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First Come First Serve Camping Joshua Tree

What To Bring On Your Joshua Tree National Park Camping Trip

Belle Campground – Joshua Tree National Park (CA)

Preparing for your Joshua Tree National Park camping trip involves more than deciding which campground best fits your needs. There is also the important job of making sure you have all the right gear youll need to ensure a great trip.

Were sure youll already have the essentials like a great tent, sleeping bags, and camp chairs, but below are some of our favorite items specifically for camping in Joshua Tree:

  • Coleman Camping Stove This camping classic is perfect for whipping up campsite classics.
  • Pop-up canopy The sun in Joshua Tree can get intense! You wont find much shade in the park, so we recommend bringing a portable shade structure to create your own!
  • Portable water container Extremely useful for campgrounds without a water source, these portable water containers are a life saver.
  • Cooler The temperatures make a good cooler essential. We cant recommend Yeti enough!
  • Joshua Tree National Park Map An essential for any trip, a good map is a must. Even better than paper maps, we like to use the Gaia GPS app on our phone. You can download maps for every National Park at a fraction of the cost. Get 20% off your Gaia subscription here.
  • Joshua Tree Guidebook A good guidebook will provide insights and information to help you plan your perfect trip to Joshua Tree. We like this guide to all 62 National Parks from Moon Guides.

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Find The Best Joshua Tree Campground For You

Joshua Tree has nearly 400 campsites inside the park, and a handful of options conveniently located just outside of the park. None of the sites are cookie cutter and each offers is own variation on amenities and nearby hikes. Some are better for RVs and others are more suitable for tent and van camping. So think carefully about how you camp and how close you want to be to park sights and hikes when you book your camp spot.

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Which Campgrounds Is The Best At Joshua Tree

The best campground in Joshua Tree depends entirely on your camping preferences. If you want to camp where there are fewer people, Bella and White Tank campgrounds should be on your list. Jumbo Rocks and Black Rock are two of the widely recognized family and child-friendly campgrounds in the park.

For those looking for the next Instagram-worthy picture, Indian Cove Campground is the best place to take pictures of the sunset. Black Rock Campground also has stunning views of the Yucca Valley, especially at night. Rock climbers and enthusiasts can choose a campsite in either Hidden Valley or White Tank due to its proximity to some popular climbing trails.

Black Rock Canyon Campground

Camping in Joshua Tree National Park: The Ultimate Guide ...

Black Rock Canyon Campground is in the northwest corner of Joshua Tree, just south of the town of Yucca Valley. Black Rock Canyon has a distinct geographic feel instead of boulder jumbles, youll find rolling hills dotted with Joshua trees and yuccas. This is a good campground for first-time visitors, as drinking water is available and the location offers easy access to Yucca Valley for supplies. This campground also offers limited equestrian sites , and trailer and RV sites with water fill-up and dump stations are also available. Campground amenities include drinking water, flush toilets, picnic tables, fire rings, and a small visitors center with maps and guides.

The road in dead-ends at the campground, and there is no driving access into the rest of the park. A series of hiking trails, including the short Hi-View Nature Trail, the view-filled Eureka Peak, Panorama Loop, and Warren Peak trails, leave from the campground and offer access into the park by foot. The trailhead for the 35-mile California Riding and Hiking Trail also starts at the campground.

Reservations are accepted online from October through May up to six months in advance. To get there from Highway 62 in Yucca Valley, turn south on Joshua Lane and drive five miles into the park.

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Have A Backup Plan Just In Case

We dont always get what we want in life. If we did, it really wouldnt be all that fun would it? In any case, if you cant acquire a campsite at the campground that you wanted, know that its okay and that there are alternatives. It might even end up making the camping trip more enjoyable.

This has happened to me where I wanted a campsite in a busy National Park in a prime location close to all the attractions, but it was peak season and I arrived early on a weekend . I didnt get a spot, I tried for at least an hour but no one was budging, so I moved on and got lucky to get a campsite at one not much further away .

The trip still ended up being so amazing, I mean I wasnt that much further away. To see the things I wanted to see I had to drive maybe 10 more minutes, It was worth it. There was much less traffic coming in and out of the campground, there were fewer campsites so it was overall quieter, and the campground had some unique rocks and trails to explore, it certainly wasnt the end of the world just because it wasnt my first choice.

Enough about my backup plan, you need one too. Here are a few ideas you could utilize for your backup plans:

  • A different first come, first serve campground further away.
  • Reserve a different campground further away.
  • Dispersed camping .
  • Airbnb! camping spots, cabins, RVs, you name it.
  • Pick an overall less popular location to camp.

Sheep Pass Group Camp

Towering rock formations and Joshua trees surround Sheep Pass Group Camp , a tent-only group campground centrally located off of Park Boulevard in between Ryan and Jumbo Rocks Campgrounds. Amenities include vault toilets, fire rings, and picnic tables. There is no drinking water.

Reservations are required and can be made up to one year in advance. The campground is 18 miles south of the West Entrance and 16 miles south of the North Entrance.

