Joshua Tree National Park – The Stars at Night

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!

Belle Campground

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.

Brian Holle and Gianna Holle at the Joshua Tree Belle Campground

Arch Rock

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.

Brian Holle at Joshua Tree Granite Arch

Granite Arch in the White Tank campground

Gianna Holle at Joshua Tree Rock Formations

Rock Formations near the White Tank Campground

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.

Brian Holle and Gianna Holle in the BLM Desert South Of Joshua Tree National Park

BLM Desert South Of Joshua Tree National Park

Don’t let the sign off of Cottonwood Road fool you. This is public land and is open for you to enjoy.

BLM Access Road South of Joshua Tree National Park

The Scary Sign

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.

Joshua Tree Silver Bell Mine

You can see the white speck of the RV on Cottonwood Road

Gianna Holle at the Joshua Tree Silver Bell Mine

The remnants of the Silver Bell Mine

Cholla Cactus Garden

There are a couple of square miles covered in Cholla cactus that right off the main road.

Joshua Tree Cholla Cactus Garden

The Cholla Cactus Garden

Lunch at Jumbo Rocks

We stopped for lunch at Jumbo Rocks Campground.  The campground has 100+ campsites nestled among these beautiful rocks

.Brian Holle and Gianna Holle in Joshua Tree National Park

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.

DSCF0930

More Desert Camping

Brian Holle and Gianna Holle at the BLM Camping south of Joshua Tree National Park

David and Mary’s Lazy Daze

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.Brian Holle and Gianna Holle in the BLM land south of Joshua Tree National Park

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.

GPS Coordinates

The GPS coordinates for our campsite are: 33.677559,-115.815840.

Dates Visited

January 10-15, 2016

4 Comments

  1. Jeff

    Great picture of the night sky!, J-Tree is an awesome stop, as you point out the geology and fauna have dramatic changes. South of BLM off Box Canyon Road is a fun hike thru Painted (aka Ladder) Canyon.

    Reply
    1. Brian Holle (Post author)

      J Tree is a beautiful place for sure. Our intentions were to camp off of Box Canyon Road but it was closed so we opted for the north side of I-10. It was a quiet and safe place to relax and enjoy the sunrise and sunset.

      Reply
  2. Anonymous

    “…we were camping at 3800 ft. in a desert, in the winter!” – Too funny!

    Great Blog Brian. You probably have this somewhere else, but what kind of RV do you have?

    Reply
    1. Brian Holle (Post author)

      We have a 2008 Winnebago View 24J that we’ve owned for 3 1/2 years and we absolutely love it! The size is just right to allow us into most California State Parks. Another benefit is that it gets 17MPG because of the diesel engine.

      Reply

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