Joshua Tree National Park

Location: Joshua Tree National Park, California
Campground: Indian Cove, at the end of Indian Cove Road off of Hwy 62
Campground ammenities: Pit toilets, water available at Indian Cove Ranger station 2 miles from campground
Campsite: # 73
Reservations: recreation.gov, 6 months in advance (Oct-May). No reservations during summer months (first come, first serve)
Campsite cost: $20/night (April, 2016)
Entrance Fee: $20
Hike: Indian Cove Nature Trail (0.5 miles)

When I was about a year old my parents took a cross-country trip from the east coast to the west coast, camping/staying in the big National Parks along the way. Joshua Tree was one of their last stops and although they went many years ago they still remember the unique desert scenery and those incredible “rocks.” They keep telling me I’ve been there, as if I should remember and there must be something wrong with me that I don’t. So technically I’ve already been to Joshua Tree, but in real life world it has always been a place I really wanted to visit. We visited Joshua Tree in the spring (April), March-April is their peak months. We didn’t want to take any chances with first come first serve sites, so we made reservations at Indian Cove campground. Indian Cove and Black Rock campgrounds are the only 2 campgrounds out of 9 that accept reservations during Oct-May.

Indian Cove campground has 101 individual campsites (13 group sites) which are scattered about a large area with huge rock formations. Many sites were nestled around them, providing your very own climbing gym right in your “backyard.” There was a short interpretive trail on the west side of the campground and a picnic area on the east side.

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This NPS map is a little turned around (at least for me), the west side of the campground is on the right side of the map, but I get that they were trying to show how it would look as you drove into the campground

Pretty good roads, but watch out for divets/potholes which are hard to see (ouch!). There were Mojave Yucca trees, otherwise known as Joshua trees, all around. I guess that’s not surprising considering this park is called Joshua Tree National Park.

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Campground road
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Our site was in this loop

#73 was a pretty good site, but not as private as I hoped. The side with the firepit and table was private, but the other side was wide open with nothing in between sites except some low rocks and a few bushes. From our site, you could see clearly all the way to the 2nd campsite over. The rock area in the back made up for any lack of privacy though. There were numerous areas to explore, and having this right at your campsite made this very special.

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Site #73
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A “rock valley” in the back of the campsite. (You can see my daughter’s head in the middle of the picture, gives a sense of how large these rocks are)
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Be right back, needed to climb some rocks
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We stared at this formation awhile coming up with things it reminded us of – monkey head, monk, crab claw… yes, we were sober.

Other campsites in our loop that seemed more private and had access to large climbing areas were #81, 76, and 77.

We walked over to the Indian Cove Nature trail on the west end of the campground and walked the 0.5 mile interpretive trail stopping to read the signs and climbing rock formations every so often.

IMG_5822IMG_5828IMG_5837IMG_3286IMG_3288We had plenty of time to climb around at our campsite and cook on the fire, let’s just say we did some “experimental cooking” with some interesting outcomes. Some of them may or may not have been edible, but it was an outcome nonetheless.

IMG_5863The night sky was beautiful. Once the sun went down, the temperature dropped and it was our cue (ok, just my daughter’s and mine) to go inside.

IMG_5859The next morning we headed over to these amazing rock formations on the south side of the campground and spent some time exploring and climbing the rocks in this area.


It was time to pack up and check out the Fortynine Palms Oasis trail before heading home (post to come). We really enjoyed our short venture to this small part of Joshua Tree National Park and we look forward to returning and exploring more of the park next time.

Indian Cove Ranger station (2 miles north of Indian Cove campground):


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