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  • Ben Webby

A Guide to Joshua Tree National Park Camping

Incredible night skies, a rich cultural history, and surreal geologic features create the Southern California wonder that is Joshua Tree National Park.


Joshua Tree National Park is an extremely powerful place to visit. The park has a mystical, eerie vibe to it. It is up there as one of the best national parks in California, a must-see destination for any California road trip.

The meeting point of the Mojave and Colorado Deserts. Joshua Tree National Park has its own unique ecosystem and wildlife. It is the only place in the world where the famous Joshua Tree grows.


Joshua tree at night is one of the highlights of any Joshua Tree camping trip. The dark night sky at Joshua Tree offers stargazers an unadulterated peek into the cosmos. No light pollution from nearby towns or cities lets you stargaze as your ancestors did.


Can you Swim at Joshua Tree National Park?

You can not swim in Joshua Tree National Park. Obviously, water is extremely scarce in the desert, and it needs to be protected for the wildlife in the area.


There is access to pools at resorts and recreation centers close to Joshua Tree National Park. In addition to that, there are natural swimming spots within driving distance of the park.


Barker Dam is the only place with water year-round in Joshua Tree. The Barker Dam Trail is one of the best hikes in Joshua Tree National park and would be the perfect place to cool off after a hike. But unfortunately, you can not swim here. It all but drys up in the summer so be sure to check it out in the winter or spring.


Joshua Tree National Park Camping - Where Can You Camp?

Remember, all federal owned land in the United States is allowed to be camped on overnight. This means all National Parks and Forests.


Unless there are specific warning signs, you can set up camp anywhere at Joshua Tree. Be sure to pick up your rubbish, bury your poop, and don't pet the desert tortoises.


The Bureau of Land Management offers free camping near the national park's south and north entrance. There aren’t any restrooms around and you aren’t allowed without a permit but it’s free so who cares.


If you do not feel like Freedom Camping at Joshua Tree and would prefer a proper campsite, check out any of these 9 campgrounds located over the park. Some of them are available for reservation, but others are on a first-come, first-serve basis.

  • Hidden Valley Campground

  • Indian Cove Campground

  • Sheep Pass Campground

  • White Tanks Campground

  • Ryan Campground

  • Jumbo Rocks Campground

  • Black Rock Campground

  • Belle Campground

  • Cottonwood Campground

Weather for Joshua Tree National Park

The desert climate makes Joshua Tree National Park weather fluctuate wildly each day. It gets extremely hot during the day and the temperature drops significantly overnight.


Even in July it gets cold in the early hours of the morning so make sure you bring plenty of warm clothes for your Joshua Tree National Park camping trip.


The weather for Joshua Tree makes it a great camping destination from March through to November. In the winter months, it gets a little too cold for camping, and the park is subject to high winds and flash floods, not ideal for tents…


Although it isn’t great for camping, the weather for Joshua tree National Park in the winter makes it perfect for long hikes.


Even at the hottest point of the day, it rarely crosses 70°F/21.5°C in winter, so you won’t sweat balls all day. Stay in one of the nearby motels or resorts to avoid the overnight desert chill.


Joshua Tree Weather Monthly

All temperatures below are listed in average highs/lows for the month.

January

60/37°F, 16/3°C

One of the coldest months at the national park. There are a couple of days of rainfall and temperatures drop to near freezing overnight. Maybe book a room in a nearby motel or resort if you plan on visiting Joshua Tree in January.


February

63/38°F, 17/3°C

Not much warmer than January. The temperatures during the day make these months perfect for a long day hike. But, I would advise a day trip rather than camping.


March

71/42°F, 22/6°C

A good time to dust off the camping gear and take a trip to Joshua Tree. The temperature starts to pick up in March and there shouldn't be too much rain. Just bring a warm sleeping bag.


April

78/47°F, 25/8°C

April is the windiest month of the year at the park. If you going camping at Joshua Tree in April, be sure to bring extra tent pegs or your campsite will be blown across the desert.


May

85/53°F, 29/11°C

The start of the perfect camping weather. May is still one of the windiest months to visit Joshua tree. Temperatures start to climb and you shouldn't expect any rain at Joshua Tree in May.


June

96/62°F, 36/17°C

June is when you really feel that desert climate. At the peak of the day, the park is Hot. Temperatures stay comfortable overnight which is great for gazing at the universe.


