A Joshua Tree Camping Guide: Everything you Need to Know

joshua tree camping

If you’re always on the hunt for new camping destinations, it’s well worth continuing reading to discover an in-depth guide to Joshua Tree camping as you’ll learn about some of the best campgrounds and accommodation options that are on offer. Better yet, you’ll also learn about some of Joshua Tree’s best-kept secrets that are not posted on any signposts.

Why should you be interested in Joshua Tree National Park camping? Joshua Tree is conveniently located within a short drive of Las Vegas and Los Angeles and features two rugged deserts. The Mojave Desert and the Colorado Desert.

Each year over 2 million adventurers visit Joshua Tree to hike its spectacular hiking trails and to view Joshua Tree’s towering rock formations, gorgeous wildflowers, and spectacular lookout points. While Joshua Tree offers desert terrain, you’ll even be able to hike to a secret oasis where you’ll find a natural spring in the middle of a dry, dusty desert, which is surrounded by palm trees.

Joshua Tree Facts

  • Joshua Trees are also known as Yucca Palms and are native to the park.
  • The National Park covers 1,235 square miles or 3,200 square km.
  • There are 6 distinctive mountain ranges in Joshua Tree.
  • The tallest mountain in Joshua Tree is Quail Mountain. It stands at 5,168 feet tall.
  • The oldest rocks in Joshua Tree are 1.7 billion years old.
  • There are 191 miles of hiking trails within the park.
  • Humans have inhabited Joshua Tree for 5,000 years.
  • The first inhabitants of Joshua Tree are thought to be the Pinto.
  • The first Europeans to set foot in Joshua Tree were Spanish missionaries who chased native converts to Christianity, who had run away from a mission in San Diego.

Joshua Tree Weather

joshua tree camping

The hottest months to visit Joshua Tree are June, July, and August. In July, temperatures typically range from 69 degrees Fahrenheit at night to 100 degrees Fahrenheit during the day.

The coldest months of the year, November, December, and January, fall to 35 degrees Fahrenheit at night and reach 60 degrees Fahrenheit during the middle of the day. 

For the rest of the year, temperatures range from a low of 39 degrees at night to a high of 86 degrees. 

Best Time of Year to go Camping in Joshua Tree

Spring and fall are the best times to explore Joshua Tree. When the average maximum temperature is around 85 degrees, you’ll be able to hike and explore the Mojave Desert and the Colorado Desert without having to deal with extreme temperatures.

I recommend visiting Joshua Tree during the spring season, which takes place from March to May. Or during the fall season, between October and November.

Joshua Tree Camping Rules

Joshua Tree Camping

Backcountry camping in Joshua Tree is permitted if you register for a permit. If you enjoy solitude and are interested in freedom camping, there are three key rules which you have to follow. You must not pitch your tent within a mile of a road, and you must not camp within 500 feet of an established hiking trail. Lastly, you must leave no trace of your stay. You can read more about backcountry camping later in this article.

The Best Places to go Camping in Joshua Tree

Jumbo Rocks Campground

Jumbo Rock Campground is known for its granite boulders and offers 124 campsites. Many of which can accommodate RVs. Each campsite offers a concrete picnic table, a fire pit, and a grill. If you’re searching for the best Joshua Tree campgrounds, it’s well worth spending a few nights at Jumbo Rocks Campground.

Jumbo Rocks Campground is centrally located and is located within a stone’s throw of some of Joshua Tree’s most popular hiking trails. As an example, the entrance to Skull Rock Trail is located in Jumbo Rocks Campground. You can also walk from Jumbo Rocks Campground to the start of the Ryan Mountain Trail.

If you plan to spend a weekend camping in Jumbo Rocks Campground, you’ll be able to take advantage of the ranger-led programs, which are held on Friday and Saturday nights.

Lastly, Jumbo Rocks Campground is the perfect spot to stargaze and offers plenty of nearby rock climbing opportunities.

Jumbo Rocks Campground

While the campground is open year-round, you’ll need a reservation if you plan to camp at Jumbo Rocks Campground from late August to June. Reservations can be made six months in advance by visiting www.recreation.gov.

Rattler Ranch

If your days of sleeping in a tent are over and you prefer a little extra comfort, it’s well worth staying at Rattler Ranch. It’s located in the beautiful Mojave Desert and boasts 3 rustic, mid-century cabins. Better yet, it’s set on 5 acres of private land and is surrounded by wildflowers, palm trees, cactus, smoke trees, and desert pines. Each private cabin offers a patio, where you’ll be able to enjoy informal meals or star gaze at night.

