California is one of the most diverse places you can visit if you are looking for an outdoor adventure. There are tons of beaches, mountains, backcountry areas, and even desert parks that you can find there.
While California is most known for its coastal cities and stunning beaches like Laguna Beach, a great place you can also visit is Joshua Tree National Park.
There are a lot of campgrounds in the park, such as Belle Campground, Jumbo Rocks, Indian Cove, and most popular of them all, the Hidden Valley Campground.
But is Hidden Valley the best campground in Joshua Tree National Park? What can you do there?
Let’s talk about that!
Joshua Tree National Park Overview
Joshua Tree National Park is a stunning, 800,000-acre piece of land that covers two deserts – the Colorado Desert and the Mojave Desert, where a diversity of plants and animals depends on those two large ecosystems for their survival.
The desert park may seem harsh and dry, but it is surrounded by massive mountains, interesting rock formations, rich shrubs, palm oases, and of course, Joshua Trees – the tree that the whole park is named after.
If you are new to desert camping, you need to know that there is usually no water (you need to bring your own and bring a lot), no electricity, no street lights, no food services (again, you need to bring your own), and no cellular reception.
But I really feel that is what makes it magical – time to take a digital detox.
There are quite a few campgrounds in the National Park that you can pick from. But if it is your first time, I suggest trying out The Hidden Valley Campgrounds.
The Hidden Valley Campground
The Hidden Valley Campground in Joshua National Park has 44 campsites, a lot of which can be accessed with an RV or a trailer. However, the combined maximum length of RVs and trailers cannot exceed 25 feet.
Hidden Valley is also located in the heart of a very popular climbing area. If you know how to rock climb or want to try it out, this is a great place to camp.
Many day hike trails are accessible through this campground, so it tends to get really full and busy during the peak seasons. If you really want to camp out in the Hidden Valley, you need to get there early because the entrance is first come, first served.
The different campsites in Hidden Valley are all spread out around gigantic rock formations filled with those strange but unique Joshua Trees.
It is also the closest campground to the West Entrance of the park, which many say is the most scenic part of Joshua Tree National Forest.
Getting To The Campground
Hidden Valley is about 14 miles from the town of Joshua Tree and is located near Baker Dam and the Hidden Valley Trail.
If you are coming from the West Entrance in Joshua Tree National Park, keep driving for about 10 miles, and you will find the campground on your left side.
If you are coming from the North Entrance of the park in Twentynine Palms, drive for around 16 miles on Park Boulevard. The campground will be on your right side.
Things You Need To Know
There is no Internet available there, and cell reception can be weak to none. But honestly, that’s fine. The point of going out to camp is to spend time with nature anyway, and doing it with no digital distractions is the best way.
There are no stores there, so you need to buy things like food, firewood, ice, and water before going to the campground. In other words, you have to get there well prepared.
Showers are also not available in the campground, but there are vault toilets that are available for use year-round.
Please note that campfires are only allowed in certain fire rings or grills that you can find around the campgrounds and picnic areas. This is because the park is a desert and is very dry, making it a high risk for fires.
Hidden Valley is open from Monday to Sunday, 24 hours a day, with quiet hours from 10:00 pm to 6:00 am.
Once you’ve selected your campsite, you have to pay the camping fees within one hour. One campsite can fit a maximum of six people with three tents and two cars, although some campsites only have space for one vehicle. The camping fee costs $15.
It is important to check the weather forecast before you go out camping in Joshua Tree because the weather in the desert can change very quickly.
In general, the temperature is most comfortable during the spring and fall, when the weather reaches an average low of 50°F (10°C) and an average high of 85°F (29°C).
During the winter, the days are about 60°F (15°C), and the nights become freezing.
Finally, summers get really hot, with temperatures reaching over 100°F (38°C) during the day and around 75°F (24°C) at night.
Remember to check the weather before you leave and pack gear that is best suited for the expected weather of that time.
Like any hike, you should always be ready with a good set of gear. Since this is a desert park, there are a few specific things I would recommend you bring along.
Lots of Water
First of all, it is very important that you always have water. It gets really dry and hot in the desert, so you need to keep well hydrated. Take a hydration pack with you, like the M.U.L.E Hydration Pack from Camelbak – I have this, and it’s pretty great.
It combines a water supply with a regular backpack, so you have a supply of water in your backpack, along with all your other things.
Sodium Replacement Powder
Having something like Gookinaid or any similar sodium-replenishing powder is important, especially in desert parks. These powders will help you replenish any lost electrolytes and prevent hyponatremia.
You can try the Electrolyte Replacement Drink Mix from Vitalyte Sports Nutrition. It comes in three flavors for you to choose: cool citrus, fruit punch, and grape
Lightweight Down Jacket
Now, this may seem a bit odd, seeing as that you’ll be going to a desert, but as I’ve explained in the previous section, desert weather goes through extremes.
You may very well end up freezing in the middle of the night, even if the morning was really hot.
What To Do In The Hidden Valley
Besides camping and spending some quiet time with nature, there are two more popular activities you can do in Hidden Valley.
Hidden Valley is probably best known for its rock climbing. There are over 400 different rock formations that you can climb on with different levels of difficulty. Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned climber, you will most likely find a rock that’s perfect for you.
Most of the rocks in the park are actually climbable, but if you are new to climbing, I highly suggest getting a guide before climbing. Some of the rocks can reach up to 250 feet, which can cause serious injuries if you are not properly equipped or experienced.
The prime time of climbing is from November to April, while the low to empty times are from June to September. If you are a seasoned climber, you can get all the details from The Mountain Project.
Stargazing is a popular activity not just in the Hidden Valley, but in virtually all of the campgrounds in Joshua Tree. It is actually one of the best places to go stargazing in the US (and probably even in the whole world)!
This is because the park is located in the High Desert, which sits 3,000 to 5,000 feet above sea level and is far away from major cities and their distracting lights.
My advice is to check the moon phases before heading out so you know when the moon will rise and set at night, as well as when the full moon is. If stargazing is your main reason for going, plan your trip for when the moon is NOT in the sky!
Truly, there are a lot of beautiful places you can visit in the world, but if you’re in California, Joshua Tree National Park should definitely be on your list of places to visit.
While I am not really a rock climber, my family and I love to go there for the peace and quiet, as well as the beautiful, starry scenery at night.
No matter what your reasons for visiting are, you will definitely reap the benefits of getting away from the city for a while and just relaxing under the stars or letting loose through climbing up some rocks.
When you get the chance, drop by Joshua Tree National Park and set up your tent or RV in The Hidden Valley Campground – the most popular campground in Joshua Tree!