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Camping Near Joshua Tree National Park

Spending a few nights camping in Joshua Tree National Park is an experience not to be missed. However, the popularity of of camping in Joshua Tree means it is possible that you wont be able to find a campground within the national park. Dont let that deter you, though, as there are plenty of camping options outside of Joshua Tree National Park. Check out your best bets below.

If youre looking to check out any of the other California National Parks be sure to take a look at our other camping guides below:

White Tank Joshua Tree Campground

Hidden Valley Campground – Joshua Tree National Park (CA)

Located in the northern end of the park, White Tank Campground is in the heart of the darkest section of Joshua Tree. The location makes it an excellent campground for night sky viewing in the desert.

White Tank Campground has 15 individual campsites, all of which can accommodate RVs and travel trailers up to 25 feet. Each campsite has a picnic table and fire grate.

At White Tank Campground, there are pit toilets. No potable water is available at the campground, so be sure to bring enough for your stay.

White Tank Campground is closed each year from June 10 through August 29.

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Bowman Lake Campground Glacier National Park

Image from The Dyrt camper Dave E.

Thanks to its remote location and spectacular views, the Bowman Lake Campground in Glacier National Park is one of the best-rated first-come, first-served national park campgrounds in the country. Situated near the shore of Bowman Lake, it has 46 campsites. Amenities are limited to potable water and vault toilets.

The dirt road to Bowman Lake is dusty and occasionally rough. Pullouts are scarce, while narrow sections make it unsuitable for vehicles and trailers longer than 21 feet. Outdoor activities abound in the area, from hiking to fishing and canoeing. In summer, make sure to bring mosquito repellent and/or a head net.

This campground is perfect. Its used primarily as a hikers camp, but there are some car campers who venture out there. Its about an hour to an hour and a half of driving from Apgar Village, as there are several miles of dirt/gravel roads that require you to go slow at times. Bowman Lake is absolutely beautiful and there are several trails leading you to amazing views of the lake and surrounding mountains. The Dyrt Camper Dave E.

Indian Cove Campground Joshua Tree Rv Camping

Indian Cove Campground is on the north side of Joshua Tree National Park off of Highway 62. The campground is in a large rock formation that brings visitors to Joshua Tree. The boulders provide many of the campsites with great views as well as privacy. Camping under the stars amidst these huge boulders is an unforgettable experience.

Indian Cove has 91 individual campsites. Most campsites at Indian Cove can accommodate an RV or travel trailer of up to 25 feet. Eight sites can accommodate a maximum combined length of 35 feet. Be sure to check the restrictions for each site before booking.

At Indian Cove Campground, there are vault toilets. No potable water is available at the campground, so be sure to bring enough for your stay.

From June 10 through August 29, half of the campsites in the campground are closed, and the other half are first come-first served. Reservations can be made for all sites starting August 30.

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Which Campground Should I Choose

It depends on where youll be playing in the park. Neither location is spectacular, but I personally like the north spot due to its proximity to town and the main park entrance.

The BLM north campground off Hwy 62 is much closer to the action. Its located just off the main highway between the towns of Joshua Tree and Twentynine Palms, near the Indian Cove campground. Its located just 15-20 min. driving time from the Joshua Tree National Park main entrance on Park Blvd. heading toward Hidden Valley.

The BLM south location on Cottonwood Spring Rd. is a little more private and interesting, but its over an hour each way to Hidden Valley as opposed to 20-30 min. from the north location. If youre planning on checking out some of the parks southern features, like the Lost Palm Oasis trail, Id highly recommend the southern BLM camping area.

Payment Changes Arrive For Camping At Joshua Tree National Park

White Tank Campground

How you pay for camping at Joshua Tree National Park has changed/NPS file

Heading to Joshua Tree National Park but forgot to make an advance campground reservation? No worries, as you now can make a same-day reservation, but you need to do it via recreation.gov.

Previously, campers could book an open campsite day-of and in-person at reservation campgrounds, but now all reservations must be made through recreation.gov. Reservations can still be made up to six months in advance. Park staff recommend that you reserve your campsite before entering the park, as cell service is limited or non-existent at campgrounds.

First-come, first-served campgrounds have a new payment method. A ranger will be at campgrounds throughout the day to collect campsite fees with a portable register. Campers can pay using a debit or credit card and will not need to track down the ranger but can set up at an open campsite, and fees will be collected when possible. There will no longer be self-registering, pre-payment systems, also known as iron rangers, for first-come, first-served campsites.

Open campsites in the park can be extremely difficult to find during the busy season. Visitors may also want to explore camping opportunities outside the park, which include private campgrounds in a nearby community. Come prepared with a plan and a backup plan for your visit to Joshua Tree National Park. For more information about camping at Joshua Tree National Park, visit the park’s campground webpage.

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Rv Camping In Joshua Tree

Joshua Tree has quickly become one of the most visited national parks in the country. As a result, campground reservations are a must throughout much of the year. Campgrounds usually fill from October through May, even during the week.

