Joshua Tree National Park has nearly 500 campsites, the majority of which are first-come, first-served. Only the Black Rock, Indian Cove, Sheep Pass, and Cottonwood Group campgrounds accept reservations from September to May.
If you plan a trip to Joshua Tree, the nearest major airport is Los Angeles International (LAX). If there is no traffic, the drive from Los Angeles to Joshua Tree National Park takes 2.5 hours on I-110, I-610, and I-10; if there is traffic, the drive will take four hours.
Base yourself in Yucca Valley, Joshua Tree, or Twentynine Palms to explore the national park.
If you don’t want to drive, you can take a flight to Palm Springs International Airport. It’s a 45-minute drive to Joshua Tree National Park’s Cottonwood Springs entrance or a 55-minute drive to the West Entrance.
In this case, you could base yourself in Palm Springs; however, because this guide does not provide additional information about attractions in Palm Springs, we recommend booking accommodations in Yucca Twentynine Palms, Valley of the Kings, or Joshua Tree, as mentioned above.
How to Get the Best View of the Stars at Joshua Tree at Night
At Joshua Tree, at 4000 feet elevation and hundreds of miles from the nearest city, you’ll find some of the darkest skies left in Southern California.
Joshua Tree’s skies are so free of light pollution that it was recently designated as an International Dark Sky Park.
Eliminating artificial light sources in the park and lobbying for better light ordinances in nearby towns, according to park rangers, is part of keeping Joshua Tree wild.
Many visitors will see shooting stars, learn about constellations, and get their first glimpses of the Milky Way in Joshua Tree at night.
To help you plan your trip, we’ve compiled a list of the best nights for stargazing and astronomy. While views of the night sky are good throughout the park, astral visibility is best on the park’s eastern side, further away from Palm Springs.
- Only use red lights.
Use of bright white flashlights, headlamps, or cell phones is not permitted. The human eye takes 20-30 minutes to adjust to low-light conditions fully—bright lights slow this process. A regular flashlight can be transformed into a red light by wrapping it in red cellophane, tape, fabric, paper, or similar materials.
- Food and water should be brought.
Make a plan. Most of the park is devoid of running water.
- Build Up Your Layers
Temperatures quickly drop in the evening. Bring extra layers of clothing to keep you warm.
- Bring Your Chair
You may be on your feet and looking up for extended periods. A lightweight folding chair will help keep everyone in your group comfortable while also reducing strain. Avoid trampling vegetation and keep an eye out for cacti in your area.
- Take Care of Your Steps
At night, cacti, nocturnal animals, and uneven surfaces may be difficult to see. Check your viewing area for hazards with a red light.
- Stay away from the Moon.
The number of stars visible is reduced by bright moonlight. Therefore, check the Moon’s phase, as well as its rise and set times, to determine the best time to stargaze.
Here are the best Joshua Tree Campgrounds for Stargazing.
Belle Campground has only 18 campsites, making it an excellent choice if you want to avoid the crowds that can be found at larger campgrounds.
This is a fantastic campground in a stunning national park. It’s small, and many of the locations are surrounded by stunning rock formations.
The hiking in the park is spectacular. Unfortunately, there were no ranger programs while we were there, possibly due to a lack of federal government support. The park handout material was from a season or two ago, and the rangers were generally uninterested.
Of course, this is dry camping, but the only pump-out station in this large park is at the Black Rocks campground, which is not near the park’s centre. So we stayed in a Travel Trailer at Belle Campground.
Although it is removed from the park’s Mojave Desert highlights, it provides easy access to the Pinto Basin and Sonoran Desert areas. 3,800 feet in elevation (1,158 meters).
Jumbo Rocks Campground
If you’re thinking about going Joshua Tree camping, the Jumbo Rocks campground is a must! The family-friendly Jumbo Rocks campground is only a short hike from Skull Rock, one of the park’s most incredible rock formations.
The park’s Jumbo Rocks campground is one of four that requires reservations all year. Visitors who enjoy warm, dry winters flock to Joshua Tree from October to May, when temperatures range between 70 and 90 degrees during the day and 40-60 degrees at night.
Due to the uncomfortably high desert heat, summer is the park’s off-season. The elevation of Jumbo Rocks is 4,380 feet.
The Jumbo Rocks campground is the largest in Joshua Tree National Park. There are 124 reservable campsites with picnic tables, fire rings, and pit toilets.
Potable water is not a luxury; bring plenty, especially during the summer months!
Weekend nights at the Jumbo Rocks campground usually fill up from October to May, and it can be hectic during the holiday season.
Remember to make reservations because they are required at this highly regarded campground.
Indian Cove Campground
Outside of Twenty-nine Palms, Indian Cove offers some of the best camping in JTree. First, spend the day exploring the steep and tall rock formations rising from the desert floor. Then, sleep in your tent, tucked away in the midst of it all.
Indian Cove Campground is a scenic camping area in the Southern California Desert area of Joshua Tree National Park AND 29 Palms California.
Drive approximately 5 miles southwest off 29 Palms Highway, past the Indian Cove Ranger Station, onto the geologic boulder valley of Indian Cove.
Climbers will appreciate this large campground’s proximity to rock climbing routes.
