Travel & Adventure

I Finally Went Camping at Joshua Tree

It finally happened! While it took me nearly thirty years to make it out to Joshua Tree for the first time, two years after my initial visit I fulfilled my dream of camping under those big goofy whimsical trees. And it was as magical as I had imagined.

I can’t wait to go back!

Before I get going with my camping adventure (don’t get too excited, it was a pretty mellow trip with really very little to report), if you haven’t read my post about finally visiting Joshua Tree or you want to check it out again, I’ll link it here. Over there I talk about my lifelong fascination with this part of the desert and why it was so important for me to visit there.

Now onto the camping.

Our Campsite – We could have spread out, but this way we could talk from our tents at night

As you hopefully have now read, the first time I visited Joshua Tree, I fell in love immediately. It was beautiful and strange, and quiet, and it made me feel like I understood another part of my dad. Also, I am slowly coming to the realization that I think a part of me is a desert person. I hate being hot, but there is something special, gorgeous, and alluring about the desert. But that’s getting off-topic.

Before we had even left the park, during that initial visit, I declared that we needed to come back and camp. My reasons are two-fold. One, the obvious, it was something my dad did quite a bit and I wanted that experience too. And two, it seemed like a gorgeous place to camp out. It was already so quiet during that day, I could only imagine how it would be at night. Also, I love the stars! I love laying out at night staring up at the sky and here in the suburbs, where I live, there isn’t much to see. I knew the sky in Joshua Tree would be breathtaking.

Now it took us almost two years to finally get this camping trip planned and executed, but it was well worth the wait. (Also, beats my track record of 30 years with this place.)

The camping trip ended up being my husband and I, and my best friend and her girlfriend. We caravaned our way up there and spent most of the day in the park before heading off to our campsite.

Our campsite and our kitty-cornered neighbors

We desperately wanted to camp inside the official park, but those spaces fill up quick! The sites you can reserve were booked out for months and even though we got to the park right after it opened, all the first come first serve spaces were already taken. We had heard that first come first serve sites fill up quickly, so we went ahead and reserved a site in advance at the Black Rock Campground. The campground is pretty big, I believe it has over 100 sites, so I was a little worried about the sites being too small or too close together, but it ended up being an amazing experience. I also want to note, the campground is still part of the Joshua Tree National Park, it’s just not within the area that you need to pay to access.

The sites immediately around us weren’t occupied, just one kitty-cornered from us, but even if the sites had been full, the layout left plenty of space for everyone. Each site is slightly different and can vary in size, but our site had plenty of room for both cars (a Compact SUV and a Wagon to be specific) and both tents. Our site had a fire pit, a picnic table, and was within decent walking distance from legitimate bathrooms (running water).

Another great thing about the campground, besides fire pits, real bathrooms, and good size sites, for those that aren’t really into getting fully away from it all or are known to forget things (we forgot firewood and aluminum foil), there is a Walmart less than 10 minutes down the road from the campground. This was a lifesaver, that also made me really nervous. Once I realized how close we were to town I was worried that it wouldn’t get as dark or as quiet, but I’m happy to report, in spite of its convenient distance from town, you would have never been able to tell once you were in the campground.

The night itself was everything I wanted. We made dinner and then sat around the fire pit talking and watching the stars. It was quiet. It was relaxing. And the stars were everything I wanted.

In the morning we cooked up some breakfast and then headed back into the park for a little more sightseeing. Our camping companions had never seen the Cholla Cactus Garden and we couldn’t let them head back home without that.

Image of Cholla Cacti at Joshua Tree National Park
Cholla Cactus Garden

Overall it was a great experience. I understand, once again, why my dad loved this place so much and I look forward to going back again and creating many more memories.

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