Black Rock campground is located at the northwest corner of Joshua Tree National Park among one of the thickest Joshua Tree forests. This part of the park is not connected by road to the rest of the National Park, but don’t be deterred. You might not get to see lots of big cartoon-like rocks, but the surrounding mountains and sculptural Joshua Trees do more than make up for that fact.
How to Reserve a Campsite at Black Rock Campground
Like Death Valley National Park, Joshua Tree’s busy season is in the Fall, Winter and early Spring. Since both parks are in the desert you can imagine why this is the case. Reservations during the busy winter season at Black Rock Campground can be made using the National Park Service online reservation system Recreation.gov. In June-September 29 campsites are available on a first come first serve basis.
What to Expect at Black Rock Campground
On arrival make sure to check in at the visitor center. Inside you’ll find a small exhibit about the natural features of the park, a few souvenirs and a small selection of snacks and beverages. Please note that no firewood is for sale inside the park. You will need to pick that up on the way in if you’re planning on building a fire. The park also has very particular instructions when it comes to tent camping. Tents need to be no more than 100 feet away from the picnic table or fire ring. We made the mistake of placing our tent a bit further than 100 feet and were told so the next day by the ranger.
As mentioned above each campsite comes with a picnic table as well as a fire ring. The campground has 4 bathrooms with flush toilets and sinks but no showers. Drinkable water is also available in several areas of the campground. Additional amenities include dump stations, a small visitor center, an amphitheater, on-site staff and pretty good cell reception.
Hikes Around Black Rock Campground
If you decide to go hiking during your stay make sure to print out the Black Rock Canyon Hiking Trails Map before you go. They did not have paper copies when we were there so I took a picture of their enlarged map with my phone. This did the trick, but there were several times that I wished I had a paper map as well. During our visit we hiked the West Side Loop as well as the High View Nature Trail and part of the Short Loop trail.
While all of our hikes were gorgeous with tons of Joshua Trees, there was some trail damage thanks to unexpected rain and snow coupled with the government shut down. When hiking the West Side Loop we lost the trail 3 miles in and had to turn back. While this was disappointing I cannot stress the incredible natural beauty that this hike included. Unlike the main part of the park, Black Rock Canyon has fewer large boulders but many many Joshua Trees. It was more Joshua Trees in one place than I’ve ever seen.
I can’t remark on the entire West Side Loop hike, but the first 3 miles boasted several fantastic features. Namely the large number of Joshua Trees, views of all the surrounding mountains and total peace and quiet. During our hike we passed very few people and never felt like the trail was overcrowded. We hope to return someday to complete the entire loop.
Black Rock Campground Pros
- While Black Rock Campground has 99 campsites, I didn’t feel like it was overcrowded or noisy. People generally kept to the quiet hours which made for an enjoyable stay.
- You can make reservations during the winter months, and the cost of a tent site is only $20 per night.
- There are several hiking trails around the campground to explore that for the most part were well maintained.
- You get to camp surrounded by Joshua Trees which is pretty amazing and magical!
- The campground is close to civilization if you need to get something.
Black Rock Campground Cons
- Black Rock Campground isn’t directly connected by a road to the main part of the park. If you want to explore there you need to drive about 30 minutes to the West Entrance.
- If you’re hoping to see lots of big boulders this isn’t the campsite for you, consider camping inside the main part of the park.