Joshua Tree is one of the National Park’s best kept secrets. If you haven’t been there, I urge you to go. If you’re camping inside the park, you might wonder, “Which Joshua Tree campground is best?”
Belle campground is the best campground in Joshua Tree National Park. Belle has larger sites than other campgrounds in Joshua Tree, giving you more privacy. Plus, Belle is a smaller campground, so it has an intimate feel to it. You may have to contend with the occasional rock climber, but it beats the jam-packed Jumbo Rocks campground.
If you want to know more about Belle campground and other places to camp in or near Joshua Tree National Park keep reading.
What Campground are Available inside Joshua Tree?
There are several campground inside Joshua Tree National Park:
- Belle Campground
- Hidden Valley Campground
- White Tank Campground
- Black Rock Campground
- Cottonwood Campground
- Indian Cove Campground
- Jumbo Rocks Campground
- Ryan Campground
Like I mentioned, Belle campground is our favorite campground in Joshua tree because it’s small and the sites are well spaced. The site has only 18 sites, so it gives a very off-the-beaten-path feel. To me, it’s almost like boondocking. Like most campgrounds in Joshua Tree, Belle Campground has limited amenities. You’ll get a fire ring and a picnic table with your site. A pit toilet is available nearby every site. Like Jumbo Rocks, it has large rock outcroppings that you can explore. And, you’ll get an obstructive of the dark night sky.
One of the downsides of this campground is that there is no running water, so you’ll have to bring your own. However, there are trash bins to leave your trash. Like most campground in Joshua Tree, there is no Wi-Fi or internet connectivity. The nearest dump station to Belle campground is at the South entrance of the park. When you’re there, you can also fill your water.
If you like to make reservations in advance, then Belle campground is not for you as it is first-come, first-served. If you want to get a campsite in busy season (September-May) then you’ll need to get there by Wednesday or Thursday. If you see a sign that reads, “Campground full,” don’t be dismayed. We saw several campers leaving while the sign was still in place. People who drove on by missed out on the chance to camp in one of the quietest campgrounds in Joshua Tree.
Belle campground cost a mere $15.00 per night so if you’re looking for a beautiful bargain, this is the place to go. There is a pay station where you can pay your fee. Place your cash or check in an envelope and place it in the slot of the pay station. Belle is at an elevation of 3800 feet, so the nights can be a little cooler.
Hidden Valley Campground
Hidden Valley Campground is another first-come, first-served campground. If you missed out on getting a reservation, it’s a great place to try. It has similar amenities to Belle campground, a fire pit, picnic table, trash service, and a pit toilet. Again, you’ll need to bring your own water. Like Belle campground, fires are only permitted in established fire rings or grills found in the campground. Be sure to bring water to douse your fire. Like Belle Campground, Hidden Valley Campground has a pay station where you remit your fees. Be sure to detach the tag to show proof of payment.
Again, first-come, first-served campgrounds are competitive on weekends and holidays. Try to arrive by Wednesday or Thursday at the latest. The campground has 44 sites, so it has more availability than Belle campground.
White Tank Campground
White Tank Campground is the smallest campground in Joshua Tree National park with only 15 first-come, first-served campsites. Like most campgrounds in Joshua Tree, White Tank Campground has many large rock formations. In this campground, RVs or trailers with tow vehicles must be shorter than 25 feet to fit into the campsites. This is another campground that has excellent dark sky viewing. The amenities are the same as Belle and Hidden Valley Campground, so bring plenty of water.
The cost for this campsite is also $15.00 per night payable by cash or check at the kiosk. Like Belle and Hidden Valley, campground occupants must not exceed six people, and no more than three tents and two vehicles can occupy a site. A vehicle towing a trailer is considered two vehicles.
If you want to camp on holidays and weekends in the springtime, I recommend you reserve a site ahead of time and use first-come, first-served campgrounds only as a last resort. If you’re lucky, you can get a site on Wednesday or early Thursday. Otherwise, you will have to camp outside the park.
Black Rock Campground
Black Rock Campground is one of five reservable campgrounds in the park. If you are planning on camping on a weekend or holiday, especially in the spring, you’ll want to reserve at one of these campgrounds. The fee for the Black Rock campground is $25.00 per night. Black Rock is one of the larger campgrounds in Joshua Tree, with 99 sites available. Black Rock has both restrooms and water available. It’s conveniently located near the town of Yucca Valley, in case you’d like to run into town to grab some snacks or a small grocery haul. Black Rock Campground also has a dump station. There is a separate area available for a camper with horses. Unlike some other campgrounds in Joshua Tree, Black Rock does have cell phone signal, depending on your carrier.y
As I mentioned, Black Rock is very compact, so expect to be right next to your camping neighbor. Like many of the other campground in Joshua Tree National Park, Black Rock will be surrounded by magnificent boulder formations
Cottonwood campground has 62 sites, so it’s one of the larger campgrounds in Joshua Tree National Park. May through September, Cottonwood is only available by reservation. However, same-day reservations can be made if a site is available. If you are looking for a campground with potable water and flush toilets, Cottonwood is for you. It also has trash service and a dump station. The maximum RV lenght available is 35 feet.
