The Best Camping Near Joshua Tree National Park, California

The Best Camping Near Joshua Tree National Park, California

Flaunting whimsical trees, fascinating rock formations, and dark skies ideal for stargazing, campgrounds near Joshua Tree National Park offer round-the-clock adventure. Explore over 300 miles of hiking trails and more than 250 species of birds on your Joshua Tree National Park camping trip.

Joshua Tree National Park, California
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About Camping Near Joshua Tree National Park

Campgrounds near Joshua Tree National Park boast an otherworldly beauty thanks to the countless desert vistas, skyward-reaching trees, and stunning cactus gardens. Explore on foot, by bike, or even on horseback to take in the mesmerizing sights of the deep desert. Rock climbers enjoy over 8,000 routes throughout the park’s iconic rock formations and boulders. Be sure to pack the camera on your Joshua Tree National Park camping trip – both for the desert flora and fauna in the daytime, and the sublime stargazing at night.

Top Campgrounds Near Joshua Tree National Park, California

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Joshua Tree National Park Camping FAQs

Joshua Tree was the eighth-most visited national park in 2022. Routinely in the top 10 for visitation, this park has exploded in popularity over the last decade. In 2014, the park saw roughly 1.5 million visitors annually. Less than a decade later, Joshua Tree was getting more than 3 million annual visits! Suffice to say, you want to make plans well ahead of time if you want to camp in the park.

What Is Joshua Tree National Park Known For?

Besides being the de facto spring break spot for everyone in Southern California, Joshua Tree National Park is most famous for its rock formations and desertscape. Before you even enter the park, you’ll start to see these incredible boulders as you travel into Joshua Tree, California (a city separate from the park).

Once you’re in the park itself, there are so many great desert hikes to enjoy, rocks to climb, and off-road trails to explore. Joshua Tree has more than 1,000 square miles of wilderness to traverse in your off-road rigs, making it one of the best off-road spots in Southern California.

Top Sights to See in Joshua Tree National Park

Skull Rock

It’s exactly what it sounds like: a big, skull-shaped rock. That might not sound immediately interesting to you, but I promise, it is. In fact, this is one of the park’s biggest attractions. On the main east-west road in the park, this rock isn’t hyperbole; it really does look like the name suggests, making for a really interesting photo opportunity.

There’s an approachable 1.8-mile trail separating you from Skull Rock. If you go during wildflower season, you’ll get great views of the local flowers along the interpretive trail.

The Night Sky

The night sky is beautiful here at all times, but there’s an annual festival that you absolutely have to see if you’re in town at the same time. The event is ticketed and popular, so plan ahead. Of course, if you can’t get into the festival, the low levels of light pollution mean you’re treated to the wide-open night sky anytime the sun goes down. Joshua Tree is designated as a Silver Tier-level International Dark Sky Park.

The Old Mines

In the 1870s, this area was a hotbed of mining activity. In fact, it’s estimated that the park still has roughly 300 abandoned mines. While you can hike to them, these mines aren’t stable nor safe to enter. A few of the more popular ones, like Lost Horse Mine, are maintained by the park. However, even the ones the park has maintained are not safe to walk on. Take lots of pictures though!

The Best Time to Visit Joshua Tree National Park

There are roughly two peak seasons at Joshua Tree National Park: March to May and October to November. March is the best time to be in the park, but November is a decently close second. Joshua Tree is hot, and it’s difficult to exaggerate how uncomfortable summer hiking here can be. July averages 103 degrees during the day! Summer hiking isn’t just unpleasant; it’s potentially dangerous. Be very selective and well-prepared if you’re hiking during the summer.

From March to May, you’ll find wildflowers and moderate temperatures. March has a high of 73 on an average day, though that number gets up to about 90 degrees by late May. Still, this is easily the best time of year overall to visit. You get moderate hiking weather alongside arguably the most beautiful season in the desert. The only downside? Everyone else has the same idea. Extroverts, maybe you see this as a plus.

If you’re willing to trade wildflowers for fewer visitors (though you’ll still hardly be alone), October and November are your best bets. High temperatures are in the 80s and 70s, respectively, with overnight lows still above freezing. Still, whether you visit in spring or fall, be sure to bring water and layers.

It’s obvious why you wouldn’t want to visit in summer, but what about winter? Well, this section of the country actually gets cold during the winter. Now, we aren’t talking sub-zero temperatures, but colder than many visitors might expect. Overnight lows are around freezing, and can oftentimes get below 32 degrees. The desert floor gets cold, so most campers will want to pass. That said, adept winter campers can take advantage of the minimal winter visitation.

Tips on Entering Joshua Tree National Park

Peak Season Backs Up Entrances

Experienced national park travelers won’t be surprised by this one. Really, it’s nothing new—all popular parks have this issue, and Joshua Tree sure is popular. Your best bet if visiting during peak season is to avoid the west entrance near the city of Joshua Tree. You’ve got a couple of other options, and both are much better. Many visitors are coming locally from greater Los Angeles and entering from the west, so the west entrance line can get up to a mile long. Yikes!

