Yes, you can enter Joshua Tree at night. If you’re visiting Joshua Tree National Park to feast on the stars, we have good news for you — the park gates are open 24/7, and anyone can drive in or out of the park regardless of where they’re staying. Why does this matter? Because the campsites around Joshua Tree have some of the most naturally dark skies — and best views of the stars — in the U.S.
At 4000 feet elevation, and hundreds of miles from the nearest city, you’ll experience some of the darkest skies left in Southern California at Joshua Tree. The skies here are so insulated from light pollution, in fact, that Joshua Tree was recently designated as an International Dark Sky Park. To park rangers, eliminating artificial light sources in the park and lobbying for better light ordinances in nearby towns is part of keeping Joshua Tree wild.
Many nighttime visitors will see shooting stars, learn the constellations or get their first views of the Milky Way in Joshua Tree. Here is a list of the best nights for stargazing and astronomy, so you can plan your trip. While night sky views are good throughout the park, astral visibility is best on the eastern side, further from Palm Springs. Cottonwood has the darkest skies of all campgrounds.
Only use red lights to navigate by foot when stargazing — a white light is too bright and will disrupt your eyes’ ability to adjust to the darkness. Be careful when walking in the dark not to damage plants or have them damage you. You do not want to receive an ankle full of cholla cactus needles on your stargazing sojourn (a fact that this author can sadly attest to).
A few tips for J-Tree stargazers: the night sky is darkest near and during a new moon, so for dedicated stargazing visits check a moon phase calendar and plan accordingly. The following Joshua Tree campgrounds let you reserve sites up the six months in advance: Jumbo Rocks, Black Rock, Indian Cove, Sheep Pass and Cottonwood. If your astrology app suddenly tells you to spend the next new moon under the desert sky, try Hidden Valley, Ryan, Belle, White Tank for walk-in (first come, first served) campgrounds.
Another excellent time to visit Joshua Tree at night is during the full moon. Although star visibility is diminished, the full moon casts a dim blue light over the desert for a gentle, otherworldly feel. This lunar glow is sometimes so bright you can navigate camp or take an evening hike by moonlight alone.
Make sure to drive with caution on Joshua Tree roads at night. This is when many of the parks animals are active and likely to be crossing roads, such as coyote, jackrabbits and snakes. There may be other stargazers like you on bicycle or staging near pullouts, campgrounds and crosswalks, so have patience and take it slow.
You don’t need a spot inside the park to enjoy the incredible night sky at Joshua Tree. Hipcamp has many camping, glamping and RV sites in the Joshua Tree area that give you quick nighttime access to the park and a warm bed to come back to. And, with our online reservation system, you can coordinate with certain hosts about late arrivals if you’ll be stargazing before you check-in.
1. Stargazing Yurt at 28 Palms Ranch 28 Palms Ranch features a collection of brand new Mongolian stargazing yurts just 20 minutes from the north entrance of Joshua Tree. The yurts at 28 palms ranch are warm and spacious, and each one features a modular moon roof that guests can remove for a clear view of the night sky directly above the comfortable bed.
2. Grand Tipi @ Camp Temenōs Located on the north edge of Pioneertown Mountains Preserve, this peaceful campsite offers a king-sized bed with a view of the stars through a small opening at the top of the tipi. There is also hot and cold running water for showers and cooking.
3. Stargazer Yurt at Luna Vista Ranch Located 10 miles from the West Entrance of Joshua Tree National park, this well-appointed yurt has sinks with potable water and a gorgeous outdoor shower and bathtub.
4. Edge of the Wilderness This minimal, open-air cabin on the edge of town has no roof, making it a great windbreaker for your tent with wide-open views of the sky above.
5. Skycamp at Desert Mountain Majesty The Skycamp at Desert Mountain Majesty is a beloved Hipcamp on a peak overlooking the Mojave Desert and Joshua Tree with panoramic views of the horizon and the sky above.
6. The Watering Hole This tent site with water, kitchen and showers towards the darker end of Desert Heights. 10 minutes from the north entry to Joshua Tree, 360 degree views, and as advertised in the listing, within range of pizza delivery.
7. Monument Manor Casita This indoor / outdoor studio living space right near the West Entrance to Joshua Tree has two features that will stargazers will love. First, the living room has a roll up door that opens to reveal a view of the desert mountains and sky. Second, guests can use the house telescope.
Now’s a great time to find the perfect spot for your next Joshua Tree camping, glamping or RV adventure. #FindYourselfOutside (TIP: Get $10 off your first booking when you create a new account here and use the referral code JOURNAL)