Short Guide to Joshua Tree National Park
So you’ve decided to take the plunge and visit Joshua Tree National Park in an RV? Maybe you have been inspired by a documentary you watched, or you’ve had your sights fixed on the park for some time, or perhaps you’ve visited our RV rental marketplace and found a deal you can’t resist. Whatever your reason, you’ve come to the right place.
In this guide, I’ll walk you through RVing in Joshua Tree National Park, tell you a bit about its history, weather, natural wonders, the special activities it has to offer, and RV campground options. Trust me; it’s a paradise for adventurous RV travelers that shouldn’t escape your bucket list. Let’s get this trip started.
Tucked away in southeastern California, Joshua Tree spans over 1,200 miles. This monumental park lies where two distinct desert ecosystems intersect—the Majove Desert in the west and the Colorado Desert in the east. It was designated as a national monument in 1936, and it later attained the status of a national park in 1994.
The park derives its name from its alien-looking tree species, commonly referred to as Joshua Tree. Apart from its twisted and spiky plants, this natural wonder is characterized by breathtaking mountain views, rugged rock formations, and incredible wildlife. The park attracts over 3 million visitors a year, and it’s a haven for artists, solitude seekers, UFO enthusiasts, backpackers, and of course, RVers.
Thanks to the park’s location, temperatures are relatively comfortable most times of the year. However, summers can reach a sweltering 100 degrees during the day, while winters can see freezing temperatures. For the perfect RV adventure, spring and fall are regarded as the ideal seasons to visit due to gentle weather.
Getting to the park in your RV is a breeze, and the main backcountry roads inside the park are easy to navigate. It’s just 128 miles to drive your rental rig from Los Angeles to Joshua Tree and 223 miles from Phoenix. You can access the park from three entrances—the west one for visitors coming from Los Angeles/San Diego, the north gate for Las Vegas visitors, and the south one for Phoenix and Albuquerque nature lovers. Remember, you can always rent an RV once you touch down in any major city around the park.
What to Do at Joshua Tree National Park
Scenic Drives in Your Rental RV
Nothing will help you get a feel and taste of Joshua Tree National Park better than an RV scenic drive. If you stick to the park’s main routes, you can easily explore the stunning deserts in your home on wheels. Some RV-accessible wonders worthy of discovery include Cholla Garden, Ryan Ranch, Cap Rock, Skull Rock, Intersection Rock, and Jumbo Rocks. You can also peek into cowboy facade town of Pioneertown, where they used to shoot old movies.
Hiking and Climbing
If you decide to soak in the enchanting beauty of Joshua Tree on foot, you won’t be disappointed. There are thousands of hiking routes meandering through the park. Consider the Ryan mountain, Indian Cove, Hidden Valley, and Barker Dam nature trails. If you love climbing or bouldering, there are hundreds of routes and towering rocks perfect for new and experienced dirt-bag enthusiasts—for instance, the Echo Cove, Arch Rock, and Hidden Valley area.
Discover Rare Flora
How about witnessing mother nature’s best flora displays? This bizarre but beautiful landscape is home to many rare plants, from the lovely but dangerous cholla cactus, the beautiful Joshua tree wildflowers to the spectacular smoke trees.
Although the park stands out for its unique flora, there is also plenty of wildlife. Bird lovers can spot the greater roadrunner, mockingbird, cactus wren, and even raptors. The landscape is also home to bighorn sheep, coyotes, kangaroo rats, bobcats, and many other animals, so add binoculars to your RV packing checklist.
Scenic Horse Ride and Mountain Biking
Joshua Tree’s geology is just phenomenal, and exploring the pure wilderness on the saddle will help you cover more ground. You’ll get an up-close view of the nature-sculpted rocks resembling massive skulls or sleeping giants. For the best horse riding experience, head to the Black Rock Canyon horse camp.
Unpolluted by artificial lights, nighttime’s in the desert is extraordinary. And Pinto Basin Road at the park’s center is the spot to be. So, no matter how comfortable you feel sleeping in your rental RV, it’s worth spending a night under the star-filled sky. For the perfect sunset, head to Key’s View, the highest point in the park.
Joshua Tree offers eight campgrounds that accommodate RVs, although none offers hookups. It’s quite tough to score weekend spots during peak season, but you can still snag a campsite when you book in the low season. Here are some top campgrounds within the park’s boundaries.
● Black Rock Campground – Popular with families and first-time RVers thanks to its running water, dump station, ideal location, and moderate temperatures. Outside the high season, its campsites are first-come, first-served.
● Cottonwood Campground – Located at the southern entrance, this place is also equipped with running water, a sanitation dump, and flush toilets. It has around twenty-five campsites that can accommodate RVs slightly longer than 35 feet.
● Indian Cove Campground – If you’re planning an RV adventure in the chilly season, this is the only Campground that accepts winter reservations. It has nearly 100 parking spots.
● Jumbo Rocks – This campground has 124 campsites, and RVs are allowed. It can accommodate rigs with a length of up to 35 feet. Amenities include; vault toilets, trash collection, picnic tables, and BBQ pits.
● Joshua Tree Lake RV and Campground – It’s a privately owned campground located at the Mojave Desert’s southern edge. The park offers power and water hookups, a dump station, wireless internet, and a picnic area.
● Little Pioneertown RV Campground – This campground is only a 20 minutes’ drive from the western entrance and has plenty of campsites. It provides electric, water, and sewer hookups plus laundry machines, WiFi, propane grills, and outdoor furniture.
Joshua Tree National Park is undoubtedly a natural gem that’s home to some of America’s most strange and surreal landscapes. If you are looking for the ultimate wild adventure in your rental RV, this park should be on top of your travel bucket list. Just make sure you rent an RV with the perfect features and amenities for a long road trip.