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Joshua Tree Camping Guide | 2020 Update
As more and more city folks are drawn into van life each year, Joshua Tree camping has seen a huge boom! It’s great to see people enjoying nature, but it also means you’ll need to plan your trip in advance.
Today we’re sharing all the best Joshua Tree camping spots. From rustic National Park campgrounds to quirky private RV parks, this list gives you the complete run-down.
Each campsite we feature will include price, location and amenity info. Additionally, we’ll score each site on a “Joshua Tree Camping Vibes” scale for easy head-to-head comparison.
Let’s dive in!
National Park Campgrounds at Joshua Tree
We love National Park campgrounds because they have the greatest views. However, they usually have limited or no amenities.
Ideal For: Tent campers, van campers and RVers not afraid to go off grid.
Why You’ll Love It: This campsite has the most amazing views. Large rock formations and Joshua Trees surround the grounds. Star gazing is a must at Belle Campground. The night sky is perfectly dark.
The site is closed from June 10 – August 29. When open, all the sites are first come first served. The only amenity offered onsite is a pit toilet. No water or electricity provided.
What’s The Word: A. Pollard on Campendium says, “The best sites are in the back, but you’re lucky to get one! We stayed for 4 nights and noticed that the turnover in the campground is pretty high every day even on the weekend and the spots fill quick.”
Joshua Tree Camping Vibes: 9.2/10 Amazing location and views!
Black Rock Campground
Ideal For: RVs. Tents & vans can camp here, but it’s will be louder & busier than other spots.
Why You’ll Love It: This campground offers a lot of amenities. They provide water, flush toilets, tables, fire grates, dump station and amphitheater. You must have a reservation to camp at Black Rock…which is great for those of you who like to have a detailed travel plan.
The views are pretty good here. However, with 100 camping sites, you’ll also have a view of your neighbor.
What’s The Word: Ken on Trip Advisor says, “This is a scenic, open, fairly natural feeling National Park campground. Joshua Trees are everywhere around the sites, which are dirt/sand with one large concrete picnic table on each plus a metal fire ring.”
Joshua Tree Camping Vibes: 7.5/10 Good for RVers, not ideal for nature lovers.
Price: $20 (Loop B is closed June 10 through August 29. Loop A sites are first-come, first served. Starting August 30th, all sites are available by reservation only)
Ideal For: RVs, tents & vans
Why You’ll Love It: This smaller Joshua Tree campground (60 sites) has great views and a few modern amenities. You’ll have water access, flush toilets and dump station access at Cottonwood.
Even though the campground can accommodate large rigs, it’s not necessarily easy to access in a big RV. We think its a great campground for small to medium RVs.
What’s The Word: DIDO on Campendium says, “We camp in a “Tear Drop” style RV only 15′ long w/o toilet or shower and thus rely on condition of campgrounds facilities and this National Park Campground is w/o the amenities of other private or some state campgrounds ~ BUT they do have a water fill / dump station on site and restroom with flush toilets and sinks [no hot water no electricity] that being said we still loved the true “camping” experience. Ran on battery power and propane for cooking and frig.”
Joshua Tree Camping Vibes: 8.3/10 Water, and dump station + great views!
Ideal For: Tents, vans, small RVs
Why You’ll Love It: Hidden Valley campground has beautiful rock formations throughout the sites. All spots are first come first served. Additionally, the campground provides trash collections and vault toilets.
There are no other amenities at Hidden Valley, so come with plenty of water!
The highlight of this campground is its easy access to the Joshua Tree hiking trail system.
What’s The Word: Alice on Campendium says, “We arrived early on a Thursday night to make sure we got a space – there weren’t many left but we got a good spot. Throughout the Friday evening there were lots of people driving through to find space as I think it had filled up! It’s a self serve campsite – make sure you attach your tickets securely (ours “blew away”). It has plenty of pit toilets which were clean but there’s no water available.”
Joshua Tree Camping Vibes: 7.9/10 Not many amenities, but great hiking nearby!
Price: $20 Reservations are required for Indian Cove during the busy season from the end of August through early June.
Ideal For: Group Camping, RV & Tents
Why You’ll Love It: This is yet another Joshua Tree campground with amazing land formations positioned throughout the campsites. There are also multiple group camping spots available if you have a bunch of friends!
Keep in mind, there aren’t many amenities onsite. You’ll find pit toilets and fire grates, but no water or electricity.
What’s The Word: Carey on Campendium says, “Beautiful Campground nestled in the rocks. Very quiet and peaceful. However, only stayed here because we couldn’t get a reservation on a Saturday at the other locations that are now reserve only this time of year. Was able to get this one at last minute.”
Joshua Tree Camping Vibes: 8.2/10 Awesome scenery!