July

100/71°F, 38/21°C

The best time of year to visit Joshua tree in my opinion. Temperatures are hot during the peak of the day but still comfortable. Winds die down and rain is rare in July.


August

99/69°F, 37/21°C

Early August is HOT. Temperatures soar to nearly 110°F, 43°C. Really not my hind of hiking weather but it means you can comfortably sleep out under the stars.


September

93/64°F 34/18°C

September is the month that your tent is least likely to be blown away when camping. It is the least windy month of the year. As the summer ends, temperatures drop slightly, one of the best times of the year to do a hiking and camping trip at Joshua Tree.


October

81/52°F, 27/11°C

The last of the perfect camping weather at Joshua Tree. Temperatures are still nice throughout the whole month but it begins to get a little chilly overnight.


November

69/43°F, 21/6°C

After a long dry 6 months, Joshua Tree expects a day or two of rain in November. Temperatures start to cool and Joshua Tree is once again better to explore by day trip.


December

58/35°F, 15/2°C

Temperatures drop significantly and the odd rainy day can be expected. A Joshua tree camping trip in December is not recommended. Take a day trip from San Diego or Los Angeles or stay in a nearby resort.

Best time to Visit Joshua Tree

If you plan on taking a Joshua Tree National Park Camping Trip, the best time to visit is May through October. These months may get hot during the day but they are much more comfortable for camping overnight.


The winter months get so cold overnight that temperatures drop to near freezing. It's not ideal camping conditions, you can expect high winds and the odd torrential downpour that results in flash floods.


If you can handle the dry heat and bring lots of water and sunblock, then the summer is the best time to visit the national park. It’s warm enough at night to sit out stargazing until early hours of the morning.


Joshua Tree is a popular destination for tourists year-round, but the crowds are mainly day visitors, packing in from sun up to sundown. If you are camping at Joshua Tree National Park, you will find a ton of open space to set up camp and be undisturbed in the stillness of the desert.


What to Bring on a Joshua Tree National Park Camping Trip

  • A lot of water. A Water Tank is crucial to bring with you on a Joshua Tree National Park Camping Trip. Get one that holds at least 5 gallons.

  • A large floor mat for your campsite will be a huge asset when camping at Joshua Tree. The place is spiky. Everything has prickles, and it’s a constant battle to get rid of them. A floor mat will make your campsite much more comfortable.

  • Be sure to bring a sturdy tent with lots of pegs. Bring lots of extras just in case the wind picks up overnight.

  • A Gazebo, you will need shade to escape the sun.

  • A warm sleeping bag, warm clothes, and a pair of covered shoes.

  • Plenty of sunblock as the sun is relentless during the day. Especially if you are camping at Joshua tree in the summer months.

  • A spade to dig your toilet hole. There are no toilet facilities if you are freedom camping at Joshua Tree National Park, so don't forget a shovel.

Best Hikes at Joshua Tree

The one thing better than driving through Joshua Tree National Park? Hiking at Joshua Tree. The park's exotic landscape and extensive range of hikes are best appreciated on foot. There is something for every level of hiker here, from short, brief walks to full-day, strenuous hikes.


Hidden Valley Nature Trail - Easy

An easy, 1-mile loop hike that highlights the massive rock formations found throughout Joshua Tree National Park. One of the most popular spots in the park so it can get a little crowded in the peak months.


Barker Dam Trail - Easy

One of the most popular hiking trails in Joshua Tree National Park is the Barker Dam Trail. A short, flat, 1.2-mile loop trail takes hikers to Barker Dam. The only spot in the park where there is water.


Ryan Mountain Hike - Moderate

A 3-mile round trip, this hike takes you to the summit of Joshua Tree National Park, 5,457 feet up. You get an amazing, 360 view of the surrounding landscape from the top. If the weather is good, you will be able to see beyond the park. Gaining 1,050 feet, the trail is never overly steep with the climb starting right from the trailhead.


Boy Scout Trail - Difficult

8 miles one-way, this bad boy is one of the hardest day hikes in Joshua Tree National Park. If you are a keen hiker, this is the perfect way to escape the crowds and see the iconic landscape of Joshua Tree. Although it is long, the hike is mostly flat with downhill sections towards the end.


Enjoy your Joshua Tree National Park Camping Trip, friends. Let us know about your adventures below.

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