After leaving Ventura County, we rushed to Joshua Tree National Park and arrived at the Belle Campground at sunset. We were surprised how quickly it got dark here. Joshua Tree is known to have very low light pollution and when we stepped out of the RV, the stars were brighter than we’ve ever seen. We went outside for an hour taking pictures, but it was just too cold and windy, we should have expected this since we were camping at 3800 ft. in a desert, in the winter!
In our opinion Belle is the best campground of the three we visited. It’s nestled among some huge White Tank granite rocks and every camping site is beautiful. We arrived on Sunday and only 4 of the 18 campsites were taken. We stayed in Site #1 next to a big boulder. Simply beautiful.
Monday morning we drove to White Tank campground to see the rare granite arch and the beautiful rock formations there. All of the granite here is of a type called White Tank which gives the campground its name.
BLM Camping South of Joshua Tree
We wanted to spend another night in the park but it was just too cold camping at 3200ft. elevation so we drove to the BLM just outside of the south park entrance. The spot we chose in in the Colorado desert (which is in California) at 1780ft. elevation. The temperature is much warmer and we can actually go outside by the fire! Also the BLM is free, it’s quiet, the scenery is wonderful and our next neighbor is a quarter mile away. We found this campsite using Technomadia‘s app called US Public Lands.
Don’t let the sign off of Cottonwood Road fool you. This is public land and is open for you to enjoy.
Silver Bell Mine
Tuesday morning we left our desert camping spot on the BLM land and headed back into the park. Our first stop was to hike up to the remains of the old Silver Bell gold mine.
Cholla Cactus Garden
There are a couple of square miles covered in Cholla cactus that right off the main road.
Lunch at Jumbo Rocks
We stopped for lunch at Jumbo Rocks Campground. The campground has 100+ campsites nestled among these beautiful rocks
Later that day we visited Keys View for a spectacular view of the Coachella Valley where you can see all the way from Palm springs, past the Salton Sea, and down into Mexico. The pictures we took didn’t do any justice but if you look closely you might be able to see Palm Springs on the valley below the tallest snow covered peak on the right.
More Desert Camping
We spent all day Wednesday relaxing at our campsite in the BLM desert south of Joshua Tree. Our good friends Mary and David arrived late in the evening in their 1991 Lazy Daze RV and we all had a good time hanging out together.
We never made it to Quartzsite as planned but we will be spending a couple more nights somewhere in the desert as we make our way back home.
What we learned
- Joshua Tree National Park has two parts, the southern Colorado desert, and the northern Mojave desert. In our opinion, most of the really beautiful landscape is in the northern part of the park.
- Camping in the high Mohave desert of Joshua Tree National Park is very cold in January. The scenery was breathtaking but you will need to battle the cold windy evenings.
- The BLM camping south of Joshua Tree is amazing. So beautiful, free, and peaceful. Our camping spot is only ½ mile from the South park entrance and 6 miles to the dump station in the park ($5 to dump). The best of all worlds.
- Cell phone reception in the park is almost non-existent but we did find a small patch of LTE at the Live Oak day use area. We had full 4G LTE with 5 bars at our BLM campsite.
The GPS coordinates for our campsite are: 33.677559,-115.815840.
January 10-15, 2016