If you get into a conversation with a group of RVers on which national park is their favorite, it won’t take long until someone claims Joshua Tree National Park. It’s truly a camper’s paradise with its wide open space and panoramic views.
There’s something magical about the way the landscape glows at golden hour and how the sky turns from red hot during sunset to dark blue and star-filled at night. You can enjoy the remoteness of the park, but also it’s proximity to Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley.
We absolutely loved our visit to the park and relished the opportunity to enjoy the endless roads of the desert landscape, play on the rock formations and, of course, marvel at the Joshua Trees.
Why Visit Joshua Tree?
The number one reason to visit Joshua Tree National Park is to see its famous Joshua Trees. These trees are truly fascinating and since the Mojave desert is the only place in the world where they grow naturally, Joshua Tree National Park is the best place to see them!
These trees range between 15-40 feet tall and can live an impressive 150 years. They’re members of the Yucca family and appear as though they’re from a different planet – limbs unpredictably jetting out like they have their own minds.
Another great reason to visit Joshua Tree National Park is the warm weather and abundance of sunshine. It’s no secret that RVers love to snowbird and the Californian desert is a wonderful place to be during the spring and fall months. You’ll enjoy sunny days and clear nights, perfect for dry camping with solar panels.
Things to Do in Joshua Tree National Park
There are many other activities in the park beside looking at the trees! Joshua Tree is unique in that it’s located where two deserts ecosystems intersect.
The combination of the Mojave Desert and the Colorado Desert make Joshua Tree a wonderful desert wilderness to explore. The most popular activities in the park are camping, stargazing, hiking, biking, photography and rock climbing.
Cholla Cactus Garden
The Cholla Cactus Garden is its own special area and unlike any other part of the park. Be sure to enjoy the flat, ¼ mile nature trail to get the best look at the cacti.
This patch of cacti is incredible because it mostly consists of Teddybear Cholla, which is the star of the cactus world! The Cholla Cactus Garden is so impressive and you’ll love snapping photos of these majestic plants. Their beauty changes throughout the day depending on how the sunlight hits them. A small word of advice, look but don’t touch. Ouch!
Arch Rock is a very popular rock formation located ½ mile from the White Tank Campground. The loop trail is easy to follow and a perfect activity to do as a family. Of course, the Arch Rock itself is the thing people most want to see, but there’s lots of space to wander around and explore the other rock formations, too.
Tip – Arch Rock is a very popular place for night photography and stargazing. If interested, White Tank Campground is a really convenient place to stay because of it’s proximity to the trail head.
Keys View is a popular lookout that offers incredible panoramic views of the park and the Coachella Valley. If beautiful scenery is your thing, make sure to visit Keys View. It’s about a 20-minute drive from the main road to the lookout via Keys View Rd.
One of the most popular activities in the park is the hike to Ryan Mountain. This 3-mile-total trail leads you to the summit, where you’ll be treated with sweeping 360-degree views. The hike is listed as challenging by the NPS so be sure to bring plenty of water and expect changing weather conditions.
When to Visit Joshua Tree National Park
The best times to visit are during the spring and fall months. Due to extreme desert heat (+100℉ days are the norm), the park is pretty quiet during the summer. In the heart of winter, the park’s average daily temperature is 60 degrees Fahrenheit, which is perfectly comfortable, but the nights get cold and often drop to freezing.
Where to Stay Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Tree National Park is pretty remote and expansive. You’ll want to stay a few days. Unlike other national parks, there are no lodges or resorts for overnight accommodations. There are eight developed campgrounds, however, and camping out under the stars at Joshua Tree is an unforgettable experience. Here are a few important things to be aware of ahead of time if you’re planning to camp in Joshua Tree.
Reservation vs. First-Come, First-Served
Four of the developed campsites require reservations. These campgrounds are larger than the non-reserved campgrounds and a couple of them offer common amenities such as water and flush toilets. These campgrounds fill up very quickly. We recommend planning well in advance.
Reservation Required Campgrounds
Black Rock and Cottonwood are the most developed campgrounds (water, toilets, sanitation dump) and are the only campgrounds you can stay in if you have a larger rig.
Black Rock has six sites that can accommodate rigs with a total length (tow vehicle included) of 38-40 feet and seven sites up to 42 feet. Cottonwood has around twenty-five campsites that can accommodate rigs slightly longer than 35 feet.
Indian Cove and Jumbo Rocks both have a few spots for RVs up to 35 feet total length. Therefore, if you have a rig larger than 35 feet, be very aware that the spots available to you are considerably limited.
These campgrounds are great options if you have a smaller rig and the good fortune of securing a site. During the popular season, these campgrounds fill every weekend and often during the week, as well. These are primitive campgrounds so you will need to bring (and carry out) everything you’ll need during your stay.
First-come, First-served Campgrounds
Other Important Notes About Camping in Joshua Tree:
Reservations are not required during the summer months. No campgrounds in the park offer electric RV hookups and generator use is restricted to 7-9 am, noon-2 pm, and 5-7 pm.
Getting to and Around Joshua Tree National Park
Nestled between I-10 and California SR 62, Joshua Tree is located in Southeastern California and is easy to access.
On the south side, Indigo is about a 40-minute drive from the Cottonwood Visitor Center. Indigo is a big city and has all the needed conveniences and amenities. Twentynine Palms, CA is right outside the northern part of the park and also has some amenities and accommodations.
Getting around the park is easy, as paved roads traverse the entire park. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that the park is nearly 800,000 acres and going from site to site can require long drive times. The majority of the sites are located near the northern edge of the park, so if you’re coming from the south along I-10, you’ll be driving through the park for an hour or so before you spot your first Joshua Tree.
Tips and Tricks Specific to Joshua Tree
Joshua Tree is an incredible place to enjoy all the great activities and the unique ecosystem of the desert. It’s important to remember that the desert can be dangerous and weather conditions can change quickly. Be ready and take proper precautions when visiting the park. The remote location means there is no cell service, so for safety purposes, let people know your plans ahead of time.
One of the reasons we loved Joshua Tree National Park so much, other than it’s famous trees, was the simplicity of the park. There’s lots of hikes to do and rocks to climb, but you could also just relax at your campsite or near a cropping of rocks and watch the time slowly slip away. We loved the slowness of it all and fully enjoyed the breathtaking sunsets that only the desert can provide
For the latest info on visiting Joshua Tree, visit their website: Joshua Tree National Park.
Have you been to Joshua Tree? What tips can you share?