Rattler Ranch is located within a short 14-minute drive of the western entrance to Joshua Tree National Park. Furthermore, the ranch is just a 6-minute drive from Joshua Tree Village, where you’ll find a variety of local shops, galleries, and restaurants.

Rattler Ranch’s comfortable cabins can be rented out from $140-$160 per night and can accommodate groups of up to 4-6 individuals. Each cabin also offers a kitchen, bathroom, and comfortable beds.

So if you have your heart set on Joshua Tree camping but would like to enjoy the comforts of home, it’s worth checking out Rattler Ranch’s selection of cabins.

Hicksville Trailer Palace

Hicksville Trailer Palace

Hicksville Trailer Palace offers 8 vintage trailers. Each of which has been lovingly restored and decorated to suit a different theme. You may want to stay a night in The Pioneer, which is a western-themed trailer. Or The Sweet, a 70s inspired trailer. There’s even an alien inspired trailer named The Intergratrailor.

Some of the on-site faculties offered by Hicksville Trailer Palace include a solar heated pool, a BBQ area, an archery range, a mini-golf course, and a rooftop deck, and a hot tub.

One of the trailer park’s unique selling points is that its exact location is a secret. So you won’t be able to locate it with Google Maps. Instead, once you’ve made your reservation, you’ll be told the exact location of the park the day before your arrival.

When you turn up to Hicksville Trailer Palace, you’ll have to wait outside its mysterious, tall red fence until a staff member comes out and checks your reservation.

If you want to be let in on the secret location of one of Joshua Tree’s most mysterious accommodation options, visit www.hicksville.com. For more information.

Joshua Tree Lake RV & Campground

Joshua Tree Lake RV & Campground is located on the Mojave Desert’s southern edge and offers magnificent desert views. You enjoy making new friends on your camping trips, choose to stay at Joshua Tree Lake RV & Campground as it hosts fun social events throughout the year. In May, it hosts the Joshua Tree Music Festival.

One of the key differences between Joshua Tree’s state-operated campgrounds and Joshua Tree Lake RV & Campground is that Joshua Tree Lake RV & Campground offers hot showers, proper toilets, and wireless internet. This is because it’s a private campground.

The campground’s nightly RV rates range from $25 per night for an RV without hookups to $45 per night. For a 50 AMP electrical hookup. While the campground’s nightly rate per tent is currently $10 per person. While children from 2-12 are charged $5 per night, and pets are charged $2.50 per night. Visit www.joshuatreelake.com to make your reservations.

The Desert Yacht Club Palm Camp

The Desert Yacht Club Palm Camp

The Desert Yacht Club is located in Yucca Valley and offers restored boats, which have been converted into luxurious accommodation. It also offers glamping tents, vans, and airstreams, which you can rent out for a night or two. If you’re a glamping covert, you’ll be able to book a spacious canvas tent that offers a queen bed, a twin bed, and a comfortable sofa. 

Back Country Camping

Alternatively, if you’d rather find your own camping spot for the night, you do have the option of backcountry camping. To legally freedom camp in Joshua Tree, you’ll need to register with one of 13 different backcountry boards. Examples of this include Black Rock Canyon, Indian Cove, and Pleasant Valley.

Once your registration has been approved, on the day of your camping trip, turn up to the staging area, which corresponds with your chosen backcountry board, where you’ll find parking for your car and an information board. Next to the information board, you’ll find a dropbox. Simply place the bottom portion of your permit in the dropbox and take the top portion with you.

For more detailed information on backcountry camping in Joshua Tree, visit www.nps.gov/jotr/planyourvisit/backpacking.htm.

Things to do in Joshua Tree While Camping


Hiking is one of the most popular activities in Joshua Tree. It’s well worth lacing up your hiking boots and exploring some of Joshua Tree’s top-rated trails to view gigantic stone formations, meadows of wildflowers, and a real-life oasis. To discover the top 5 hikes in Joshua Tree, click here.

Rock climbing

Joshua Tree offers thousands of exciting rock climbing routes to suit all abilities. For example, if you’re relatively new to rock climbing, you may want to explore Quail Springs Rock, Atlantis Wall, or Intersection Rock with a qualified rock climbing guide.

If you’re an experienced climber, you may want to tackle the Wangerbanger. That’s known for offering steep crack climbing. Alternatively, if you enjoy vertical face climbing, you may enjoy climbing Saddle Rock or Lost Horse Wall.


joshua tree stargazing

As Joshua Tree has an extremely low level of light pollution, it’s an ideal location for star-gazing. In fact, it’s classed as an International Dark Sky Park. So if you own a small, portable telescope, it’s well worth packing it as you’ll love gazing up at Joshua Tree’s dark skies at night and star-gazing.

