Where to Stay and Eat
Lodging in and around JTNP comes in three main categories: camping within the park, affordable hotels and motels in adjacent towns, and luxury resorts in the Palm Springs/Palm Desert area, about 40 miles southwest of the park. Many of these options can be sold out during busy winter weekends and holiday seasons, but planning and flexibility can still get you prime locations and good deals.
There’s nothing quite like desert camping under JTNP’s incredibly starry night skies, being awakened to colorful sunrises and greeting the morning with an al fresco breakfast, then ending the day in camp for a spectacular sunset. For this reason, the 500 campsites across JTNP’s nine campgrounds often get filled on weekends and holidays. You can reserve (recreation.gov) six of the campgrounds (Black Rock, Cottonwood, Indian Cove, Jumbo Rocks, Ryan and Sheep Pass) six months in advance for $20 to $25 per night ($50 for group sites). The other three (Belle, Hidden Valley, White Tank) are first come, first served for $15 per night — and you’ll need to arrive early to get a spot during busy times. All nine can accommodate RVs.
The Black Rock (99 sites) and Cottonwood (62 sites) campgrounds are the only ones with running water, flush toilets and RV dump stations, so they usually get booked especially quick. Given that Black Rock sits at 4,000 feet elevation in the park’s northwest corner, expect cooler temperatures than at those in lower elevations. It has a designated area for campers with horse trailers, and you can easily make quick shopping runs to the town of Yucca Valley, just five miles away.
Wilderness camping is free with registration, but be hyperaware of your water supply and the weather conditions before entering the backcountry.
Nearby lodging and dining
Joshua Tree town (five miles northwest of the West Entrance Station)
Lodging: Fancy retro camping comes to the area late this year with the opening of Autocamp, where guests can settle into 47 luxury custom Airstream Trailers. But if you’re traveling with your own accommodations (meaning an RV), a good option 25 miles southwest of Joshua Tree is the KOA Campground in Desert Hot Springs. It has 260 RV sites with hookups, plus 26 tent sites and five cabins, and a slew of family-friendly amenities, including a laundry, miniature golf, pickleball courts, playground, pool with a café, social clubhouse and store.
Dining: In Joshua Tree town, start your day with a hearty breakfast at JT Country Kitchen, perhaps ordering banana French toast or gravy-covered biscuits. For lunch, Crossroads Cafe serves thick sandwiches, including Reubens and eggplant parmesan. Come dinnertime at the Joshua Tree Saloon, live music accompanies home-cooked barbecue in “The Yard.”
Twentynine Palms (five miles north of the North Entrance Station)
Lodging: The 83-room Best Western SureStay Plus appeals with its prime location just a few minutes from the park, good deals, free breakfasts and a large, palm-shaded pool with Jacuzzi.
Dining: Fuel up before a hike with croissants, pastries and sandwiches at the Campbell Hill Bakery. For dinner, Kitchen in the Desert serves up mesquite-grilled Trinidadian chicken in an art-gallery setting.
Note: The south entrance has no adjacent food or lodging, but driving 30 miles west on I-10 will bring you to Indio, the easternmost section of the Palm Springs resort communities.
Lodging: Seek out the communities around Palm Springs for upscale resorts such as the 244-room Ritz Carlton in Rancho Mirage, which pampers guests with its cliff-top views, golf course access, Kids’ Club, pools and spa. In Palm Springs, the expansive La Quinta Resort & Club, a Waldorf Astoria Resort, delivers an old-school Hollywood vibe (from its origins in 1926) with top-notch service and facilities across nearly 800 rooms, suites and villas housed in beautiful Spanish mission-style buildings.
Dining: At Miro’s in downtown Palm Springs, dine on pan-European cuisine (Budapest Schnitzel, Shrimp and Scallops Provençal) in a Mediterranean-themed interior or a romantic patio setting. The restaurant also earns high marks for its extensive wine list. For more casual quick bites, head to John’s, a popular diner just north of downtown that serves breakfast all day, gourmet burgers, fried chicken and rib specials.