Jumbo Rocks Campground
Ideal For: RVs, tents & vans
Why You’ll Love It: The rock formations in this campground are so cool. The sites tuck right into them, creating quite a unique camping experience. There are 124 individual/family sites in Jumbo Rocks Campground. Reservations are required during the busy season, October to May.
There’s no water, electricity or dump station at Jumbo Rocks Campground.
What’s The Word: Bobbi on Campendium says, “Loved getting a spot at Jumbo Rocks Campground. The area was beautiful and the site was extremely clean with trash dumpsters located everywhere (while like the convenience of a trash dumpsters, it did take a bit away from the views). There are not a lot of camp sites for larger rigs/5th wheels, so you need to make a reservation.”
Joshua Tree Camping Vibes: 9.2/10 Some of the coolest campsites are at Jumbo Rocks Campground.
Price: $15 – 31 total sites. 4 Equestrian Sites require reservation, all others are first come first served.
Ideal For: RVs, Tent & Vans
Why You’ll Love It: Ryan campground offers a variation of sites. If you enjoy horse back riding, the equestrian sites will be great. There are also a few sites for bike camping.
No water or electricity onsite. Ryan campground provides trash pickup and pit toilets.
What’s The Word: Marbrookes on Campendium says “This camp spot exceeded our expectations, clean vault toilets, and picnic tables. Large rocks to climb and explore. Recycling and large rubbish disposal available. Found this nicer than Belle campground.”
Joshua Tree Camping Vibes: 8.4/10
White Tank Campground
Price: $15 Closed June 10 through August 29. Starting August 30th, all sites are first-come, first-served.
Ideal For: Tents & Vans. This is a small campground with 15 spots. Shorter RVs may be able to fit, but navigating to the campsite may be challenging.
Why You’ll Love It: The size of this campground makes it perfect for peace & quiet. The only amenity is a pit toilet. However, if you’re in a tent or van, you should be used to this style of camping.
We hear from many campers that White Tank Campground is better than neighboring Belle Campground.
What’s The Word: Loup on Campendium says, “It’s clean, there are great views of rock formations, and many of the camp sites are tucked into rock formations. However, most of the sites on the east side of the campground back up to a short hiking trail. If you camp at one of these sites, you will have gapers walking thru your site all day.”
Joshua Tree Camping Vibes: 8.3/10 Hiking, rock formations and not many neighbors!
Free Camping at Joshua Tree
In addition to the established Joshua Tree camping spots, there are a few free campsites within the park boundaries. These free campsites offer no amenities. This means there won’t even be a pit toilet available.
However, many of the free campsites are located on the outskirts of the park, making the likelihood of having cell connectivity much greater.
Joshua Tree South
GPS: 33.6745, -115.8019
Ideal For: RVs, tents & vans
Why You’ll Love It: This camping area is huge! You should almost be guaranteed to find a site to set up camp here. ATT & Verizon users have received cell service at Joshua Tree South. If you want a stronger cell signal, you may want to invest in a cell booster for your vehicle or RV.
What’s The Word: Kita on Campendium says, “Amazing views and sunsets galore. Some truck with lights was driving up and down the road making sure no one was on the side your not allowed on. (Can only camp on the left when you pull on dirt road) could see other people but couldn’t really hear them and same with the highway, just a hum. Overall great.”
Joshua Tree Camping Vibes: 7.5/10 Free is always great! And, you get great views and cell service.
Joshua Tree North
GPS: 34.1716, -116.2291
Ideal For: RVs & vans. The terrain is hard & exposed, not great for tents.
Why You’ll Love It: The biggest selling point of Joshua Tree North is the flat, wide open spaces for RV camping. It’s also close to the northern entrance of Joshua Tree National Park.
If you’re in a tent or van, you’ll be able to find many better spots. If you’re in a large fifth wheel, this is a great choice.
There’s also good cell connectivity at Joshua Tree North.
What’s The Word: Benzamin on Campendium says, ” We didn’t realize the sheer size of this space until morning. There were maybe 10 other campers in a space that could hold well over a 100.”
Joshua Tree Camping Vibes: 6.8/10 Free with cellular connectivity, but minimal vibes.
Private Parks | Joshua Tree Camping
In addition to the National Park Campgrounds and free campsites, you may want to check out the privately owned and operated campgrounds near Joshua Tree. Even though you may not have the most epic scenery surrounding you, the amenities are awesome!
Sam’s Family Spa
Location: Desert Hot Springs, CA
Miles to Joshua Tree Visitor Center: 34 miles
Price: $60/night or $605/month
Why You’ll Love It: If you love soaking in natural hot springs, you’ll love Sam’s Family Spa. The multiple, covered hot spring pools are emptied daily and kept very clean.