If you’d like to see the Milky Way, try star-gazing during a new moon or on a particularly clear day.

Explore the Cholla Cactus Garden

Cholla Cactus Garden

The Cholla Cactus Garden features a highly concentrated area of cactus. That is well worth visiting and photographing. If you visit the garden from March to May, you’ll get to see the Cholla Cacti sprout vibrant flowers.

Make sure to wear closed-toe shoes if you visit Cholla Cactus Garden to avoid stepping on fallen pieces of cacti, which may still have their spikes intact.

View Joshua Tree’s Wildflowers

To see Joshua Tree in full bloom, I recommend visiting during Spring when you’ll have a chance to view a variety of beautiful wild-flowers such as Californian Bluebells and Parish Poppies.

Related: A Complete US National Park List

Secret Spots and Hidden Gems in Joshua Tree

Joshua Tree Car Wash

Joshua Tree Car Wash
Photo by Ryan Hallock

One of the best-kept secrets in Joshua Tree is the mysterious Joshua Tree Car Wash. What exactly is the Joshua Tree Car Wash? It’s a rarely explored wash, which is filled with the wrecks of a few vintage cars. Many are partially or half-submerged in the earth and give the impression that they’re being tumbled around in a car wash of sorts.

Joshua Tree Car Wash is located in the Pinto Basin and can be found by
clicking here. While the locals try to keep Joshua Tree Car Wash a secret, it’s clearly visible exploring the Pinto Basin on Google Earth. So if you’d like to see vintage cars such as a classic Cadillac submerged in the earth, it’s well worth planning a trip to the Joshua Tree Car Wash.

Samuelson Rocks

There are no signs to Samuelson Rocks and no official trail. So you’ll have to do a bit of research if you want to locate it. One clue that you might find helpful is that it’s located in the west Joshua Tree. OK, I’ll give you a clue.

Samuelson Rocks is a small hill, which features seven large rocks. Each rock has been carved with different quotes. Some of which are humorous and very tongue in cheek.

To add to the mystery surrounding Samuelson Rocks, the man who carved each quote did so in the 1920s. When he lived in a homestead in Joshua Tree, once you get close to Samuelson Rocks, you’ll come across the remains of the man’s homestead and an abandoned Jeep.

The Old Boulder Home at Eagle Cliff Mine

While Eagle Cliff Mine is located in the middle of nowhere, its real treasure is an old home created out of three boulders and mismatched bricks by one of Joshua Tree’s miners. You can see pictures here.

The trail to the Old Boulder Home at Eagle Cliff Mine starts at Split Rock’s trailhead.

Joshua Tree Safety Tips

Flash floods joshua tree
  • Be wary of flash floods. Flash floods are a common occurrence in Joshua Tree. If you are caught up in a flash flood, wait it out. Instead of attempting to go on a hike or to drive your car. As flash floods have been known to flip cars over and damage hiking trails.
  • Avoid crossing paths with wild animals. Some of the wild animals which you should avoid during your trip include snakes and coyotes. Always make sure to scan the trail in front of you to avoid stepping on a snake.
  • Pack enough food and water to sustain you on your hikes. If you plan on climbing up steep mountain trails or hiking for over 2 hours, it’s essential to pack enough food and water to sustain you on your hikes. As an example, you may want to pack a protein bar in your backpack.
  • Don’t start a fire outside an approved fire ring. As Joshua Tree is extremely dry, you’re only permitted to start a fire in a government-provided fire ring. Such fire rings are commonplace at most of Joshua Park’s state-run campgrounds.
  • Pack multiple layers of clothing. As the temperature can plummet when the sun goes down, it’s a wise idea to pack multiple layers of clothing. As an example, as well as shorts and t-shirts, you should also pack a pair of jeans, a waterproof coat, and a warm sweater.
  • Pack enough sunscreen to last your entire trip. Most of Joshua Tree, including its epic hiking trails, offer little shade. So it’s essential to pack enough sunscreen to last your entire Joshua Tree camping trip.

Final Thoughts

There’s something truly unique about camping in a desert, under a dark, starlit sky, and spending your days exploring stunning hiking trails. Hopefully, I’ve successfully convinced you of the magic, and natural beauty of Joshua Tree as Joshua Tree camping should definitely feature on your Californian bucket list.

If you’re itching to start planning a trip to Joshua Tree, then begin browsing a few different Joshua Tree National Park camping grounds. It’s worth it!

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