There are nine campgrounds in all, in addition to countless backcountry possibilities. Each of the campgrounds accepts RVs as well as tents, but generator restrictions minimize the trailer park effect. Even the busiest of these campgrounds benefits from being situated amid lots and lots of open space - escaping noisy neighbors is often as easy as taking a walk behind the nearest rock.
Joshua Tree National Park lies 140 miles east of Los Angeles, 175 miles northeast of San Diego, and 215 miles southwest of Las Vegas. You can approach it from Interstate 10 and Hwy 62 (Twentynine Palms Highway). The closest airport is in Palm Springs. Public transportation to the park is not available.
There are three park entrance stations:
Park HQ Address
74485 National Park Drive
Twentynine Palms, CA 92277
This popular destination, perched on the crest of the Little San Bernardino Mountains, provides panoramic views of the Coachella Valley and is well worth the 20-minute drive from Park Boulevard down Keys View Road.
The lookout is wheelchair accessible, or take the .2-mile-loop trail up the ridge for especially nice views. Look for the shining surface of the Salton Sea, which is 230 feet below sea level, on the far left. Looking to the right, the Santa Rosa Mountains are behind Indio and, along with 10,800-foot San Jacinto Peak behind Palm Springs, form the high points of the Peninsular Ranges. Further right, the usually snow-covered peak of 11,500-foot San Gorgonio Mountain is clearly visible.
The southwest side of the ridge drops nearly a mile in elevation into the Coachella Valley. The infamous San Andreas Fault, stretching 700 miles from the Gulf of California to the Mendocino Coast north of San Francisco, runs through the valley and can be seen below.
It began long ago when rain drops accumulated in tiny depressions and started to erode the granite. As more rock eroded, more water accumulated, leading to more erosion until, as time passed, two hollowed-out eye sockets formed and the rock began to resemble a skull.
Located along the main east-west park road, Skull Rock is a favorite stop for park visitors. A parking spot is located just across the road from the rock.
For those wishing to stretch their legs, a 1.7 mile nature trail begins either just across from the entrance to Jumbo Rocks Campground or inside the campground, across from the amphitheater.
Indian Cove is located 13 miles east of Joshua Tree Village and 10 miles west of Twentynine Palms on the north side of the Wonderland of Rocks. Indian Cove Road dead-ends at this secluded area.
A sprawling campground is enclosed by towering rock formations making the area popular with rock climbers. Many campsites are tucked around the rocks, providing naturalistic tent camping. Other sites offer space for RVs. There is a separate camping area for groups.
Campers register at the ranger station located at the entrance to the Indian Cove area. Water is also available there.
On the west side of the campground, the half-mile Indian Cove nature trail features the plants, animals, and seasonal Indian occupation of the area. A picnic area is located on the far eastern side of the campground.
Indian Cove is noted for the large number of mature Mojave yuccas and shrubs that grow there. Colorful spring blooms are especially striking against the sand-colored granite rocks.
Desert tortoise sightings are not unusual during spring and early fall, when they venture from their burrows. The area is also popular with birders, especially those wanting to see the elusive LeConte's thrasher.
Cottonwood Spring Oasis, one of the best kept secrets in Joshua Tree National Park, is just seven miles from the southern entrance to the park. The spring, the result of earthquake activity, was used for centuries by the Cahuilla Indians, who left bedrock mortars and clay pots, or ollas, in the area.
Cottonwood Spring was an important water stop for prospectors, miners, and teamsters traveling from Mecca to mines in the north. Water was necessary for gold processing, so a number of gold mills were located here. The remains of an arrastra, a primitive type of gold mill, can be found near the spring, and concrete ruins mark the sites of two later gold mills in the area.
Cottonwood Spring was first mentioned in a gold mine claim filed in 1875, indicating that the trees are native. Fan palms first appear around 1920, perhaps growing from seeds deposited by a bird or coyote.
The dirt roads in Covington Flats offer access to some of the park's largest Joshua trees, junipers, and pinyon pines. From Covington Flats picnic area to Eureka Peak is 3.8 miles (6.2 km) one way. The dirt road is steep near the end, but the top offers views of Palm Springs, the surrounding mountains, and the Morongo Basin.
There are a number of trails in the area and the Covington backcountry registration board is available for those wishing to backcountry camp.
Covington is located in the north-western section of the park, between Black Rock Canyon and Joshua Tree. Take La Contenta south off of Highway 62.
Located in the northwest corner of the park, the road to Black Rock Canyon dead-ends at the campground. Campsites are located on a hillside at the mouth of the canyon surrounded by Joshua trees, junipers, cholla cacti, and a variety of desert shrubs. Spring blooms usually begin with the Joshua trees in late February followed by shrubs and annuals through May.
Oasis Visitor Center
Joshua Tree Visitor Center
Cottonwood Visitor Center
Black Rock Nature Center