The Main Visitor Center Isn’t in the Park

Joshua Tree National Park isn’t the only park to do this, so this may not be a surprise to experienced national park travelers either. The main visitor center is on Park Boulevard in the city of Joshua Tree, south of Highway 62. You, of course, don’t have to stop into this one since there are three others, but it is the popular stopping point. Regardless of which one you choose, be sure to stop into one and grab a map and any necessary information ahead of time.

The Joshua Tree Visitor Center is also near some outfitter companies in case you need any fuel, carabiners, or other outdoor essentials you might have forgotten about.

GPS Is Notoriously Unreliable Out Here (and Service Is Spotty)

Again, this is something you’ll find in other parks, but it’s still really important to be aware of. If you’re coming with a 4×4 or generally capable vehicle, this isn’t as much of an issue. If you’re coming with a sedan or something with low ground clearance, you want to know which roads you can take.

GPS out here sometimes wants to route you onto the park’s backroads (and there are many miles of them). If you’re not straying too far off the beaten path, this shouldn’t be an issue. Always have a paper map and a general understanding of where you are, though.

Tips on Visiting Joshua Tree National Park

Avoid the Summer

It gets incredibly hot out here, and triple-digit temperatures are a way of life in the summer months. The peak season here is inverse from the traditional, so there are few visitors in the summer. There’s a reason for that, though. Can you come here in the summer? Yes. Should you? Only if you’re really good with heat, self-sufficient, and meticulously prepared.

Don’t Underestimate Overnight Lows

On the other end of the spectrum from summer, winter lows get quite cold on the desert floor. While they probably won’t scare anyone from the Midwest, you can still expect 30 degrees of swing from the high to low temperature. It’s also safe to assume the park will be colder than most weather apps say it is, since those usually use a nearby point of reference instead of one in the park itself.

Observe the Speed Limit

You should do this anyway, obviously. I mean, seriously, what’s your rush? You’re in a national park. Regardless, desert tortoises cross the road from time to time, and they move at glacial speeds. You don’t want to flatten one into the road nor swerve to try to avoid them, so just give yourself plenty of room for error. Besides, the leisurely drive through the park is supposed to be relaxing.

How to Camp in Joshua Tree National Park

Camping in Joshua Tree is awesome, and everyone knows it. However, that makes campsites hard to get from October to May, and on all holidays. There are 500 campsites here, with most of them requiring an online reservation. Campgrounds book fast in peak seasons, but you can reserve one up to six months in advance. Cell service is hit or miss out here, so don’t bank on trying to reserve a campground once you get near the park.

Can’t get a spot in the park? No worries! There are plenty of private campgrounds in the area, and boondocking fans can utilize BLM land nearby. If you want a few amenities, though, Campspot has you covered.

Best Campspot Campground Near Joshua Tree National Park for Tent Campers

Lake Hemet Campground

Overlooking the gorgeous Lake Hemet, Lake Hemet Campground should be first on the list for any tent camping visit Joshua Tree. The views here are absolutely immaculate, and the campground took home third place in the category Best Campground for Couples at the 2023 Campspot Awards.

Lake Hemet Campground offers traditional tent accommodations alongside 10 glamping tents. Just because you’re tent camping doesn’t mean you’re roughing it, though. The campground features a long list of amenities, including a boat launch, water park, and even a restaurant.

Best Campspot Campgrounds Near Joshua Tree National Park for RV Campers

Joshua Tree RV Campground

You can’t beat Joshua Tree RV Campground for proximity to the park. In Joshua Tree, California, you’ll be just minutes from the park’s entrance when you stay here. RV campers planning to see Joshua Tree National Park during peak season should strongly consider staying here. It makes it a whole lot easier to get up early and beat the lines when you’re just minutes from the entrance.

The offerings here are simple, but you’ll have everything you need, including full hookups, laundry, showers, and a dump station.

The Sands RV & Golf Resort (Age Restricted 55+)

Older travelers wanting a quiet getaway will find one at the beautiful Sands RV & Golf Resort. You don’t have to hit the links to enjoy The Sands, though. In beautiful Desert Hot Springs, California, The Sands has picturesque views everywhere you look. You can’t beat this spot for luxury anywhere near Joshua Tree National Park!

The amenity list includes a pool, shuffleboard, a dog park, and plenty of other enjoyable activities. Of course, all your basics are covered in style with wide, premium RV spaces and full hookups.

Best Campspot Campgrounds Near Joshua Tree National Park for Lodging

Indian Wells

Didn’t come in an RV? No problem! Tent camping isn’t your only option when you have three different types of accommodations. Indian Wells offers one- and two-bedroom park model rentals, as well as a travel trailer that can accommodate up to six people. The spacious campground offers more than 300 sites, so whether you want to stay in a park model or you have an RV, you’ll have ample breathing room.

Indian Wells’ location in Indio, California, is a central one. You’ll be positioned well to take day trips throughout much of Southern California. Of course, if the park is your number one priority, you’ll also have easy access to the park’s southern entrance just half an hour away.

Joshua Tree National Park’s popularity has skyrocketed as of late. What was once a fairly popular park, especially for locals, has become a must-see sight for travelers throughout the world. Make your reservations well in advance and take lots of photos!

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