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Summer Camping in Joshua Tree National Park

Summer Camping in Joshua Tree National Park

If you know a bit about Joshua Tree, you’ve probably heard that summers are blazing hot. Average temps soar over 100°F June through September. So why would anyone want to go summer camping in Joshua Tree National Park? For us, it was the stars. Warm, balmy nights mean you can enjoy Joshua Tree’s amazingly bold and beautiful starry skies in shorts and a t-shirt.  Most of my childhood memories with camping revolve around wanting to dive into my sub-zero mummy sleeping bag as soon as the sun went down (probably exaggerating a bit since I’m from AZ, but hey, it snows there too). It was fun to actually want to venture out once the sun set. The trade-offs are obvious when the sun comes up, so I’ve gathered a few tips on making the best of your summer camping in Joshua Tree.

Summer Camping in Joshua Tree National Park, California

When to Go

You’ll have to be prepared for the heat no matter what time you go in summer, but there’s usually a few days near the beginning or the end of the season with a dip in temperature. Your best bet is to be flexible with your dates and hit the road when you see the forecast is low. In early June, you can still luck out with highs in the low 90s, which is a lot better than the almost guaranteed 110°F (43°C) in July. Things start to cool off again in September with most days in the 80s or 90s, but it may even drop to the 70s.

Summer Camping in Joshua Tree National Park, California | Indian Cove Campground

Summer Camping in Joshua Tree National Park, California

Tent at night in Joshua Tree National Park

Campgrounds for Summer Camping in Joshua Tree

During the summer months, all campsites are first-come, first-served. This isn’t a problem because you’ll have plenty of spots to choose from. It’s important to note that the campgrounds listed below are typically closed after the first weekend of June through the end of September.

    • Cottonwood Campground, (Loop B)
    • Ryan Campground
    • Indian Cove Campground family sites (West Loop)
    • Black Rock Campground, sites (49-60 &69-99)

We found an awesome spot on the east loop of Indian Cove that was completely shaded by the large boulder hills in this area. Campsites throughout the park cost $15 to $20 per night and have a table, fire pit with grate and a separate small barbecue. All have some form of a toilet, either pit or flush. Only Blackrock and Cottonwood have potable water.

You can find more information about each of the campgrounds on the NPS website here.

Bring your water

As noted above, only Blackrock and Cottonwood have potable water. Even so, it’s best to bring your water with you as you don’t want to take any chances in the summer heat. Plan on 1-2 gallons of water per person per day, plus a few more as backup.

Summer Camping in Joshua Tree National Park, California

Short Hikes

We planned our hiking in the early morning or late afternoon and avoided anything too strenuous. Here are some short hikes for summer.

Barker Dam Nature Trail – 1.3-mile loop

Indian Cove Nature Trail – 0.6-mile loop

Arch Rock – 1 mile out and back from the White Tank Campground

Skull Rock – This cool rock formation is right off the main road, so you can pull over and hop out if you don’t want to walk. A 1.7-mile nature trail starts in the Jumbo Rocks Campground if you want to walk.

Keys View – There’s a small walking path around the area, but this place is mostly about the view. On a clear day, you can see down into the Coachella Valley, the San Andreas Fault, the Salton Sea, and the Santa Rosa Mountains.

Star gazing in Joshua Tree | A Guide to Summer Camping in Joshua Tree National Park, California


We’re not expert stargazers (or night sky photographers) but we did learn a few things from our trip to Joshua Tree.

  • Try to go during a new moon. With no moon in the sky, the stars appear brighter and you’ll be able to capture some amazing shots of the Milky Way. The moon was up and bright during our camping trip, and it was easy to see why no moon is better. Even so, the stars were pretty spectacular, so don’t let that deter you from going on your trip.
  • The best time to see the Milky Way in Joshua Tree is April through October.
  • Anywhere within Joshua Tree National Park is amazing for stargazing, so you can either stick to your campsite or venture out. We stayed near our campsite in Indian Cove, so we had to deal with the large boulder hills that partially blocked the view. Some campsites have better visibility, or you can check out these spots:

Arch Rock – it gets darker on this side of the park, and catching the Milky Way over the rocks looks incredible

Pinto Basin area – this is another spot that gets pretty dark. There are spots to pull off on the road between Cottonwood and the Cholla Cactus Garden. Keys View is great if you want a wide-open view.

