Guide to Camping in Joshua Tree National Park | Featured Adventure

The Seussian landscape of Joshua Tree National Park is a hotspot for rock climbers and hikers throughout the year, but the long drive from Los Angeles makes it difficult for Angelenos to adequately explore the park and its lumpy outcroppings in a day or less. Thankfully, the park infrastructure supports a wide array of campgrounds for the weary traveler who, rightfully so, wants to enjoy the park in proper pomp and circumstance. Just leave the duvet at home; this is a place where custom adheres to a grittier code of conduct with the sand beneath your toes and the stars above your head.

Note: Most campgrounds in Joshua Tree do not provide potable water.

Sunrise at Jumbo Rocks Campground. Photo by Outdoor Project Co-Founder Tyson Gillard.

  • Black Rock Canyon Campground: 99 sites, 20 horse-stall sites. The only horse camp in Joshua Tree—with the exception of a horse stall at Ryan Campground—is best suited for that purpose, though campground amenities are among the most complete in the park. Popular park attractions (like the iconic rock formations) are far away from Black Rock, being situated on the park’s northern edge, but some of the highest concentrations of Joshua trees are here.
  • Sheep Pass Group Campground: 6 sites near Saddle Rocks accommodating up to 70 campers each near Joshua Tree’s most alluring crags. Sheep Pass is reservable, unlike nearby Ryan Campground.
  • Jumbo Rocks Campground: 124 sites. The biggest campground in Joshua Tree and one of the best for nearby attractions and RV access. Skull Rock can be found here, as can the rock outcroppings that Joshua Tree is known for. Only Cottonwood offers comparable RV amenities, albeit limited to a dump station, but this is better than anywhere else in the park.

Camping at Ryan Campground. Photo by Outdoor Project Contributor Race Jones

  • Belle Campground: 18 sites. Best as an alternative to Jumbo Rocks. In addition to being situated in the Pinto Basin, the campground is close to the trad, bouldering, and sport routes at Castle Rock.
  • Cottonwood Campground: 62 sites, 3 group sites. Out of the way with dark skies, Cottonwood is typically the last campground in Joshua Tree to fill. Being in the Sonoran-Mojave transition zone, its more remote character limits access to some of the park’s main attractions, but accessible hikes include the Lost Palms Oasis and Cottonwood Springs. 
  • Hidden Valley Campground: 44 sites. Dispersed among rock outcroppings, Hidden Valley is situated on the park’s western edge and is ideal for hikers looking to set up for a longer stay. Near the visitor center, it offers close access to short and long hiking options including Hidden Valley Nature Trail, Boy Scout Trail, and Keys View.
  • Ryan Campground: 31 sites, 1 horse-stall site. Near Hidden Valley Campground, Ryan Valley Campground offers access to a similar array of hiking and climbing options. The ruins of Ryan Ranch are within a 3-mile loop of the campground.

Twin Tanks Backcountry Campsite. Photo by Outdoor Project Co-Founder Tyson Gillard.

  • Indian Cove Campground: 101 sites, 13 group sites. Popular with climbers, Indian Cove offers sites by reservation during the winter months. Wonderland of Rocks is located next to the campground and is the main draw to visitors.
  • Twin Tanks Backcountry Campsites: 25 sites. If you’re looking for solitude and a place away from the crowds, find yourself off the beaten path in the Mojave at Twin Tanks. Expect more abundant flora and fauna, including desert birds, lizard species, and coyote melons.
  • White Tank Campground: 15 sites. Like Cottonwood, this is a great option for campers running short on options, as it tends to fill up later than other campgrounds. Nearby access to the Arch Rock interpretive trail makes this a great option for kids. Some climbing is also available, but it is not of the highest quality.

Article by Outdoor Project Team Member, Jonathan Stull.