Joshua Tree National Park is one of our most favorite places in the world. Right around this time of year, after the first heat wave of the season reminds us how sizzling hot the summers can get, we realize how much we’re going to miss it very soon. We’ll be making some desperate last minute trips out there in the next few months, and you should too.
Most of the campgrounds in Joshua Tree are first come, first serve. The park is a climber’s paradise, but climbing season is winding down at this point in the year, so you may have more luck finding a site. If you’re a climber, then Hidden Valley Campground is the place you will likely look for a campsite first. It is the one closest to the entrance, and to much of the climbing in the park. We prefer driving just a bit deeper to our favorite gem, Jumbo Rocks Campground.
Jumbo Rocks is much larger than it appears, and is the location of the park’s amphitheater. Ranger programs are available many weekends for your learning pleasure. They’ll teach you about the stars, creatures of the desert, and other relevant topics. My favorite part of Jumbo Rocks are the many beautiful stacks of boulders in and around all the campsites. They create a lively and spectral show as the light of campfires dances along their faces.
I also appreciate the open desert that the campground backs up against. It offers endless space for exploring, day or moonlit night. Once, we created a sort of mini adventure race for our group to enjoy, choosing a large boulder in the distance to race to. I chose to go straight forward, scrambling over the rocks in the way, while others went around on the ground. I lost, but surely had the most fun.
Many tourists can’t go to Joshua Tree without taking pictures of the infamous “Skull Rock,” which is located on the roadside of Jumbo Rocks Campground. There is a short hiking trail that leads you straight to the landmark from the campground. You’ll know you’re there when you see all the cars parked on the side of the main road, and the people with their cameras out.
What’s your favorite campground? Is there one you especially miss when the season changes?
Jumbo Rocks Campground
LocationJoshua Tree, CA
Activity GuideCar Camping, Off-roading, Hiking
Jumbo Rocks campground is one of the many scenic campgrounds in Joshua Tree National Park. It is first come, first serve, and is the fourth campground in from the main entrance from Joshua Tree, CA.
- Fire Pits
- Picnic Tables
- Pit Toilets
- Hiking Trails
- There is NO WATER available inside the park, except for at the entrance for a small fee. Make sure you bring plenty of your own, especially as the weather heats up. Don’t die in the desert.
- Climbing season is from around October-May. That’s when the park is busiest. If you take a 3-day weekend, take Friday off instead of Monday for a greater chance of getting a campsite.
- You can always backcountry camp if no sites are available. Backcountry boards are all listed in the park newspaper. Just hike 1 mile out, and 500 feet off the trail. No fires are allowed, which can be a lovely experience of solitude. Our favorite area is Twin Tanks.
- Ranger Programs usually start at 7pm on weekends, so don’t start your campfire until you get back, unless you plan to leave someone behind to watch it.