I have 4 boys and a couple adventurous girls, so camping trips and road trips are definitely are thing. We don’t go camping every month, it’s more like a few times a year but as the kids have gotten older it has become more of a regular thing.
My son REALLY wanted to go camping in Joshua Tree for his summer birthday and as adventurous as this mama is willing to be, I had to deter this one. I basically told him,
We could arrive in the evening when it is a little cooler, set up, stay the night, and leave in the morning right after breakfast. Or…we could postpone our trip for the fall season and stay for 1-2 days.
My 10 year old is pretty logical most of the time and saw the benefit for more adventuring time to wait until the fall. (Thank you Lord!)
So the plan was set to go camping in Joshua Tree National Park in October.
We even invited another family to join us. We both arrived and found out that October-April is peak season and all the sites had been full since 10am that morning. Oops! Mama fail!
But don’t worry, our 2-1/2 hour drive was not all lost. We were told we could camp in this dirt patch that was free camping outside of the national park, or drive 5 more minutes to a place called Joshua Tree Lake Campground where there’s running water and fire pits. Now, I forgot to mention that I was pregnant with our 6th at the time. So running water over no water sounded good to me and fire pits sounded good for the boys.
The rates at this campground are super reasonable. You pay per person and you can pick your spot as long as it’s not in the group spots. Those tend to be reserved. There are RV sites with hookups as well, but you can’t tent camp in an hookup site.
We set up our tents, and had the camping dinner roasted on skewers over the fire. This was followed by toasting marshmallows, because what’s a camping trip without s’mores!
The stars were an amazing sight!
It got pretty chilly for this southern California girl!
I believe it got down to the low 40’s at night and the morning was quite crisp. Even though I was pregnant I was so cold. My two older boys slept in a tiny tent next to ours and woke up all warm and toasty. One was even sweaty!!
I told them next time they have to stay in our tent so 1) I could sleep better and 2) I/we would all be warmer. They were fine with that.
By lunch it was warm – in the mid 80’s – but there was a nice breeze so it was quite pleasant. I think October is a nice time to go camping in Joshua Tree.
If you plan to stay inside the national park it would be a good idea to make reservation ahead of time.
Yes, they have that option now! You could also plan to go sometime midweek. We went on a Friday and it starts to fill up even on Thursday.
Also, get the year pass for the national park.
It’s only $40 and you can visit anytime verses paying the $25 just for the one day admission. We did go back this past April so it was worth it. It was definitely windier in April than October but also greener.
Don’t forget to stop by the visitor center and pick up a map, use the bathroom (there are toilets in the national park but no running water), and get the kids’ Junior Ranger booklets.
My final words of wisdom:
Make sure to pack tons of water, big brimmed hats, sunscreen, and chap stick. I always forget the chap stick and my lips pay dearly for it. And in case you’re like me and didn’t know the very first time we visited, there’s no reception in the national park. So phones are useless except to take pictures. Bring some walkie talkies so you can keep in contact with everyone easier.
Happy Adventuring Mamas! Let us know in the comment if you have any other tips for first-time Joshua Tree campers!