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?