This campground is near the Cottonwood Visitor Center, in the South East section of the park. If you go in March, you may be treated with a view of spring wildflowers. A good rain in winter brings blooms of lupine, poppies, and canterbury belles.
The campground is close to Highway 10, but farther from hiking and other attractions than some of the other campgrounds. Cottonwood is void of the large rock formations that you’ll see in some other Joshua Tree campgrounds. Like all other campgrounds in Joshua Tree, there is no cell phone service.
|Campground||Cost Per Night*||# Sites||RV Length|
|Hidden Valley||$15.00||44||24′||Yes||Vault||No||West Central|
|White Tank||$15.00||15||24′||Yes||Vault||No||East Central|
|Jumbo Rocks||$20.00||124||RV 35′|
*There is a 50% discount for senior pass holders.
**Four of the 37 sites are designated for equestrians and three are designated for cyclists. Equestrian sites are $20.00 per night and bike sites are $5.00 per night.
Indian Cove Campground
Indian Cove campground is one of the more secluded campgrounds in the park. The campground sits at the end of Indian Cove Road. It has 101 sites, so it’s one of the larger campgrounds. Like many of the other campgrounds in Joshua Tree NP, the campsites are surrounded by the large boulder formations. In some sites, these rocks give a sense of privacy. Even though it’s a larger campground, (meaning more sites) the sites are adequately spaced. This campground is dry camping, like some others, but it does have pit toilets and trash service. Camping fees per night are $20.00 per night for a individual site and $50.00 per night for a group site.
Jumbo Rocks Campground
While the Jumbo Rocks campground is spacious and has many sites (124 to be exact), it is my least favorite campground in Joshua Tree. Don’t get me wrong, if you can get a site here and nowhere else, by all means, do. Like I mentioned, the sites in Jumbo Rocks campground are one on top of the other so you’ll get to be good friends with your neighbors by the end of your trip. I don’t generally go camping to meet people so being squished in with other campers is not my bag. But you might like it. There are some more private sites in the campground as like the name says, there are large rock formations in the entirety of the campground. Some of the rock formations abut campsites, creating a campsite with a more private feel.
Jumbo Rocks is the largest (site-wise) campground in Joshua Tree, with 124 sites, making it easier to get a site here than other campgrounds. It’s dry camping, but you’ll have trash pick up and pit toilets. The sites are tight for some RVs. The and maximum RV length is 35 feet while the maximum trailer length is 20 feet. Some sites are smaller, so be sure to check the site length before reserving a site. Sites are $20.00 per night.
Ryan is another small campground with just 37 sites. However, this one is reservable. It’s one of the campgrounds that is centrally located and in proximity to many park attractions. Of the 37 sites, four are designated equestrian sites since the campground is located close to the California Riding Trail. Three bicycle sites are available for cyclists at $5.00 per night with maximum of three tents and three people per site for the bike sites.
Sites are all dry camping, so bring your own water. A pit toilet and trash pick up are provided. Ryan campground is located in proximity to several hiking trails, including a 3-mile loop-trail to Ryan’s Peak.
Camping Outside of the Park
If you don’t mind dispersed camping, there are dispersed campsites located on both the North and the South entrances of the park, just down the road from Chiriaco Summit off highway 10. We camped at the South Entrance and found it to be quite nice. There were plenty of campsites and the sites were not close together. One issue we did run into was the wind. I’m not sure if that is normal for that area or if it was a fluke. We camped their the first night and drove into the park the next day as soon as it opened. If you’re not sure how to find campsites or dispersed camping, these apps can help you.
If you’re not interested in dispersed camping, there are RV parks and camping areas just to the North and the South of the park.
On the South end, try Chiriaco Summit-Patton Museum Dry Camp Area. This is a free place to camp. It is dry camping and it’s nothing fancy, but it’s a good place to camp if you don’t feel safe dispersed camping. And, the campground has cell phone signal. Since it’s right next to OHV trails, it can be loud at night on the weekends. Plus, you’ll hear the road noise from your campsite. Beside that, there is a rest area where you can stay overnight just off of I-10, and to the West of the park.
If you want to stay in an RV park near the South Entrance, your best bet is in the city of Indio. There are several RV parks there, ranging in price from $60.00 to $100.00 per night. For something less expensive Lake Cahuilla Recreation Area is a county park in La Quinta that costs just $25-$45 per night. This campground has 93 gravel sites and is about a 45 minute drive from the park South entrance. Hook up sites are available and you’ll probably have cell phone signal.
On the North end of the park, there is also dispersed camping. Again, if your not interested in dispersed camping, there are a few RV parks in nearby Yucca Valley.
If you have the slightest inkling to visit Joshua Tree National Park, I implore you to go. Even if you have to dry camp, your visit will be so worth it!