Joshua Tree National Park, California | Camping

Lost Palms Oasis in Joshua Tree National Park, California

This is a convenient place to camp when visiting Joshua Tree National Park in southern California. The campsites are on BLM land along a well maintained dirt road that intersects Cottonwood Springs Road (the main road accessing the south end of Joshua Tree NP). This dirt road is just south of the national park and services the Colorado River Aqueduct, which is underground here.

From the camping area, all you have to do is walk across the road and over a berm and you’re in the national park. However, there isn’t too much to see right here, except the expansive bajada with its several washes. Getting up into the mountains is where things become more interesting, and there are some neat canyons to explore.

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Where in The World?

Camping Elevation: 1,857 feet

GPS Coordinates: N 33 40.547’ W 115 48.635’

Directions to Camping Area: From Indio, California drive east on I-10 for 23 miles, then take exit 168 for Cottonwood Springs Road. Turn left (north) on Cottonwood Springs Road and drive 1 mile. Turn left (west) onto the dirt road and you’ll see several campsites south of the road.

Joshua Tree NP Camping Area Map

Joshua Tree National Park RV Camping Journal

January 22, 2013

There are several spacious campsites along this dirt road, which is just south of the national park boundary. At no time were all sites taken. Far from it…2 to 3 other campers was typical during my 2 week stay in January.

Recreation: There is much to see in Joshua Tree National Park. I hiked the trail up Mastodon Peak for a great view of the mountainous desert, the San Jacinto Mountains and the Salton Sea. Another hike was to Lost Palms Oasis, which is awesome. There are many, many palm trees and several small pools of clean clear spring water welling up from the ground. I saw and heard lots of birds in this desert paradise. The canyon is beautiful with its yellow rounded rock walls and gigantic boulders.

There are several more trails throughout the park. Hiking north from camp and onto the bajada is worth a trip. There is always a desert plant or two in bloom and you’ll see many hummingbirds, perhaps more than you ever saw in your life. You may even surprise a deer, come upon a jackrabbit, or spot a coyote out for a stroll.

Weather: This is January, and it’s easily the windiest place I’ve camped in my 3 years of full-time RVing. Days with 15-20 mph winds and 30-40 mph gusts were common during my stay. A few nights were extremely gusty too, rocking my RV and making a good night’s sleep difficult. The winds have almost always been out of the north, and felt a bit nippy. Up until a few days ago, it’s been cold. Highs were only in the 50s and 40s, lows in the 30s and 40s. I awoke one morning to 29 degrees outside. It’s warmed up now to the low 70s – the warmest it’s been; lows are now in the 50s. No rain has fallen and only a few days had cloudy skies.

Wildlife: If you want to see hummingbirds, you’ve come to the right place! Each time I step outside I see one hovering about, singing, or resting on a branch. While hiking on the bajada I came within 4 feet of a hummingbird that was sitting on a branch. I was so close I could see it lift one leg to scratch behind its ear. It’s fascinating to watch these miniature rocket ships zooming through space with the utmost precision – they must be the aerobatic masters of the universe. They certainly put those helicopters flying overhead to shame.

Other wildlife I spotted here: 1 whitetail deer (buck, seen while hiking north on the bajada into Joshua Tree NP), ravens, eagles, a few hawks, several gambels quail, roadrunner, many more birds, black tailed jackrabbit, ground squirrels, coyote, a desert tortoise shell, and many small lizards. There’s always some plant in bloom, giving the desert a pleasing scent and attracting lots of hummingbirds and bees.

Insects: A few bees come by now and then, a couple flies, and some ants. No issues.

Peacefulness: I-10 is very close and visible from the campsites here. Traffic is audible, but it’s not distracting. There’s plenty of air traffic too. The interstate is patrolled by helicopter and there are often other choppers in the air, including large double rotor cargo helicopters. It’s a busy place and receives more action than any campsite I had in Arizona. Welcome to California! I’m hoping all will quiet down once I leave the interstate area. This dirt road sees light traffic, usually less than 5 vehicles on weekdays – a bit more on weekends.

RV Solar: It’s super sunny. The few trees here can provide a smidgen of shade if you’re close enough.

Cell Signal: Excellent 4g Verizon cell phone service and very fast Verizon Mobile Broadband Internet.

RV Campsite Rating: 6 out of 10. I subtracted 2 points, all due to the wind. Otherwise, it’d get an 8. It is beautiful here and does not feel like a desert as there is so much life to be found. It’s as close as you can camp to Joshua Tree National Park without paying a fee. It’s practically in the park, so you can’t beat that!

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