Non-climbers will enjoy the colourful spring blooms, Mojave yuccas, shrubs, and desert tortoise sightings in the spring and early fall.
There are 91 individual campsites and 13 tent-only group campsites to choose from. Each campsite can accommodate six people and two cars.
Some sites are small and may not be able to accommodate this amount. Water is available two miles away at the ranger station at Indian Campground in Joshua Tree National Park.
Hidden Valley Campground
Hidden Valley Campground has 44 campsites, pit toilets, and no running water. The campground is situated along the park’s boulevard, surrounded by large boulders and Joshua Trees.
Popular among hikers and climbers, the campground is set in a beautiful desert landscape with an easy trail and climbing access.
Because potable water is not available, bring plenty of your own. RVs are permitted but must be no longer than 25 feet in length.
Because of the park’s arid climate, fire danger is almost always excellent in Joshua Tree. Take precautions.
Campfires are only permitted in park campgrounds or picnic areas with designated fire rings or grills. Keep fires to a minimum. Please bring your firewood.
You are not permitted to collect park vegetation, whether living or dead, to fuel your campfire. If you intend to have a campfire, bring enough water to douse it thoroughly.
White Tank Campground
If desert camping is on your bucket list, look no further than White Tank Campground in Joshua Tree National Park, where you can scramble around striking rock formations and stargaze under some of Southern California’s darkest evening skies.
This small campground with hiking trail access has 15 campsites that are first-come, first-served. At the picnic tables available at each site, enjoy dinner cooked over the fire pit.
The White Tank campground, like most in the park, does not have potable water, so bring plenty of your own.
The Joshua Tree National Park camping experience varies depending on changing weather patterns throughout the year, so go in late fall or early spring for the best weather.
Outside of the Phoenix area, this place is a hidden gem. Quiet and tidy. Sites that are well-kept and level, with fire rings, grills, and picnic tables.
The sites are well separated from one another, with excellent hiking and mountain biking trails. The campsite is close to the park’s playground but not to the playground. Instead, we were out shopping in a nearby town.
Sheep Pass Group Campground
Gather your friends and experience the sheer awesomeness of Joshua Tree camping at Sheep Pass Campground, one of the park’s three group campgrounds.
Sheep Pass Campground is a great place to visit; find out how unique Joshua Tree National Park camping is. It has stunning rock formations, beautiful starry night skies, a visually captivating landscape dotted with Joshua trees, and easy access to climbing routes and hiking trails.
The campground has six group campsites, but don’t expect electrical hookups. Unfortunately, there will be no drinking water available, so bring plenty of your own.
Sheep Pass Group Campground is located in the heart of Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California, close to hiking trails and rock climbing routes.
It is one of the park’s three group campgrounds. The facility is surrounded by towering rock formations and uniquely shaped Joshua trees.
Visitors who enjoy warm, dry winters flock to Joshua Tree from October to May, when temperatures range from 70 to 90 degrees during the day and 40 to 60 degrees at night.
Due to the uncomfortably high desert heat, summer is the park’s off-season. Sheep Pass is 4,500 feet above sea level and has a mix of sun and shade.
Cottonwood Campground, located near the park’s southern boundary, has an entirely different vibe than the other Joshua Tree campgrounds.
Cottonwood Campground is located in the Sonoran Desert, so there are no Joshua trees to be found.
And, because of its low elevation of 3,000 feet (914 meters), it is generally warmer than the other campgrounds (a good thing in the winter, a bad thing in the summer).
Cottonwood Campground is also close to one of our favourite hikes in the park, Lost Palms Oasis. There are 62 campsites.
Visit Ryan Campground on your next Joshua Tree camping trip for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to sit atop a towering boulder as the golden glow of sunset illuminates the desert before the stars take over the sky.
Choose from 31 reservable campsites near the park’s centre, all of which are easily accessible to Mt. Ryan and Cap Rock. Fire rings, picnic tables, and pit toilets are provided at each site.
Like many other Joshua Tree National Park camping areas, Ryan Campground does not provide potable water, so bring plenty for drinking and cooking.
Ryan Campground is one of only two designated horse camps in Joshua Tree National Park, so horseback riders are welcome.
The campground has a tranquil setting, primarily large and spread out campsites, numerous rock formations, and massive Joshua Trees. There are also miles of trails to explore, such as the three-mile loop trail that leads up to Ryan Mountain (5,740 feet).
There is a vault toilet but no running water at the campground. There is also a table, a fire ring, and a grill at each location.
The campground roads and parking pads are made of gravel. Pets are permitted in the campground (on a leash) but not on the trails.
Black Rock Campground
You can sleep and explore one of Joshua Tree National Park’s densest Joshua Tree forests at Black Rock Campground.
With 100 individual campsites, Black Rock is a peaceful and family-friendly Joshua Tree camping destination suitable for both experienced and first-time campers.
There is also a separate camping area for horseback riders at the campground. Although Black Rock is one of only two drinking water sources in Joshua Tree National Park, the warm and dry Joshua Tree National Park camping conditions require you to bring plenty of your own.
Choose from 100 different campsites, each with its picnic table and fire ring. There are flush toilets and a dump station at Black Rock Campground, but there are no hookups.