To make sure you have a campsite during this busy season, make a reservation in advance. Other options include visiting during the off-season or getting to the park early the day you plan to begin your stay to try to find an open site. Reservations can be made up to 6 months in advance on recreation.gov.

During the summer months, all open campsites are first-come, first-served, and there is usually plenty of space available. Some campgrounds occasionally close during the summer, so stop at a ranger station or visitor center when you arrive to make sure the campground you plan to visit is open.

Can’t Find A Campsite

The park has become an extremely popular destination in recent years. Due to this popularity, all park campgrounds are usually full on weekends October through May.

If you arrive too late to get a site in a designated campground, you have the following options:

  • Camp on Bureau of Land Management land outside the park.
  • Go to a private campground or stay in lodging in gateway communities. Please contact area chambers of commerce for information.

Sleeping in your vehicle overnight along the roadside or at a roadside pull off is not allowed, and violators may be subject to a citation.

For more information, visit our Camping Outside of the Park page.

  • Group sites can accommodate 10-60 people.
  • Reservations may be made up to 6 months in advance for Cottonwood, Indian Cove, and Sheep Pass.
  • Cottonwood and Sheep Pass Group Campgrounds are for tents only. Indian Cove Group Campground can accommodate small RVs or trailers, with a maximum combined length of 25 feet.

Equestrian Camping

Black Rock and Ryan Campgrounds have designated horse camps. Ryan is closed in the summer months. See the horseback riding page for more information.

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Cottonwood Campground Joshua Tree Rv Camping

One of the most remote campgrounds in the park is Cottonwood Campground. Located in the southeastern corner of the park near the Cottonwood Visitor Center, the campground is about 30 miles from Indio, California.

Cottonwood Campground is located outside of the habitat of the famous Joshua Trees but does feature fantastic desert views. The campground also has regular ranger programs in its amphitheater.

Cottonwood Campground has 62 campsites. All campsites can accommodate an RV or truck/travel trailer combination of up to 35 feet. Around 15 campsites can accommodate even larger rigs.

Each campsite has a picnic table and fire grate. Cottonwood Campground has potable water, flush toilets, and a dump station.

From June 10 through August 29, half of the campsites in the campground are closed, and the other half are first come-first served. Reservations can be made for all sites starting August 30.

North Joshua Tree Blm

White Tank Campground – Joshua Tree National Park (CA)

This site is located just north of the Indian Cove Campground with easy access to Twentynine Palms and Yucca Valley. We havent personally been to this site, so were not sure how it looks, but the location is much more convenient if you want access to restaurants and shops.

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Question About First Come First Serve Campsites

I’m interested in staying at White Tank or Belle campsites. I plan to be there on a Tuesday in October.

How do reserving sites work? I see on the NPS page: “A ranger will come by with portable registers to collect the campsite payment throughout the day.”

So, do I have to be there to receive the ranger? Or do I just put $15 somewhere on a bulletin board? And to reserve a spot, do I have to set up my tent? I can’t just leave my car, because I plan to take it to places. What if I get there and there’s no space… do I have to drive to other campgrounds and see if they have space? The logistics all confuse me.

If you have experience with this, please let me know! Thanks.

7 replies to this topic

The ranger will come back later in the day or in the morning to collect fees. I wouldnt worry about it too much.

Do mark your campsite- put up your tent, tie a bright colored table cloth on your picnic table, unload some gear. Think about the wind and stuff blowing away.

Yes, look for an empty campsite, look for folks packing up, drive to another campground. Belle isnt as popular, but it is very small.

You dont want to reserve something at Ryan or Jumbo Rocks?

There is free dispersed BLM camping outside of the park if you dont find anything.

Edited: 03 October 2021, 12:48

Oasis Visitor Center 367-5500

74485 National Park Dr, Twentynine Palms, CA 92277

Joshua Tree Visitor Center 366-1855

6554 Park Blvd, Joshua Tree, CA 92252

Hidden Valley Campground Joshua Tree National Park

Image from The Dyrt camper Sara S.

First-come, first-served camping in Joshua Tree National Park is possible at the primitive Hidden Valley Campground. There are 44 campsites and pit toilets, but there is no water available. This is California desert, so make sure to bring plenty of water with youenough for drinking, cooking, and cleaning.

Set amid huge boulders and iconic Joshua trees, this is Joshua Tree National Park camping at its very best. Note that because of the constantly high fire danger, campfires must be contained within designated fire rings. Collecting wood in the park is not permitted, so make sure to buy firewood outside the park.

This campground is the perfect place to truly experience the magic that is Joshua Tree. From climbers coffee on the weekends hosted by the park rangers, to boulder problems right in your campsite, to world-class classic climbs feet from your car, the Hidden Valley Campground offers everything you could imagine for a Joshua Tree experience. If you are not a climber, dont worry! This site offers beautiful hikes, scrambles to explore, and hikes nearby. The Dyrt Camper Amina H.

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