Guide to Camping in Joshua Tree National Park

Guide to Camping in Joshua Tree National Park

Boasting groves of Joshua trees, massive rock formations, and excellent stargazing, camping in Joshua Tree National Park is a truly unforgettable experience.

The park is home to a wide array of campgrounds which provide an excellent place to pitch a tent or park an RV during your trip to south California’s stunning desert region. 

To ensure that your next camping trip to the park goes off without a hitch, here are the best campgrounds to check out in Joshua Tree National Park.

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Campgrounds in Joshua Tree National Park

Jumbo Rocks Campground

  • Type : Tent / RV
  • Open : All year
  • Cost : $20 per night
  • Reservation : Yes

Aptly named, Jumbo Rocks Campground features a scenic backdrop of some of the park’s most characteristic rock formations. It is one of the 4 park campgrounds that require reservations between October and May, though its 124 tent and RV sites are first-come, first-serve during the rest of the year.

The campground is located in the north-central part of the park, just south of Twentynine Palms on Park Boulevard. All of Jumbo Rocks’ campsites are designed to accommodate a maximum of 6 people and 3 tents, as well as 1 to 2 cars.

It’s important to note that there is no water available at Jumbo Rocks, so bringing your own water bottles and containers is a must. However, Jumbo Rocks offers great access to some of the park’s best climbing opportunities, as well as the Skull Rock Trail.

Hidden Valley Campground

  • Type : Tent / RV
  • Open : All year
  • Cost : $15
  • Reservation : No

Located in the west-central section of the park to the south of the town of Joshua Tree, the Hidden Valley Campground is a popular choice among those looking for a cozy camping location.

Hidden Valley Campground offers 44 individual tent and RV campsites and is situated within a small grove of Joshua trees. Every site at the campground is available on a first-come, first-served basis, so be sure to arrive early in the morning (before 9am) on weekends from September to May.

At the campground, you have good access to the scenic Hidden Valley Nature Trail and the Barker Dam loop, the latter of which is home to one of the few bodies of water in the park (swimming is prohibited, by the way).

Oh, and on the topic of water, keep in mind that there is no potable water at Happy Valley Campground.

White Tank Campground

  • Type : Tent / RV
  • Open : All year
  • Cost : $15 per night
  • Reservation : No

Small, but stunning, the 15 site White Tank Campground is a great place to get some solitude within Joshua Tree National Park. The campground is located along Pinto Basin Road, just a short drive away from Jumbo Rocks Campground.

While there is no potable water at White Tank, there is plenty of sunshine, so this is a great place to use solar panels to power all of your electronic devices. The campground is one of the many in Joshua Tree that doesn’t accept reservations, so it’s first-come, first-serve all year round.

White Tank Campground is a particularly good place to camp if you love stargazing because it’s in one of the darkest areas of the park. It’s also just a short distance from the Arch Rock Nature Trail, which is a fun hike if you have a free afternoon.

Belle Campground

  • Type : Tent / RV
  • Open : All year
  • Cost : $15 per night
  • Reservation : No

Perfect for night-sky lovers, the 18 site Belle Campground is a great option if you’re keen to stargaze in Joshua Tree National Park. Belle is located just up the road from White Tank Campground in the north-central part of the park, so it’s a good option if you want to enjoy a quiet weekend in the desert.

Like White Tank, Belle’s campsites are available on a first-come, first-serve basis, only. There is no potable water at the campground, but there are some stunning rock formations and Joshua trees that provide a small bit of respite from the afternoon heat.

Plus, the 38 mile California Riding and Hiking Trail pass right by the campground. If you’re up for an adventure, you can easily hop on and off the trail for a short day hike to the park’s more remote locales.

Cottonwood Campground

  • Type : Tent / RV
  • Open : All year
  • Cost : $25 per night
  • Reservation :

Nestled within the southernmost section of the park, Cottonwood Campground is a great place to stay if you want to beat the crowds and see some beautiful wildflowers.

At Cottonwood Campground, there are 62 tent and RV sites, each of which comes with a fire ring (so bring some firestarter!) and a camp table. Additionally, Cottonwood is one of the 2 campgrounds in the park that has potable water and flush toilets all year round.

During the busy season of September through May, reservations are required at the campground. As one of the most popular campgrounds in the southern part of the park, it’s best to make your fall, winter, and spring reservations 6 months in advance whenever possible.

Ryan Campground

  • Type : Tent / RV / Horse / Bike
  • Open : All year
  • Cost : $5 to $20 per night
  • Reservation : Yes

Popular among cyclists and equestrians, Ryan Campground is a small camping option that’s perfect for setting up a home base in the northern part of Joshua Tree. There is no water available at the campground, however, each site does have a picnic table and fire ring.

