Tree Camping
Joshua Tree Camping - What You Need to Know Before Your Trip

See More National Park Guides

⟡⟡⟡⟡⟡

“Discovery consists not of seeking new lands but in seeing with new eyes” – M. Proust

Esther + Jacob

Esther and Jacob are the founders of Local Adventurer, which is one of the top 5 travel blogs in the US. They believe that adventure can be found both near and far and hope to inspire others to explore locally. They explore a new city in depth every year and currently base themselves in Las Vegas.

Local Adventurer on Pinterest Local Adventurer on Youtube

You might also love

The post Joshua Tree Camping – What You Need to Know appeared first on Local Adventurer » Travel Adventures in Las Vegas + World Wide.

Read Entire Article