So you’re taking a camping trip and decided on Joshua Tree National Park. Great choice. With over 500 campsites at Joshua Tree, camping is by far one of the best ways to experience all the park has to offer. No matter which campsite you choose, you’ll be surrounded by unique boulder formations that glow against your evening fire, all set against a dark, celestial backdrop of billions of stars.
The park is an ancient desert that’s nearly 800,000 acres––bigger than the entire state of Rhode Island. Its sunsets and sunrises are ethereal, and you’ll find cacti gardens and plants you’ve likely never seen before. This is the closest national park to Los Angeles and San Diego. Whether you live in California and are looking for the perfect nearby weekend trip, or are coming in from out-of-state, Joshua Park offers something for everyone. Here’s a few tips for your camping weekend at Joshua Tree National Park:
Head Over Early
Joshua Tree is a popular spot, and planners will get the best of campground choices by booking early. Peak seasons are January-May and November-New Year’s Eve, and campgrounds will fill up pretty fast during the weekends. Early spring and late fall are by far the most popular times, due to moderate temperatures. Sites available on a first-come, first-serve basis, which means you should go to the site a day or two in advance to claim your ideal spot. For a weekend trip, most spots will be occupied by Friday afternoon.
Bring Your Own Water
It seems like an easy one, but it’s a novice mistake many campers make, especially those who don’t camp often and get lost in the shuffle of gathering all the rest of the camping equipment. Though all campgrounds have basic toilet facilities, a ring fire, and picnic tables, you’re on your own with water. Most campgrounds do not have water, and it’s imperative that you bring your own––and plenty of it. There’s a water fountain available at the entrance; bring your own container and you can take a small trek to fill up here.
Do Your Research
Like any camping trip you take, you want to know as much about your campgrounds as possible. To save you some fieldwork, here are some tips:
• Some of the best sites to camp out are Hidden Valley Campground, Ryan Campground, Belle Campground, White Tank Campground, and Jumbo Rocks campground.
• Stop by one of three visitor centers to learn more about the lay of the land before you head to your campground
• Check out Keys View, an easily accessible perch that offers panoramic views of the Salton Sea, Coachella Valley, and the San Andreas Fault
• Plan your hikes ahead of time. There are 32 trails, each offering a different level of complexity
• Download the Chimani app before you go; a national park guide service that works without WiFi
Bring On The Fun
No camping trip is complete without all the relics necessary for a fun time. After all, you’re “stuck” in a desert with no electricity, WiFi, or running water. Any and all entertainment is welcome. Here are a few tips:
Get An Astrology Book
At night, Joshua Tree puts on quite a show. The park offers ample, clear sky views, and you’ll want to take full advantage of it during your stay. Invest in an astrology book or an app that doesn’t require Internet. When night falls, trace some of the most amazing constellations in the sky, and learn more about their meaning.
Have Hiking Equipment
There are all types of hiking opportunities at Joshua True, from short nature walks where you can check out different varieties of wildflower, to longer, challenging hikes. Either way, it’s best to bring some hiking equipment to make the most out of your experience. This includes hiking shoes, a lightweight backpack, water bottles, and healthy snacks.
A solid barbecue, beer, and a joint makes for a nice evening on a campsite. And it’s more than doable. Recreational marijuana in California officially became legal on January 1st, 2018. Despite this status, you might have some trouble finding a local cannabis dispensary, as businesses are slow to transition from a medical-only establishment to a recreational one.
While new cannabis startups turn to companies like MJ Freeway, https://mjfreeway.com/consulting, to get them up and running (there will be a cannabis dispensary in Joshua Tree any day now), many people are still looking for alternatives. Here’s a list of some popular retailers in the California area offering different strains of cannabis for purchase.
Bring Board & Card Games
With nothing else to entertain you but each other, board and card games can easily fill the space. Battleship, Pictionary, Scrabble, chess, checkers, and Blokus are just a few. If you want to liven up your gaming, turn your favorite card games into drinking games. Check out these popular card drinking games for some ideas.
Check Out The Community
The community of Joshua Tree is unique in its own right––the area is filled with musicians and artists, and worth exploring on your weekend camping trip, either before or after you set up shop. In Joshua, you’ll find live music venues, art galleries, funky retail shops, and Farmer’s Markets galore. In fact, visitors will find that it retains much of its 1960s aesthetic because locals work so hard to keep it that way. You won’t find fast food stores or brand conglomerates here, but that’s what contributes to the charm of the place.
There’s also plenty of local attractions in Joshua Tree that you’ll want to check out. Visitors can stop by the Integration, a dome-shaped building that was originally constructed in the 1950s by George Van Tassel, who claimed he was instructed by extraterrestrials to build it. According to Van Tassel, the dome is capable of time travel, defying gravity, and rejuvenating cell tissues. Today, it’s home to The Sound Bath––“an unforgettable sound experience for those who seek deep relaxation, rejuvenation, and introspection.” During this time, licensed therapists play music on real crystal quarters that aim to heal and energize different parts of the body.
If you long for the nostalgic days, check out a movie at Smith’s Ranch Drive-In. It sits right at the edge of Joshua Tree National Park and is surrounded by palm and sand trees. The concession stand has popcorn, nachos, hot dogs, pizza.