Ryan Campground is home to 32 campsites, 4 of which are designated for equestrian use only, and 3 of which are designed for cyclists. All of the campsites at the campground must be reserved in advance from September through May, though the horse sites require reservations all year round.

The campground is particularly popular among people looking to hike some or all of the nearby California Riding and Hiking Trail. It’s also located just a short distance from Ryan Mountain, which is a great hike if you want excellent views of the whole park.

Indian Cove Campground

  • Type : Tent / RV
  • Open : All year
  • Cost : $20 to $50 per night
  • Reservation : Yes

The northernmost campground in Joshua Tree, Indian Cove is located just south of the Indian Cove Ranger Station and the town of Twentynine Palms. The campground’s 101 campsites are located at the base of some of the park’s most stunning rock formations, including the Wonderland of Rocks.

Indian Cove is a popular campground, in part due to its proximity to town. It also contains 13 tent-only group campsites, which are perfect for large family or group camping trips. All of the campsites are available on a reservation basis during the busy season (September to May) and are first-come, first-served in the summer.

Although Indian Cove doesn’t have any water, there is water available 2 miles away at the ranger station. Moreover, the campground is a popular starting or ending location for anyone looking to thru-hike the Boy Scout Trail.

Black Rock Campground

  • Type : Tent / RV / Horse
  • Open : All year
  • Cost : $20 to $25 per night
  • Reservation : Yes

Located in the northwestern corner of the park, Black Rock Campground is nestled among one of the densest groves of Joshua Trees in the area. It is one of the most popular options for RV campers because it offers flush toilets, drinking water, and a dump station right in the campground.

The 99 individual sites at Black Rock Campground are reservation-only from September to May. Outside of these dates, the sites are all available on a first-come, first-serve basis. There are also horse campsites available at the Black Rock Horse Camp within the campground.

From the campground, visitors can check out a great network of trails, including a hike that takes you to the top of Warren Peak. Black Rock Campground is also one of the best places in the park to spot the ever-elusive desert tortoise, which can live to be 80 years old.

Sheep Pass Campground

  • Type : Tent
  • Open : All year
  • Cost : $35 to $50
  • Reservation : Yes

One of the only group campgrounds in the entire park, Sheep Pass Campground is an ideal place to spend the night if you’re traveling in a large group. The campground is located near some of the most popular hiking trails in the park and some of the best climbing areas.

Sheep Pass is centrally located within the park, right off of Park Boulevard near Ryan Campground. It contains 6 group campsites, which can accommodate groups of 10 to 60 people.

All campsites at Sheep Pass must be reserved in advance. The sites open for reservation 1 year in advance, so be sure to secure your spot as soon as possible if you’re looking to camp as a large group within Joshua Tree.

Camping Tips for Joshua Tree National Park

There’s no better way to experience all that Joshua Tree National Park has to offer than to camp within the park.

Here are some tips for making the most of your camping trip in Joshua Tree.

  1. Book early. During the fall, winter, and spring months (September to May), it can be very difficult to get a camping reservation at Joshua Tree National Park. While last-minute weekday reservations aren’t impossible to get, you’ll have a hard time finding a last minute weekend site. For reservable campgrounds, book your campsite as early as possible, usually 6 months ahead of time to avoid disappointment.
  2. Have alternatives. If you’re planning a spur of the moment trip to Joshua Tree National Park during the fall, winter, and spring, your first-come, first-served camping options will be limited. Should you struggle to get a campsite in the park, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land outside the park is free if you opt for a dispersed campsite off of a secondary road. Check out the BLM website for more guidance on dispersed camping in the region.
  3. Bring water. There are only 2 campgrounds within Joshua Tree that have potable water; Blackrock and Cottonwood. This means that camping in the park requires quite a bit of pre-planning. Come prepared with your own fillable water tanks, which you can top off at most of the park’s ranger stations before you head into your campground for the night.
  4. Pack a tarp. Even if you’re visiting during the winter months, it can get very hot in Joshua Tree. Most campsites in the park do not offer a lot of shade, so be sure to pack a tarp or something similar to create a place to cool off at your campsite.
  5. Pitch hammocks wisely. Hammocks are popular for lounging about, but Joshua Tree National Park has some very specific rules about where you can and can’t use them. In fact, hammocks aren’t allowed in any of the park’s campgrounds. If you plan to do a lot of climbing during your trip, you’re welcome to pitch a hammock using bolts or protection at the crag. Otherwise, attaching hammock straps, slacklines, or any other ropes to Joshua trees, junipers, or other vegetation is a major no-no in the park.

Gaby Pilson

Gaby is a professional mountain guide with a master’s degree in outdoor education. She works primarily in the polar regions as an expedition guide, though she can be found hiking, climbing, skiing, sailing, or paddling in some of the world’s most amazing places when not at work.