by Tara Shupe
The first time I visited Joshua Tree National Park I had no idea I would fall in love with it. It was meant to be a day trip at the time, but we went back multiple times throughout the weekend. That first visit we stayed late into the night watching the stars as the campsites glowed on the rocks. It was magical and I was determined to come back to camp someday – so we did!
We flew into Los Angeles with our camp gear and started our drive to Jumbo Rocks Campground. The GPS said it would take a little over three hours, but with LA traffic it became five. So my husband and I made a few stops along the way, making sure to stock up on water, firewood, and beer.
It’s a good idea to make a camp reservation ahead of time. There are still many campgrounds at Joshua Tree that are first come, first serve but if you look ahead there are a few that take reservations. They will also announce times that a certain campsite will open and they will disappear while you’re booking. This is what happened to me, but luckily I snagged one.
When we finally made it to our campsite in Jumbo Rocks Campground, it was after dark and somebody had already pitched a tent on our site. It was awkward knocking on somebody’s tent, but he was embarrassed and offered to move.
You would never know that Jumbo Rocks Campground offers 124 campsites because each one is divided by the large “jumbo” rocks. So it wasn’t until the next morning that I realized how awesome our campsite was. We scrambled up to some boulders for sunrise and watched the campground wake up. People were making breakfast as their kids climbed around on rocks and the sunrise turned the campground orange. I have camped all around the United States and by the first morning, this campsite had reached my top five list!
It was the month of March during our visit, so temperatures were perfect. The sun still gets hot during the day, but no humidity makes exploring perfect. You can also stay in the car as you explore Joshua Tree by road and stop along the way.
One of my favorite things to do is climb around on the boulders, or enjoy a desert hike at sunset. We ended our last night in Jumbo Rocks Campground hiking Skull Rock trail. An easy hike that takes you past the cranial-shaped granite rock formation with 2 eye sockets created by erosion.
The loop ended back at Jumbo Rocks where we watched Joshua Tree release its magic. The whole campground seemed to emerge for a fireworks show, as groups of people sat on the boulders watching the sky turn from shades of orange to pink. The perfect ending to our time in Joshua Tree National Park.
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Tara Shupe is a Humanitarian & Outdoor Photographer based in the Midwest, but constantly travelling with a camera attached at the hip. Fueled by a desire to use her creative skills to cultivate awareness, she is always searching out positive organizations, brands, stories, and the people within them.