While camping in Joshua Tree and inside Joshua Tree National Park itself is not entirely free, there are still a few ways to do it on the cheap. There’s no avoiding the entrance free: every group entering Joshua will need to purchase admission at $30 per vehicle for a 7-day period. Frequent park-goers may want to consider the U.S. Annual Parks Pass, which will give you unlimited visits to Joshua Tree and all other National Parks countrywide for $80 per year.
Once you’re inside Joshua Tree there are two tiers of campground prices. The first-come, first-served walk-in campgrounds are $15 per night. These include Hidden Valley, Ryan, Belle and White Tank. Make sure to bring cash in exact change, as you’ll need to put your site fee into an envelope and drop it into a safe to reserve your site.
The Joshua Tree campgrounds that allow you to reserve in advance are $20 per night. These include Indian Cove, Black Rock, Jumbo Rocks, Sheep Pass and Cottonwood. Reservations can be made 6 months in advance.
Backcountry camping in Joshua Tree, on the other hand, is free. It’s also logistically challenging, unless you are specifically visiting as part of a dedicated backpacking trip. Backcountry campers in Joshua Tree can park and self-register for a free backcountry permit at one of 13 backcountry board / trailheads in the park. Regulations state that you must hike 1-mile in and then go 500 feet off-trail before camping. Because filtering water from natural sources in Joshua Tree is unreliable, you must carry all of your drinking water in with you. More official information on backcountry camping from the park are located here.
A second free camping option exists at two Bureau of Land Management sites to the north and south of Joshua Tree NP. These BLM sites are basically giant, open desert lots that offer dispersed camping for free. They have no facilities (no water, restrooms, or trashcans), and the rules with trash and waste are strictly pack it in, pack it out. Still, these BLM sites can be your back-up plan if you can’t find a walk-in campsite inside the park or a campsite in the communities surrounding Joshua Tree and/or if you have a self-sufficient car camping setup and don’t mind the the BLM sites’ nonexistent amenities.
The northern BLM site is off of Twentynine Palms Highway, near the Indian Cove Ranger Station. The southern BLM site just before the park’s southern entry on Cottonwood Springs Road. The NPS provides more info on these BLM sites here. Call to check conditions, as certain BLM roads may require 4-wheel drive vehicles to access throughout the year.
Still looking for a low-cost camping options? The many camping, glamping and RV accommodations in the area surrounding Joshua Tree are great options if you’re looking for an affordable and reservable site that’s close enough to conveniently explore the park. Here are some of the best, low-cost Hipcamp options that will help you stretch your dollar (and vacation days) as you explore this beautiful desert (PLUS: You can get $10 off your first booking when you create a new account here and use the referral code JOURNAL):
1. Avocado Camping Deck The Avocado Camping Deck is one of four camping tent platforms at the Pink Cloud Ranch, a popular Hipcamp with swimming pool, trampoline and adult teeter totter right outside the West Entrance to Joshua Tree. $45 per night.
2. Horse With No Name The Horse With No Name is a close-in tent site just 20 minutes from the north entry to the Park. It’s adjacent to its own lil’ desert mountain you can hike up for sunsets or sunrises. $29 per night.
3. The Bird LineThe Bird Line is a charming tent site with a open-air indoor shelter 25 minutes from the entrance to Joshua Tree NP. Besides a great camping site, The Bird Line provides potable water, an outdoor shower and shady clubhouse full of art to cook and relax in, all for $35 a night.
4. Majestic Mesa The High Desert Coyote Crossing at is a 10 acre plot of wild desert just 15 miles from the West Entrance to Joshua Tree. Camp underneath yucca palms here at the Majestic Mesa. $35 per tent site, must bring your own water.
5. Porte-Chochere The Porte-Cochere at the Joshua Tree Bom ranch is a rustic cabin that sleeps two, and has additional space for a tent. You’ll also get a fire pit with chairs and grill. The Joshua Tree Bom is five minutes from Joshua Tree Village near the park’s West Entrance. $70 per night.
Now’s a great time to find the perfect spot in Joshua Tree for your next 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)