Hidden Valley area – another spot with pullouts along the road

  • Joshua Tree is a great place to view the Perseid Meteor Shower, one of the most consistent meteor showers each year. The meteor shower occurs when the Earth passes through the path of the Comet Swift-Tuttle. In 2017, this occurs from July 17 to August 24, with August 12 as the best day to view the meteors.
  • This isn’t in the summer, but Joshua Tree National Park holds an annual night festival. The 2017 Night Festival is November 10-12

Summer Camping in Joshua Tree National Park, California

Places to escape the heat

If you want to completely avoid the mid-day heat, consider finding a nearby hotel on Airbnb where you can lounge away the day in your air-conditioned room or by the pool. There are a few great Airbnbs in the area with a pool and cool interiors. If you’re new to Airbnb, sign up with our referral link here, and get $20 towards your first stay!

Pool house starting at $45

Casa de Agave in the Heart of Downtown Joshua Tree, starting at $118

Mid-Century Poolside Getaway starting at $150

Mojave Modern Joshua Tree by Echo Ranch, starting at $180. The pool on this one is a bit questionable as it looks more like a watering trough, but the interior is pretty spectacular.

The hotels in Joshua Tree are limited and pretty basic, so if you’re looking for more of a resort, you’ll have more luck in Palm Springs, about a 45-minute drive from the park.

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A Guide to Summer Camping in Joshua Tree National Park, California
Star gazing in Joshua Tree | A Guide to Summer Camping in Joshua Tree National Park, California

Summer Camping in Joshua Tree National Park, California

Arch Rock | Summer Camping in Joshua Tree National Park, California

Summer Camping in Joshua Tree National Park, California

Summer Camping in Joshua Tree National Park, California

Summer Camping in Joshua Tree National Park, California

Summer Camping in Joshua Tree National Park, California

Star gazing in Joshua Tree | A Guide to Summer Camping in Joshua Tree National Park, California

Happy Camping! And if you have any hot weather camping tips, let us know in the comments below.

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Friday 30th of August 2019

Hey! We plan to camp at the end of September this year. It would be fine just to arrive late afternoon set up camp and then enjoy the start for one night? From reading a few sites it should be ok, will all the camping spots be taken. We are trying to avoid the serious heat. Thanks! Fab picots and recommendations! xxx


Sunday 1st of September 2019

Hi Val, busy season in Joshua Tree starts once the weather begins to cool, which is usually around the end of August. September highs are mid 90s to mid 80s, so it's not anywhere as hot as the summer. If you're heading out to Joshua Tree on a weekend in September, I would definitely book a reservation ahead of time if you can. The likelihood of finding a spot late afternoon is pretty slim. We didn't book ahead of time when we went at the beginning of June and we were lucky to snag one of the last spots.

These campgrounds are reservations only after summer (Aug 30 this year): Black Rock, Cottonwood, Indian Cove, and Jumbo Rocks

These campgrounds are first come first served; Belle, Hidden Valley, Ryan, and White Tank

You can read more about the campgrounds here and book a spot:


Friday 12th of April 2019

Are you sure that there will be campsites available in July, even when we arrive in the evening right before the park closes?


Tuesday 23rd of April 2019

Hey Sarah, because summer camping is all first-come, first-served in Joshua Tree, there's no guarantee that there will be spots, but there were a lot of empty campsites when we were there. If you're going during a weekday, I'm sure you'll be fine. It will be a bit busier over the weekends or around a holiday. If you're worried about it, you can give the park a call and ask a ranger how full the campsites have been recently, and that should give you a pretty good idea. Hope that helps! Have a great trip!


Friday 18th of January 2019

Great post! we are from Europe / Austria and visited the park in july 2017. We were so impressed but it was verry hot during the day. My wish is to camp with tent one night in July 2019, when we are back in this area. We plan to arrive in the evening about 7-8 pm and to leave in the morning. Could you please tell us, how high the teperatures could be. Can we sleep tonight, ore is it too hot. ....thanks for your help Robert


Tuesday 29th of January 2019

Hi Robert! Yes, it doesn't get pretty hot in Joshua Tree during the summer. Anytime we've been during the summer we've usually arrived in the afternoon and left before the heat of the day. July temperatures can reach over 100F (37C), but the nighttime temperatures feel great (about 70F or 21C). If you've already been during July, the weather should be pretty consistent with your last visit.


Sunday 17th of June 2018

Thank you very much Kelly!


Thursday 14th of June 2018

Thanks for all those info! I really look forward to camping at JTNP: I wonder how hot can be at night (beginning of September)? I am scared of extremely hot night like for eg at the Death Valley..... thanks for your help!

Kelly Barcus

Friday 15th of June 2018

Hi Fabia, the average low in Sept in Joshua Tree is 62F, so it does cool down quite a bit at night. September is usually a pretty good month to visit Joshua Tree because it's started cooling down in the day, but the nights aren't too cold yet!

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