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Joshua tree camping – for free!

Road trip on a budget? get the low down on totally free Joshua tree camping!

Why camp outside of Joshua tree? 

Every vehicle entering Joshua tree national park pays 30.00 for a 7 day pass, unless you already have an annual park pass. Those fees themselves are unavoidable one way or another. But then, add in camping fees that can range between 15.00 for the first come, first served campsites at hidden valley, belle and white tank, and 20.00 for the reserved sites at jumbo rocks and Ryan. And the premium sites of Indian cove, cottonwood and black rock are 25.00 a night.

It’s an additional expense that may very well be worth it. Of course, camping is less expensive than hotels, but if you’re on an extended trip you may want to consider these free alternatives if you have the gear and set up. Also, there is very limited or no use of generators in the park. And cell phone signal is scarce. So if you depend on generators for supplemental power needs, you may want to stay outside the park anyways.

Backcountry camping for backpackers is free, there are 13 trails with registration boards for backcountry camping. You must bring in all your supplies and water, and leave nothing behind when you leave. It is required that you camp at least one mile from the trailhead. to learn more about backcountry camping in the park, read more here.

Bureau of land management spot

Outside of the national park there is a free dispersed camping area just before you enter the south gate. It’s pretty basic and not spectacular in the looks department. There are no facilities like water, bathrooms or trash. So, you are expected to pack everything out when you leave. It was pretty clean when I’ve been through in the past.

Joshua tree camping
Free campsite near the south gate of Joshua tree national park

Considering that none of the 9 Joshua tree campgrounds have showers, and Only black rock and cottonwood have water and flush toilets. Staying in the park won’t exactly be ‘Glamping’ anyways. The rest of the campgrounds have pit toilets, and do not have a water source. So you may want to save a few bucks and stay just outside the park, and use it for daytime activities.

free Joshua tree camping
bureau of land management camping near Joshua tree

You can’t miss it, there are dirt roads to either side just before you enter the park at the south gate. Usually, you can see some RV’s, vans and a few tents throughout the area. You can stay for up to 14 days! And cell phone signal is pretty good here, which may be a factor for a few people to consider,

Chiriaco summit dry camp

Just a few miles east, there is an alternative that may be more appealing. That is the Chiriaco dry camp. You can stay up to 7 days, and there is also a good cell signal here. There are a few rules, and a ‘camp host’ you check in with that keeps track of the spaces. It is at a highway exit that has a gas station, post office and cafe. It’s all within walking distance. 24 hr bathrooms at the gas station should alleviate the anxiety of some!

Free campsite near Joshua tree
Pullouts at the Chiriaco summit dry camp

just pull off the interstate 10 at Chiriaco summit before you get to the Joshua tree turn off. You’ll see the sign to the left right before you get to the gas station.

>>Be sure to read the original post on Joshua tree national park here.<<

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