Camping in Joshua Tree

There are eight front-country campgrounds (nine when you consider the Sheep Pass group campground) in Joshua Tree National Park. That might not seem like many for a park of nearly 800,000 acres, but combined they offer nearly 500 campsites.

Just one campground, Cottonwood, is in the southern section of the park. All the rest -- White Tank, Bell, Jumbo Rocks, Ryan, Sheep Pass, Hidden Valley, Indian Cove, and Black Rock -- are somewhat squeezed into the northern half above Wilson Canyon.

You'd be wise to bring your own water, as water is available only at the Oasis Visitor Center, Indian Cove Ranger Station, West Entrance, and Black Rock and Cottonwood campgrounds.

Jumbo Rocks, Joshua tree
A popular campground is at Jumbo Rocks.

Kurt Repanshek photo

You also are expected to bring containers capable of preventing access by wildlife are required. Any scented or odorous items must be similarly stored.

Campfires are indeed nice, but all vegetation in the park is protected. As a result, if you want to relax before a flickering campfire at day's end, you need to bring your own wood to burn. Fire grates are provided.

Traveling by RV? There are no hookups for recreational vehicles. Black Rock and Cottonwood campgrounds do, however, have dump stations. At group sites, motorhomes and trailers cannot exceed 25 feet. At Hidden Valley and White Tank campgrounds the 25-foot limitation includes the towing vehicle.

The park's campgrounds are in great demand, no doubt because of the population centers in the not-so-distant distance. As a result, it'd be wise to reserve a site. Sites at Black Rock and Indian Cove campgrounds can be reserved from October 1 through May 31 by calling 1-877-444-6777 up to six months in advance of the date you want to reserve. Or you might want to make reservations online at www.recreation.gov

If you're a gambler, the Belle, Cottonwood, Hidden Valley, Jumbo Rocks, Ryan, and White Tank campgrounds all operate on a first-come, first-served basis. Black Rock and Indian Cove campgrounds are first-come, first-served only during the summer—June through September.