We’ve spent three winters in Desert Hot Springs, and two of those at Sam’s Family Spa. We absolutely love the natural hot spring tubs and the relatively low monthly rate.
The park has a dated, 1970s feel, but it adds to the charm! It even made our 2017 Top 10 RV Parks in the USA list.
Any size RV can fit at Sam’s and there are a LOT of sites to choose from.
What’s The Word: Dan & Jen Nevada on Campground Reviews says, “The highlights are the hot tubs and the pool. The park was close to full, save the overnighter area, yet the tubs and pool aren’t really crowded. Those are really the attraction and what make this park a good place to stay. The lake and water falls are nice too. Keep in mind, this is a “find your own site” place so choose wisely.”
Joshua Tree Camping Vibes: 8.3/10 Hot springs, baby!
Camp Pioneer Town
Location: Pioneertown, CA
Miles to Joshua Tree Visitor Center: 12 miles
Price: $10 Dry Camping only
Why You’ll Love It: Pioneertown is a hipster hotspot…and for good reason! Pappy & Harriet’s, the local bar, is within walking distance. However, Pappy & Harriet’s is no ordinary bar. This hole-in-the-wall joint has hosted amazing musicians like Paul McCartney, Queens of the Stone Age, Arctic Monkeys, Lorde and Robert Plant.
You never know which famous musician will drop in for a set.
What’s The Word: Tiger Nomad on Campendium says, “Camp Pioneertown is also known as Pioneertown Stables. Plenty of room for any size rig, and not busy on New Years Eve weekend. Sites have a picnic table and garbage, and there is a bathroom with running water. No potable water available, no other services (electric, dump station, etc).”
Joshua Tree Camping Vibes: 9.2/10 Awesome & Unique!
Hicksville Trailer Plaza and Artist Retreat
Location: Joshua Tree, CA
Miles to Joshua Tree Visitor Center: Very Close. However, they only give their exact location to registered guests.
Why You’ll Love It: This quirky Airstream hotel is a true artist retreat. The founders, both professional creatives, have built a space that inspires with equal doses of nostalgia and comfort.
There’s even a recording studio on site!
Hicksville Trailer Plaza offers some modern amenities including; solar heated saltwater pool, archery & bb gun range, mini golf and a bar trailer for events.
Keep in mind, the park is 21+ due to its cannabis friendly policy. They have two “family weeks” each year, allowing all the kids to visit!
What’s The Word: Ivy on Yelp says, “I really liked staying here and want to come back! They don’t do things like a regular hotel or anything.. BUT it is a really cool place and it is probably that way because they have these strict rules.. it is pretty neat how it is very private and off the grid… you feel like you are really in the middle of nowhere and no one knows where you are… We stayed in the zombie room which was nice and cozy… kind of scary..”
Joshua Tree Camping Vibes: 10/10 This is an awesome, one of a kind camping experience! Great for group camping with friends.
Joshua Tree Camping Checklist | What to Bring?
There are a few things to consider before planning your camping trip to Joshua Tree. Most of the camping in the area has partial or no hook ups. This means you’ll need to prepare for your trip a little bit more than usual.
You’ll be responsible for your electricity, water supply, waste collection and overall comfort. Whether you’re van-camping, tenting or RVing – this checklist gives you a good starting point.
- Water: At the very least, bring multiple jugs of drinking water. If you’re in an RV, fill up the fresh tank before setting up camp.
- Electricity: There are a few options for staying charged while camping at Joshua Tree. For tents & vans, having a portable battery station (like a Goal Zero) will keep your electronics charged without draining your vehicle battery. For RVers, carrying a small inverter generator is your best bet. Solar power should get many hours of good sun at Joshua Tree.
- Food: Stock up before you make the trip to Joshua Tree. There aren’t a lot of great grocery options near the National Park.
- Trash Bags: Bring a couple trash bags with you. If you have extra bags, pick up the campsite and leave it better than you found it!
- Bathroom: While some campsites have a vault toilet, always come prepared with another option. For tent & van campers, we recommend bringing a small cassette toilet. RVers – make sure your black tank is empty before arrival.
- Camping Stove: You’ll need a way to cook your dinner. We recommend one of these top propane camping stoves for your culinary arts!
- Camping Chair: It may seem obvious, but you won’t want to forget a quality camping chair. Here are 11 camping chairs we love.
- Additional Comforts: Sunglasses, sun block, bug spray, maps, hammock, pocket knife, binoculars, umbrellas, first aid kit.
The Best Free Camping in the Entire USA
We love camping across this amazing country. And, we really love it when its free. Here’s our list of the 20 Best Free Campsites in the USA.
If you haven’t tried free camping before, also known as boondocking, take a look at our beginners guide to boondocking filled with everything you need to know to get started.
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