Over Thanksgiving, I spent a totally glorious four days and three nights in Joshua Tree National Park. This was my first solo camping trip, and I don’t think there could have been a better place to spend the holiday. The park was surprisingly busy, full of families opting outside. Already looking forward to my next desert adventure.
Where I Stayed:
- Black Rock campground. Secured the last camp spot ~4 PM. Fire pits, tables, and technically not directly attached to the main park property, so one of the only spots in JTNP with running water. Direct entrance to an easy 4-mile hike, West Side Loop. One of only two campsites you can reserve in advance online. $20/night
- Jumbo Rocks campground. Super popular! Secured a camp spot ~7 AM. No water. Awesome access to (you guessed it) big fricken rocks. Also has a cool, easy trail you can hike to Skull Rock. I love it!! I had quails and bunnies join me during mornings, and I experienced a few beautiful sunsets from easily accessible high perches. Definitely trying to stay here again. $15/night.
Inside Joshua Tree National Park:
I unfortunately did not plan ahead enough for backcountry permits. Essentially, I was given a map of the park upon entrance and checked off every marked publicly accessible spot. In the future, I would love to hike the various mines.
- I spend ~2 hours hiking Lost Horse Mine (~4 miles) which was a nice view of the southern half of the park (without the iconic J trees). On my next trip I hope to visit Eldorado Mine!
- I am by no means a climber, but I did a bit of exploring around the smaller boulders at Hall of Horrors.
- Barker Dam was extremely busy, as it is short and relatively easy and thus ideal for families – avoid it!
- With four whole days in Joshua Tree, I also spent quite a bit of time doing nothing – I read Steve Martin’s autobiography, made big leisurely breakfasts, and laid out on the rocks. My go, go, go paired nicely with a lot of unwinding.
Outside the Park:
When I ran out of water, I was forced to exit the park. It was alright though – I had a bomb lunch at Crossroads Cafe. It was pretty busy, so it paid to be just one person. There are plenty of thrift stores in the area, too, that I spent a few hours combing through. I also picked up a souvenir bag of beans at Joshua Tree Coffee Company and am itching to go back for more.
An easy ~20 minutes from the park entrance is Pioneertown. I didn’t eat at the famous Pappy and Harriet’s but checked out little galleries and the general store/vintage shop. Definitely don’t go too out of your way for it, but overall a cool experience to see old timey saloon-style stores in full operation.
November was a great time to go because it was warm (but not too warm) during the day and cooler at night. I think my next trip will likely be springtime, so that I can experience similar weather, rather than the dead desert heat of the summer. I am still reflecting on four whole days with little to no human interaction – I spend a lot of time in solitude lately, and this was an interesting time to reflect and relax. Excited to see JTree again soon!