Camping in Joshua Tree

Johsua Tree

Photo by John Mancini

This weekend I slept in the desert beneath the stars, and it was just what I needed.

No WiFi, no cell reception, no looming deadlines and no worries. And it. Was. Awesome.

Joshua Tree rocks

Joshua Tree

John and I ventured two hours out of the city to Joshua Tree National Park, a place straight out of a Dr. Seuss book. With the crazy rock formations and twisty yucca plants, it feels very much like a made-up fantasy world, and I was happy to call it home for the weekend.

Joshua Tree wildlife and landscape

We pitched our tent in the popular Hidden Valley campground, a first-come first-serve site nestled among several large rock formations that make for great climbing. There were a lot of pro climbers who scaled impressive boulders—we stuck to the formations that didn’t require a harness and rope.

The sun woke us up early each morning, and John and I got two full days of climbing, hiking and exploring in. We followed several trails, checking out the plant and wildlife along the way (I spotted one lizard way up high that was the size of my calf), and we took breaks by firing up the propane stove and eating canned soup in the shade.

Joshua Tree cave

Joshua Tree rock climbing

camping in Joshua Tree

Temperatures were in the low 90s, but I truly felt the difference between the desert heat and the East Coast summer heat I’m so used to. 90 degrees in Maryland feels like death. But in Joshua Tree without humidity, it was tolerable. There were regular cool breezes to offer relief, and the shade was a perfect respite as well. It was almost perfect weather-wise, though tourist season will soon die down when higher temperatures become more frequent. It’s not a place you want to be when it’s 100 degrees or more.

Joshua Tree sunset

Joshua Tree panoramic view


Joshua Tree

What are some of the camping essentials for Joshua Tree?

Sunscreen is a given. And twice as much water as you think you’ll need. (This campground doesn’t have pumps for water, so you’ll need to bring extra jugs for washing out pots and pans.) That means you’ll also want hand wipes or sanitizer after using the lovely restrooms. Firewood is a must for evenings—it cools off considerably at night, and all of the campsites have in-ground grills. We didn’t have any, but I’d love to bring headlamps here, too. We spotted several climbers who wore headlamps and braved the boulders at night. Finally, remember there’s no cell phone service whatsoever, so it’s important to plan ahead and let people know you’re going off the grid.

John & CassieCamping in Joshua Tree was the perfect way to kickstart a summer that I’m hoping will be a good mix of both work and play. Our next camping adventure? Big Bear!

Have you been to Joshua Tree? What are some of your favorite national parks?


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  1. What an absolutely glorious place! I would love to go there!

    • Cassie Paton says:

      It’s even more impressive in person! I loved it so much. The vibe was unlike any other place I’ve been.

  2. I’ve never been to Joshua Tree, but I love national parks. I’m not a fan of camping, though.

    • Cassie Paton says:

      Camping is not for everyone. I didn’t really get into it until John and I started dating, and since then, I’ve been lucky to have a lot of good experiences with it. Creature comforts (like a/c, ha) fulfill me, but it’s so nice to spend some time outside. That said, by the third day, I’m usually ready to be done and get a shower.

  3. FUN! So glad you guys got the chance to go out there – we still haven’t camped there, womp womp. Maybe sometime next fall or winter…not sure I could handle it in the summer. This sounds like the perfect Memorial Day weekend activity to me, though.

    • Cassie Paton says:

      Yeah, we really got in there at the very end of the tolerable weather. I’d love to go back in the fall sometime. It really is the best… nothing beats a campfire out in the desert. 🙂

  4. That looks amazing, it’s something that I’d love to do. We don’t really have any places like that in this country. There are some really nice parks and places, but nowhere that looks as amazing as that.

    • Cassie Paton says:

      It’s amazing to me how diverse of a landscape the U.S. really has. Never has it struck me more than when I drove cross-country. It bums me out that I’ve never been overseas, but at least I’ve been able to do a fair amount of exploring right here in my own country!

  5. What a beautiful place + a wonderful way to relax + escape the real world a bit! I’ve heard such wonderful things about Joshua Tree – I’d love to go one day.

  6. This is the second time in a month I’ve seen photos of Joshua Tree, and the second time I’ve fallen in love with it’s landscape! Sounds (and looks) like you had a super-awesome time, Cassie – thank you for sharing your trip!

    • Cassie Paton says:

      I’d seen a lot of blog posts about it in the past few months myself, so I was really hoping it was as magical as it looked in photos. Of course, it totally was… and then some.

  7. That looks amazing! I’m not a fan of camping, but I would be willing to camp if it meant staying the night in a beautiful National Park.

    • Cassie Paton says:

      Bring an inflatable mattress, campfire wood & a cooler full of beer, and you’ll be all set. 🙂

  8. Cassie, thank you for writing about your visit to this beautiful national park! You have intrigued me to visit Joshua Park, and now it is on my “Places to Experience” list! Also, your photos are outstanding. Can I ask what type of camera you are using?

    Kudos to you…you are living an AUTHENTIC life!

    • Cassie Paton says:

      Thanks so much, Debbie! I use a Nikon D3200, which is an entry-level DSLR. I really recommend it! I’d love to know what other places are on your list. I hope you make it out to Joshua Tree… it’s worth the trip!

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